Linking Executive Coaching To Organizational Strategy

Executive coaching has moved from something done punitively to a process best used with key talent to catalyze individual leaders’ effectiveness. Progressive organizations understand that coaching can make a difference. However, a close look at how most organizations use executive coaching shows a wide variety of approaches, most of which are useful but lack significant organization-wide impact.

Why is this? The short answer is that many organizations still use coaching as a reactive tool — a supportive individual offering designed to address a specific situation — rather than as a coordinated, planned program designed to develop leaders in conjunction with organizational imperatives and strategy.

In this more tactical approach, coaching is a service human resources (HR) and leaders can tap to address individual needs, one by one. Sometimes using coaching in this way moves the organization toward an acceptance of coaching — from being seen as a last-ditch “fix-it” effort to save a leader before he or she leaves or is let go, to something more developmental that supports valued leaders. 

In addition, even where coaching is accepted, there is still the challenge of ensuring that the right leaders get coaching support when they could benefit from it most, rather than using coaching as the default approach to developing leaders, regardless of timing or need.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with either of these approaches, coaching offers much more to organizations than just individual development. The time is ripe to rethink the role of coaching to help leaders successfully achieve business objectives or lead key critical initiatives.

Coaching To Help Drive Business Results 

Executive coaching is an expensive approach to development on a per-person basis. As such, it’s imperative to tie it more consciously to where the business is going, the business strategy, and what the outcomes need to be. Although it can be beneficial for many leaders regardless of where they sit, executive coaching is best aimed at key talent, high-value/high-potential leaders, or well-placed experts who can grow in place. 

Organizations should use executive coaching as one of several effective levers tied to business results: leveraging coaching via talent review or succession management, where business leaders determine the necessary business results and how and where coaching can be positioned to help them think, act, and envision differently to impact those results. To further enhance talent and succession processes, consider adding discussion and focus on major business challenges, critical projects, market growth, and more to determine when and where coaching could accelerate business impact. 

Challenges where executive coaching can help drive strong results include: 

Supporting the Business Strategy 

Most organizations do this intuitively, but what would the impact be if decisions around executive coaching were intentionally linked to business strategies and initiatives within talent and succession discussions? How might this further enhance the outcomes as well as position HR more strongly as a partner in the business? Intentionally connecting coaching to talent development and succession planning to the critical strategies and initiatives that an organization has outlined for the future is a sure way to drive business impact.

Addressing Global Challenges 

When an organization is moving toward operating more globally, who are the key leaders that must carry out the shift? Once those leaders are identified, coaching can support them by helping them consider how to effect change in different regions, better understand the new culture they are leading or living in, or bring new country- or region-specific ideas into the existing organization to expand the repertoire of how that organization does business. It can also help a leader think about how best to develop their teams’ global acumen and better utilize and develop the new non-home-office leaders who bring that cultural expertise to bear.

Driving Innovation and New Market Penetration 

When an organization is moving into a new area of business or a brand-new market segment, how could it deploy coaching to help leaders think more creatively, build their skills around risk and innovation, shift and expand their industry or business networks, and develop those skills and capabilities within their teams? Coaching can support leaders who need to lead differently when driving the startup of a new business segment.

Implementing a New Business Operating Model 

When organizations change the way they do business — which could involve restructuring, asset reallocation, new systems and technology, and changes in how work is done and how leaders lead — consider how coaching can focus leaders in pivotal roles on becoming more effective advocates for the change and help accelerate the shift, as well as deal with their own challenges about embracing the change. 

Advancing M&A Integration 

When organizations are facing a merger and acquisition (M&A) scenario, consider how coaching can help support integrating different cultures, maximizing the success of the merger or acquisition by intentionally helping leaders borrow from the best of both worlds. In addition, you can implement coaching as a retention strategy for key leaders who may be at risk during this kind of scenario, providing a place to deal with the changes and simultaneously enhance their leadership in times of extreme change.

Aligning the Senior Team 

Last but not least, executive coaching can be more than an individual development initiative; it also allows all senior team members to focus on building the capabilities needed to achieve common enterprise objectives and how they can work together more effectively to achieve them. Consider how coaching can be aligned with the overall business context as your coaches engage with these leaders to help the team operate more harmoniously, develop a greater sense of mutual trust, and deliver on their shared responsibilities as enterprise leaders.

These scenarios are just a sampling of where executive coaching can make a significant difference for key talent. At Cambria, we believe that using executive coaching in a selective and high-impact manner is the best approach. Ensuring that coaching is aimed at the right leaders at the right time for specific development objectives shifts coaching from a one-off service to a key offering that makes a significant difference in accelerating the development of key leaders. 

Final Thought

The most important question that leaders in the organization are likely to ask is, “How will executive coaching impact my business objectives and challenges and the business overall?” In our view, the more closely coaching is tied to organizational objectives and specific business needs and the capabilities leaders need to handle the challenges and achieve their business objectives, the more impactful and effective the coaching will be. 

For more information on how you can harness the benefits of executive coaching, contact our team today.

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