Becoming an Exceptional Executive Coach
Use Your Knowledge, Experience, and Intuition to Help Leaders Excel
Authors: Michael Frisch, Ph.D., Robert Lee, Ph.D., Karen L. Metzger, LCSW, Jeremy Robinson, MSW, MCC, Judy Rosemarin, MS, LMSW
Pub Date: July 2011
Print Edition: $29.95
Print ISBN: 9780814437582
Page Count: 288
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814416884
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We five authors came to executive coaching in ways similar to those who participate
in our coach training courses—fromorganizational psychology, consulting,
organization development, career counseling, and the personal
helping professions. At the time we began to coach there was no formal practice
of executive coaching. The need for individualized, just-in-time executive
development emerged in the 1980s, in the formof requests for help from
our human resources contacts. Taking a cue fromA Chorus Line, amusical of
that era, we responded with, “We can do that!” With very little definition or
guidance, we originally provided those individual development services
under various headings, such as developmental counseling, mental health
consultation, occupational clinical psychology, or retentionwork. By the early
1990s, however, executive coaching had become the preferred label, and
somewhat consistent expectations had been defined.
Although there was no training for executive coaches back then, there
were many streams of skill, knowledge, and practice that fueled and shaped
coaching work, including individual psychotherapy, leadership development
courses, organization development (OD), and human resources con-
sulting. At the same time, there were new ideas about management and
leadership that were synergistic with the increasing demand for executive
coaching. Managerial competencies beyond technical skills were gaining
prominence, including an emphasis on the manager as coach and developer
of talent. Approaches to leadership began focusing on soft skill areas such
as communication and interpersonal dynamics rather than formal authority
or command and control. Human resources practices were moving
beyond personnel administration to include sophisticated succession planning
systems and 360-degree feedback tools for individual development.
Consulting and training firms and executive education branches of business
schools were responding to, and advancing, these new ideas about leadership
and HR practices and incorporating them into management and executive
training experiences for clients.
Our early opportunities for executive coaching work evolved out of those
swirling applications. Under the prevailing zeitgeist, executive coaching coalesced
with a surprising degree of consistency around a confidential one-onone
relationship, informed by 360-degree and other assessments, organizationally
sponsored, and anchored in on-the-job action planning. Certainly
there were branded labels for coaching, reflecting a particular theoretical
model or the desire to be differentiated in the marketplace, but the rough
outlines of accepted executive coaching practice became clear quickly.
Supporting that clarity was the fact that coaching was not yet a term used for
services outside of organizational contexts. In otherwords, the termcoaching
had not yet ballooned to apply to personal, life, and career interventions.
By the early 1990s in the United States, coaching had become an accepted
option for executive development. Even those firms offering more traditional
classroomcourses sawcoaching as a complement to their efforts and grafted it
on. The Center for Creative Leadership was an early innovator in executive
development courses and used coaching to facilitate interpretation of assessment
feedback as a basis for individual development planning. In addition,
coaching found its way into increasingly sophisticated human resources practices.
Competency-driven human resource planning, performance management
systems, and action learning teams all triggered identification of leaders
who would benefit from individualized, accelerated development. As executives
and managers were selected for development, demand for coaching
grew. Coaches were screened, introduced to prospective clients, and offered
coaching opportunities, typically for six-month engagements.
In these early years, coaching qualifications were undefined, but some
were favored: affinity for the business enterprise; insight about organizational
life, especially at the top; the ability to engage executives one-on-one in a selfdiscovery
process; and organizational sponsormanagement. Industry-specific
knowledge, assessment tool facility, professional/human resources networks,
and consulting experience were also immediately useful. Experience as a professional
counselor and advanced training in psychology or other human service
fields added to credibility but were not required. Eventually, a parallel phenomenon
emerged as HR professionals began offering forms of coaching to
managers in their organizations, and the role of the internal coach was born.
The authors participated actively in the growth of executive coaching and
also were called upon to help improve its practices. Starting in the mid-1990s,
we supported the development and case supervision of less experienced executive
coaches. For all of us, these cases became very gratifying aspects of our
professional lives. We discovered we enjoyed, and were effective at, guiding
others in their coaching work. We also found a synergy between coaching the
coach and our own coaching practices: Our cases became opportunities to
extract lessons and provide examples, while the cases our students provided
drewus into broader coaching issues and considerations of howto train coaches,
whether they would be based inside their home organization (internal
coaches) or become independent coaches offering their services to a variety of
organizations (external coaches).
