Executive Coaching and 360 Feedback: What It Is/What It Is Not

Executive coaching has become very popular.  An executive coach provides one-on-one assessment, evaluation, feedback, problem solving, and advice to a leader.  The goal is to increase self-awareness, identify areas for improvement, and develop an action plan to enhance personal and leadership effectiveness.  The “coachee” can be at any level in an organization but typically is mid-manager through executive with a broad and complex set of responsibilities.

Why the increased use of Executive Coaching?

Most organizations realize that investing in their managerial bench strength is a good use of resources, showing payoff for the company’s success and their bottom line.  The goal is to strengthen the leadership pipeline and develop leaders in place who will positively impact return on investment.  The cost of hiring a leader is significant, but more significant is the cost of a leader’s failure, resulting in derailment, or termination and replacement of the failed leader.  Rather than keep a poor leader who causes problems or fire a poor leader and let the corporate memory walk out the door, it is a better investment to “save” the person and institute a coaching intervention that will produce results.  It’s about results, both for the individual who directs others and for the company that is maximizing its human capital.

Some leaders resist coaching, thinking it cannot help them, they might get branded as failures, or because they are afraid to expose their weaknesses.  It requires courage to undertake a coaching experience.  Vulnerability, candid conversation, openness to feedback, and a willingness to change are all necessary.  A commitment indeed but also the possibility of enhanced self-esteem, increased capabilities, positive impact on others, and the reward of contributing more effectively to the organization.

Feedback – who needs it!

Sometimes it’s easier to continue doing things the same way, to stay with the old rather than learn the new, to be content with less than satisfactory relationships, to meet minimal expectations and stay under cover in the organization.  Yet we know that the best leaders are self-aware leaders.  They are not without flaws but they know what their flaws are and how to compensate for them.  And they gain awareness from feedback from co-workers.

What is 360º feedback?

360º, or multi-rater, feedback is getting information from all round – boss, peers, and direct reports, and occasionally other key business partners.  The feedback can come from formal written surveys, from interviews conducted by a coach, or from facilitated sessions in which feedback is captured and communicated.  Making sense of the feedback often requires the help of a coach, who can foster understanding and offer alternative explanations.  The self-awareness gained can produce a clear evaluation of the feedback and the basis for a plan of action that will build on strengths and address development areas.

A coach provides value in many ways.  One is to be an objective observer and feedback giver.  Everyone has blind spots and a coach can help clear the fog to see the real self and the impact on others.  A coach can collect information from others by guaranteeing confidentiality and anonymity, as needed, and gain deep insights as a trusted confidant.  A coach is a facilitator, helping the client to find answers to their problems.  A coach may give advice or alternatives for action, based on their own managerial and coaching experience.  A coach may confront or raise issues that the client does not acknowledge because this, too, enhances self-awareness.  A coach helps the client to develop an action plan for improvement and holds himself and the client accountable for achieving action goals.  A coach is there for the client, empowering, encouraging, advocating, and supporting development.

What Executive Coaching is Not

Coaching is not therapy.  An executive coach is not trying to change a person’s psyche or personality or solve personal problems.  Executive coaching is business focused.  There hopefully is personal gain for the client, but the emphasis is always on improving the person’s leadership effectiveness.

Coaching is not a place for the executive to hide, to avoid , or prolong the change that’s required.  This is about taking on the hard – and rewarding – work of becoming a better leader.

Coaching is not the avenue for organizations to get rid of people.  If it’s been determined that an ineffective executive cannot or will not change, then the executive should go.

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Yes! You may use this article by TCA Executive Coach Donna Riechmann in your blog, newsletter or website as long as you include the following bio box:

Donna Riechmann has held executive positions in large corporations as well as being president of her own consulting firm. She’s held adjunct positions at the University of Illinois, Duke Corporate Education and the Center for Creative Leadership.   Currently, as a partner in the consulting firm Leadership Solutions LLC, Donna has designed and implemented leadership development programs and complex change management strategies for many corporate, government, and non-profit clients. She has international consulting and research experience in several  countries, including Bermuda, Bosnia, Canada, People’s Republic of China, and the United Kingdom. Donna holds B.S. and M.Ed. degrees from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina.  Her coaching profile can be found at TheCoachingAssociation.com.

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4 Responses to “Executive Coaching and 360 Feedback: What It Is/What It Is Not”

  1. What a great summary of executive coaching. It does take guts to work with a coach, but the journey is always outcome focused and well worth it.

  2. Thanks Lissa – you are definitely correct. Real focused work with a coach, especially work that includes multi-rater feedback does take courage!
    – Barbara Demarest
    Executive Director

  3. Lissa, thanks for your comment. We know that leaders who make a commitment to self-discovery and improvement can make enormous strides in their abilities to lead people and projects successfully.
    Donna Riechmann

  4. Thanks for all of the great information! I believe you have to be creative and stimulating in order to put yourself on the market and show others what you can do. I have been using a website called http://www.careersuccessions.com that provides tools to make future candidates for employment stand out of the crowd. The site offers career consultants, job hunting tips, and career advancement. Good luck!

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