Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How do you differentiate yourself as an executive coach from other executive coaches?

GARY’S ANSWER: I do a different form of coaching in that I coach very in depth over a longer period of time than some. I don’t think that I do necessarily a better format than others, it’s just different.

What you asked is how do I differentiate myself? Actually I use a similar format like many other coaches, in terms of a 360 interview process. I want to get to know the people who know the target individual, the person to be coached, best. In my case, I interview people one on one in person. And I probably interview about 10, and sometimes more if they wish. I don’t really need to interview a lot of people, but it’s important to interview the stakeholders in the executive’s sphere of influence. It’s important to meet with those people who know the individual the best (some above, some peers, some subordinates), and draw from them a couple of common themes that they believe, if they were to be changed, things (or the client) would be more efficient and productive.

You’re asking about what’s different about my style? I’d say that I’ve come to see that I work often with people who have behavioral issues that perhaps they’re aware of, and perhaps not. But they’ve never really done anything about it.

Lately I’ve offered a kind of analogy to clients that explains the goal of coaching in a positive light. I tell them to think of a wind tunnel. If you think about the concept of a wind tunnel and what you’re trying to achieve, is you’re looking for sharp objects that stick up from the object in the wind tunnel and cause a higher “co-efficient of drag” --- in other words the shape doesn’t slip through the air as easily as it might --- there’s friction. You’re trying to achieve a shape that’s most aerodynamic and that’s able to slip through the air in the easiest manner.

So I think of my coaching as looking for the sharp objects ---behaviors --- that somehow cause social friction. When I think about it, that’s what I’m trying to do when I coach executives. I’m trying to find sharp objects, essentially behaviors that stick up a little bit and cause “drag” in the person’s life.

Just like a car that’s in the wind tunnel – I’m trying to help my clients get the most out of their “horsepower” by identifying and removing the “drag” in their lives. If we smooth those little sharp objects, their behaviors, style, relationships - then they will be able to get more work done, in less time.

Sometimes clients feel stigmatized when they think of the idea of being coached. But if you put it in this wind tunnel analogy way it’s a little more positive.

I specialize in helping people be coached towards efficiency and productivity, especially in environments where there are a lot of organizational politics and political issues. In work settings that are highly politicized and there’s a strong political culture, there can be a lot of “drag” in the executive’s life. I specialize in helping leaders analyze their behaviors, the individuals around them, which people are most important, and what they want from those people. We do this by analyzing which behaviors are getting in the way of their success and cause “drag” in their lives, and I help them smooth out these friction points. The clients achieve with greater efficiency because of less “drag” and can therefore succeed faster and quicker towards more important goals.


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