Key Principles from Our Executive Coach Training Programs
These experiences led us to deliver courses on executive coaching starting in
2002. Since then, we have refined and clarified our ideas about coaching and
how coaches learn. These insights are the basis for the design and content of
this book. A core idea is that executive coaching is a whole-person activity.
All coaches bring unique knowledge and experience to their practices, but in
a more profound way we bring our personalities, values, implicit beliefs
about adult growth, and our own individual styles of connecting with others.
Thus, this book does not advocate any specific coaching methodology but
rather helps you, the reader, define your own approach and model. We are
confident that becoming overtly aware of what you bring to executive coaching
will provide you with a richer foundation than training in a standardized
In creating this book, we have been very aware of the importance of
doing and applying, as well as learning and understanding. To the extent a
book allows, we have tried to capture the essence of an apprenticeship experience
rather than only providing guidelines. We have included numerous
examples of coaching casework. Every coaching topic is accompanied by a
detailed illustration from a case, and that case is further explored from the
perspective of a case supervisor. As our students have discovered, learning is
enhanced both by application and by reflecting on the experience. Case
supervision is the best way we have found for new coaches to use actual
experience as a springboard to understanding how executive coaching actually
works and, by extrapolation, discovering their edge as a coach.
Anchored in our whole-person philosophy and no-one-best-way
approach is a strong emphasis on helping coaches to individualize their
approaches. Our preferred method is to ask every coach to reflect on, and
actually define, his or her own model of executive coaching. The Personal
Model, which you will find detailed in Chapter 1, is an organizing principle
for our courses and for this book.
We believe that this learning approach prepares coaches to deliver executive
coaching services better than any othermethod available. To the extent
possible, we have included all essential input to help you build your executive
coaching practice; however,most of the success is up to you. Coaching is
a competitive field and growing more so every year. Our experience is that
those coaches who are willing to carve out time fromtheir noncoaching work
to pursue the type of coaching that they want to do and promote their coach-
ing using professional networks are the ones who get traction and engagements.
This applies equally to internal and external coaches.
Goals of This Book
This book is intended to give all coaches at whatever level, internal as well
as external, fresh ideas about how to improve their executive coaching skills,
expand their personal ranges, and grow their coaching practices. You, as a
reader, may have little, some, or substantial coaching experience. Our goal
is to provide varied stimuli to engage you, whatever your level, in the search
to define coaching in ways that feel right to you. We hope that even if you
have no executive coaching experience, this book will help you determine
your interest in tackling issues that are part of delivering coaching in organizational
contexts. The book also speaks to challenges for internal coaches
by recognizing both similarities and differences from their external coaching
colleagues. Finally, the book would be useful to students in coach
training programs or to those who lead and train internal coaches within
Recording your thoughts and reactions is always a good way to begin the
process ofmastering content, and we encourage you to keep a journal as you
move through the book. In addition, think about what you are willing to do in
addition to reading this book. Doing some actual coaching and receiving
case supervision will significantly catalyze your learning as you read.
Attending forums and professional meetings, as well as doing additional
reading, will further facilitate your learning.
The goal of this book is to expand the choices and options for your exceptional
approach to coaching. Part I consists of three chapters that build a
foundation for all that follows. Chapter 1 outlines the process of defining your
Personal Model of coaching; Chapter 2 describes what being an executive
coach requires in terms of interests and competencies; and Chapter 3 defines
key terms and provides perspectives about the field of executive coaching.
Your Personal Model of coaching is informed in part by insights you gain
fromthe important content areas of coaching, which are presented in Part II.
Each chapter in Part II includes our latest thinking on topics within the practice
of executive coaching, influenced by the questions, reactions, and suggestions
of the students in our courses. These topical chapters also contain
case examples illustrating the options and case supervisors’ perspectives
about more subtle elements of the cases. The last chapter in Part II, Chapter
20, is an exception because, instead of a topic, it outlines the increasingly
important role of the internal coach.
In Part III, we prompt you to consider key questions that are essential to
drafting the three outputs of your Personal Model of coaching. Chapter 21
presents how to describe your emerging approach to coaching; Chapter 22
covers building your executive coaching practice; and Chapter 23 outlines
planning for your future development as a coach. Chapter 24, the final chapter
in the book, brings all the pieces of the PersonalModel together by telling
the story of one rising executive coach.
We expect that youwill find some surprises in this book and possibly even
ideas you disagree with. From our teaching experience, however, we are confident
that this approach to teaching executive coaching will engage you.
Based on our experiences, we also knowthat your real learningwill happen as
you reflect on and apply these ideas to actual coaching engagements and, in
so doing, shape your own approach to executive coaching.
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