What Coaching Is. And Isn’t.

It’s lonely at the top.

Anyone who serves in a leadership role knows how true this can be. Where can a leader safely turn for a listening ear, wise counsel, and the unvarnished truth? Most successful leaders from time to time call upon someone they can trust to walk alongside them, personally and professionally. That’s what coaches do.

There are two kinds of competencies that every leader needs to acquire for success:

  1. Technical competencies are necessary skills and knowledge that are acquired through education and training by which one learns what to do. Finance, marketing, operations are examples.
  2. Behavioral competencies, by contrast, are all about how one shows up as a leader that causes others to choose to follow. Trust, communication, managing conflict and accountability are examples.

Leaders who fail most commonly do so for lack of behavioral competencies rather than lack of technical competencies. Basically, it’s not so much about knowing what to do, but how you do it!

What Exactly is Coaching?

Coaching is all about helping people change their behaviors to get better results. The key word is change; if there’s no opportunity for change, there’s no need for coaching. Even the world’s top performers in any pursuit avail themselves of coaching. They know, “You don’t have to be sick to get better.”

As a profession, developmental coaching is relatively young. It grew out of the worlds of psychology and adult education over the past three decades. As such, it can appear somewhat like the wild, wild west with the variety of people and methods that fall under the label of “coaching.”

As the healthcare industry’s largest and most experienced executive leadership development firm, MEDI Leadership’s proven method has produced sustainable results for thousands of healthcare leaders over the past couple of decades. We have a very clear point of view about coaching, one that is best understood by what executive leadership coaching is not.

Coaching is Not Consulting

There is a place for consulting, when there’s a problem in need of a fix. But we view coaching clients as smart, resourceful people who are not “broken.” Sadly, in the early years of healthcare coaching, it was often imposed to try to fix someone. That rarely works or helps.

Coaching is not Clinical Therapy

There is a place, at times, when a skilled clinical therapist can help one look deeply into their history and relationships to resolve persistent interpersonal problems. Our view of coaching focuses more on looking through the “windshield” than the “rear view mirror,” we ask where our client wants to go, what’s working well, what could work better, and how to make the changes needed to go there.

Coaching is Not Mentoring

It sounds like the same thing but there’s a key difference: a mentor is an experienced, wiser person who downloads that wisdom and expertise to a novice. They are not on the same level.  Coaching, in contrast, is a working alliance, a partnership between two people walking together on level ground. The coach leads from behind in the relationship: asking the right questions, listening deeply, observing behaviors, and offering different perspectives that stretch the client to make the difficult changes he or she has set for the engagement.

Leadership is the co-creation of coordinated movement of a group of people toward a common goal. Moreover, leadership is accomplished through the exercise of influence that flows through relationships.

 With the above definition, you’ll see how the working alliance with a coach can help leaders be their most effective!

Eric Norwood
About the author

Eric Norwood is a trusted, experienced advisor to C-Suite leaders, helping them improve their performance individually and corporately. He is a catalyst for change for his clients.
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