Given the enormous changes occurring in the healthcare industry and the challenges that lie ahead, there is a great sense of urgency to identify and develop executive and medical/scientific leaders who can effectively position their organizations for success. One of the most impactful leadership development strategies for building a leader’s competitive edge is coaching. Executive coaching can significantly impact individual growth and organizational success by focusing on the development of specific leadership competencies required for success. In addition to strengthening executive skills, coaching is particularly impactful for medical/scientific leaders who, in addition to their clinical care duties, are now being tapped to lead self, lead others, lead change, and lead for results. These new competency requirements are best fostered through targeted individual leadership development via coaching conducted in tandem with other developmental strategies.
When Is Coaching Best Applied?
- To retain valuable leaders. Dissatisfaction with potential for career development is a leading reason executives leave their organizations. Executives who receive coaching often feel more valued, a stronger connection to their organizations, a greater sense of commitment to their jobs, and increased alignment with the overall strategy.
- When a company is undergoing growth or change. The skills necessary to successfully lead an organization can shift dramatically when the organization enters a new stage of growth, shifts strategy, enters a new market, faces an evolving competitive landscape, is acquired, or merges with another organization. Coaching can assist executive leaders in adapting to change more quickly and competently.
- As a succession planning tool. Talented individuals being groomed for leadership roles may excel in some areas, but may need improvement in other skills before promotion to a senior role. Examples of further developmental areas include cultivating a more strategic or organization-wide perspective, bolstering interpersonal skills, or increasing competence around conflict management or negotiation.
- Onboarding when an executive is being promoted or moved to a new role. Coaching can provide a newly-hired or promoted executive with critical strategies for learning about the organization, including its culture and politics, understanding expectations of the new role, getting familiar with processes and practices, and developing new relationships.
- When training courses or internal “mentors” are not options. Senior executives may be hesitant or unable to attend training courses or other “en masse” learning events or may simply prefer individualized, one-on-one development. In some instances, these executives may also feel that they should already have the skills or expertise in question. In these situations, coaching can be preferable since it is a confidential, personal, and “safe” development option where the individual is using an objective, external person to help them with their development.
- To assist with cultural alignment. Coaching can support executives arriving from other organizations and/or other countries as they adjust to a new culture. Many organizations offer this type of on-boarding or assimilation coaching for an executive’s first few months. It can also help align seasoned executives to the new culture that the organization is striving to create.
The Coaching Process
A well-established coaching engagement should include the following components:
- Assessment. Well-planned coaching begins with targeted assessment interviews with the executive, their manager, and identified stakeholders to determine strengths, developmental opportunities, and goals and objectives for the assignment. In addition, psychometric assessment(s) are administered to assess intrinsic motivators, values, traits, and personality factors that contribute to self-awareness.
- Feedback. The results of the interviews and psychometric assessments form the basis of the formal assessment feedback delivered to the executive in preparation for finalizing the coaching program goals.
- Action Planning. The coach and executive co-create their development action plan specifying the coaching objectives and indicators of success which are vetted with key stakeholders.
- Coaching. The executive and their coach meet regularly over the course of the assignment where learnings are translated into action in practical applications. A midpoint and endpoint triad meeting is facilitated by the coach with the executive, their manager, and HRBP to discuss progress against goals.
- Measure of Success. Obtaining feedback to assess progress against the original coaching goals is garnered throughout the course of the engagement and beyond. Course corrections are applied, as needed.
- Sustaining Progress and Continued Growth. While the formal coaching program has a defined endpoint, executives and their stakeholders co-create a sustainability strategy for continued learning and future success.
In order for a coaching engagement to be successful, there must be strong alignment between the coach and client. The coachee must be motivated to improve and be committed to the coaching program, and the selected coach should have strong industry experience and a clear evidence-based methodology for developing performance and measuring successful outcomes. Most importantly, the fit between coach and coachee is pertinent to the success of the program so as to establish trust and provide opportunity for growth, development, and overall success.
In addition to the benefits realized by the coachee, organizations who invest in coaching for their leaders often experience a significant return-on-investment. The ICF Global Coaching Client Study Executive Summary (April, 2009) reported that an organization can typically expect a return of seven times the initial investment of a coaching engagement. Coaching, as a development tool, helps to build and strengthen leadership competencies such as teamwork, communication, collaboration, and productivity, inevitably improving the efficiency and overall quality of the organization’s bench strength.
Approximately 25 to 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies use executive coaches, according to the Hay Group, an international human-resources consultancy. Coaching helps build behavioral competencies that drive bottom-line business results, including cost reduction and overall profitability. Coaching can also improve the job satisfaction, engagement, and working relationships of those who receive coaching. Executive coaching for leaders is undeniably a worthy development strategy that enables organizations not just to manage change but to embrace and thrive in it.