Article written by Sonata Coach – Robert Cuming
During times of national emergency and the consequent organisational change, it might be understandable that Company Boards and CEOs might see Executive coaching as a personal development investment that could be scaled back. Yet this would be premature. During a time of rapid change and transition, investment in coordinated coaching for an Executive team remains an integral and urgent tool for a CEO and Board, to empower an organisation and people for change, leaders recognising in these times they cannot do everything themselves.
A study of over 20,000 leaders by ghSMART* identified four key areas that leaders need to cultivate to move forward during a crisis, these are; Decide with speed over precision, adapt boldly, reliably deliver and engage for impact. The ability to deliver boldly on these require leaders to empower their teams, enhance delegation. Aligned coaching for their Executive team will provide CEOs with the confidence to meet the challenge accepting that at pace they cannot initiate change without support. I outline below how coaching might support effective implementation of the above areas;
Decide with speed over precision requires a SMT to identify a small number of clear priorities and early on defining which leaders can make this for the business and focus on action. The challenge for the Board & CEO is empower and have confidence in delegation so that aligned action can rapidly be executed. Coaching provides a structure for the Executive team and the CEO, with the coach, to meet coordinate and agree aligned goals and success criteria. The coach can play a pivotal role supporting Executives to embrace speed of execution over detail, and thus support the CEO goals for effective delegation. The Executive faced with new priorities with coaching has access to additional skills and resources to enable the dynamic process of change. Working recently with a healthcare training organisation and the early news of rising COVID cases in early February 2020 the decision was taken immediately to not wait, but move all education training across 10 sites from face to face to online delivery. This positive ‘early move’ enabled the organisation to have a 6 weeks period of transition and outline a positive strategy change through coordinated communication. They remained in control of changes to business model and not reactive once national measures arrived from late March 2020.
Engage for impact requires skilful and effective communication throughout the organisation. One challenge for the leader is the recognition that impact and engagement further down the organisation cannot always be effectively delivered in a centralised top down manner. A truly co-ordinated coaching structure for leaders in the senior team can help ensure there is an alignment of collective communication of KPIs and key business success indicators. Coaching dynamically encourages leaders to access new or ‘dusted down’ skillsets, now required during a period of transition. The coach input supports the CEO to feel able to focus energy on big picture strategic development with coaching supporting the aligning of the leadership team. Coaching a successful tech entrepreneur who had grown the business, he was increasingly feeling increasingly deskilled during a period of change and rapid growth. The day to day operational detail impacted his motivational drive and affected some of his people dynamics. Through the coaching process he was able to identify new options to realign personal and organisational goals within this new landscape now the business had transformed from a start up phase. It was the now right time for him to recruit a managing director to lead the organisation to the next stage and enable him to focus on core strategic interests in profile building the business in the US. The investment in coaching for an Executive team allows a CEO to have a crucial direct support or the confidence to explore options for engaging, enabling and empowering her team to move forward.
*Harvard Business Review April 2020