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5 Qualities of Great Executive Coaches

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I spoke recently with a skilled and capable colleague in the personal development field who said:

“Damian, the coaching industry is absolutely flooded with poor quality coaches who are giving the field a bad name.”

After reflecting a little I had to agree with her.  The quality of Executive Coaches out there varies hugely, from those who are remarkable and worth their weight in gold, through to those who have a nerve to even claim the title.

It started to make me wonder what it is that sets a really great coach apart from the also-rans and I wondered if I could sum those differences up in the ever popular ‘5 statement’ formula.  Well, I came up with 5 qualities of what I think make a really great coach and whilst they are not set in stone and are subject for review, they are a start.  Here goes.

  1. Solution-focus – coaching is about change, not wallowing in self-pity, recrimination or over-analysis.  Change can only be effectively generated when the client and the coach both understand what goals are being pursued.  A good coach will constantly have the agreed outcomes in mind, enabling him or her to keep the coaching process on track and avoid drifting off course.
  2. Optimism – when clients appoint an Executive Coach they may do so because they are dispirited, demotivated or are dealing with challenging circumstances.  If the coach is of a pessimistic bent and can be sucked into the client’s limiting perspectives, the whole process can enter a downward spiral.  A good coach can maintain a positive mindset, even amidst difficulty, and encourage the client to develop a proactive optimism during the coaching relationship.
  3. Strengths-focus – it is easier to maintain optimism when light is being shone on strengths and resources.  A good coach works from the perspective that the client is inherently resourceful, even if those resources are currently latent or undiscovered.  Effective coaching entails a constant sifting for and alertness to resources within the client that he or she may not be aware of.
  4. Pattern and structure detection – skilled coaches are aware that clients will give them two types of information – the content of what is happening and the process or structure of what is happening.  Less able coaches get drawn into the content, the ‘what’ of the situation, and this can be limiting.  Skilled coaches are aware of content whilst simultaneously listening for important patterns and structure of what is going on – the ‘how’ and ‘why’, so to speak.  This type of information is much more useful in terms of designing interventions and facilitating change.
  5. Compassion & Integrity – I really didn’t know whether to put these qualities at the end or the very beginning.  Executive Coaching, no matter how business oriented, is fundamentally a human relationship that involves the sharing of what is often personal and sensitive information.  Unless the coach can convey their integrity and compassion to the client (even as they work in a business-like manner) the chances of the client feeling safe to trust and engage with the coach may be compromised.

Whilst possessing these five qualities may not on their own be sufficient to make someone a skilled Executive Coach, I would be fairly confident that any coach who is lacking in one or more of these areas will be compromised in his or her effectiveness.  We encourage practicing or aspiring coaches to audit their own practice and skills in light of these qualities and to seek to develop those areas where they sense they may be under-power.  Yes, sometimes coaches need coaches.

To find out more visit Executive Coaching at Watt Works, specialist executive, management and leadership coaches and trainers.

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