The field of executive coaching has seen tremendous growth over the past 20 years. Unfortunately, many of the coaches who’ve been working in the market have little training to qualify their efforts, thus little credibility. Until recently, there was no accredited organization in the industry to say who was qualified to hold the title of coach. But now, the BeamPines Middlesex University Master’s Program in Executive Coaching offers candidates a formal setting in which to learn the many tools in the coaching toolkit.
The BeamPines/Middlesex program delves into the finer aspects of internal and external coaching. “A lot of companies try to train their managers to be good coaches,” said Joshua Ehrlich, Ph.D., president of education services, BeamPines. “The question is, how do you do that well, and where do you get the sources? Do you sheep-dip people into a two-day program that gives you the model of coaching and a couple of tips and sends you on your way, or do you create a culture that encourages real in-depth conversations between employees and managers and between employees? How do you create a coaching culture?”
A coaching culture doesn’t involve simply turning managers or HR executives into good coaches. A coaching culture enables senior executives to learn how to teach coaching so the circle of value and learning doesn’t stop. “There’s the manager as coach. There’s the HR executive as coach. There’s also the external executive coach,” Ehrlich explained. “And yet the process can be similar. The process is essentially three-fold. First we do an assessment. What are the issues? What are the strengths? What does an individual bring to the table? What are they doing well? What are their business goals? Are they hitting them? Are they a good fit for the role?”
The assessment portion of the curriculum helps build an individual’s awareness and helps the coach to understand the individual. Next, there’s development planning, which encourages the individual to turn a goal into concrete actions and measures to achieve progress and results. “Research shows that if you articulate a goal with another person present, it increases the commitment to it and the probability that it will be accomplished,” Ehrlich said. “If someone puts a development plan down in a computer and sends it into HR, the likelihood of it being actioned is very low. If you have a coach in the room with whom the person has a contract and a relationship that says I am going to help you, and you are going to help me as a business partner get to this goal, it’s much more likely that the individual will work on skill development, behavior change, increasing their performance.”
Coaching is the third phase of the program. It essentially teaches people new behaviors and encourages them to experiment and reflect on their own behavior. “Part of how you build a learning organization is by helping individuals learn how to learn,” Ehrlich said. “What is my learning style? What am I learning and how? A coach is not an expert in any particular business; they’re an expert in learning and goal setting and skill development. I teach stress management, negotiation skills and how to develop teams. The coach is a trainer, a guide and a business partner in terms of being an objective sounding board. The coach helps somebody transform their skills and transform who they are. The coach as a transformative agent, a catalyst for growth helping the person really unpack how they think and apply their values in different situations, how they react emotionally, how they tune into other people’s emotions.”
The value in targeting a person’s development plan with coaching is that each individual plan will address specific performance outcomes and measures on a tactical level. For instance, if an enterprising coaching program candidate’s goal is to help build the business $25 million in growth, the development plan will build in individual measures, such as executing profitable customer calls, building relationships with peers, learning how to facilitate new product introductions—essentially the building blocks that make the goal reality. “The value is built into the process,” Ehrlich said. “If you’re not helping an executive to maximize their business and build value, then you’re doing therapy.”
“It’s cheaper to build talent than to buy it,” said Brian Ash, manager of executive development programs, BeamPines. “And when you want to create a learning culture, that’s how you do it. You can’t have a learning culture without teaching.”
“If you build a pipeline of talent in your organization by creating a coaching culture where people are continually learning and grooming other people, that is much cheaper and has a bigger long-term impact on the institution that you’re building,” Ehrlich said.
Effective coaching can offer many tangible and intangible benefits since an investment in coaching is basically an investment is training. An organization provides the learning and development opportunities that might preclude a need to go out and buy another employee with the advanced skills needed to advance in an industry or to maintain market position amidst fierce competition. Further, promoting a learning culture that buys into the process of coaching, teaching and mentoring encourages team development and loyalty. Such an organization will attract talent because people will want to work there, and they also will want to stay there.
Organizations undertake executive coaching in order to add something. It could be depth of character and stretch in a potential leader. It could be new skills. Most assuredly, coaching should bring what all organizations want—bottom-line impact, and the BeamPines/Middlesex program keeps that premise firmly in mind. There are three requirements for the thesis project required to graduate. The thesis must demonstrate a return on investment for the individual, for their company sponsor and for the field of coaching in general. “This is a work-based program,” Ash said. “We often invite the members of companies they work for or their supervisors to join us for a few hours during the workshops, and we’ve had some very positive feedback from people coming to see that, especially the ones who write the checks. It’s interesting for them to be able to see that this program really is designed to demonstrate a return on investment. It’s not just something we use as a selling point. This is something that’s a real part of the program.”
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