Coaching Helping Leaders
How Executive Coaching Is Helping Madison Business Leaders
Karen Ostrov, PhD
Developing the leadership core competencies of an executive is a critical factor to business
success because fast-paced, global competition leaves less margin of error in decision making. In
addition, the tight labor market makes the presence or absence of good leadership the variable
that can make or break a company. That is why executive coaching is an emerging practice in the
field of corporate training and development. In addition, corporate investment in leadership skill
training impacts companies through increased productivity, improved communication, increased
employee commitment, and decreased tension and stress.
An executive coach works with people on the difficult things they need to do everyday as
leaders. Leadership skills are not only a part of a middle or senior manager's role, but are
needed by project leaders and technical and professional people who must build support for
The coaching process is usually one-on-one at the workplace, in an office or meeting room,
allowing the client to work in depth on his/her identified areas needing development and
improvement. Here are three local examples of how coaching impacts the development of
leadership competencies. The participants whose names are used granted permission to do so
because they wanted to share the benefits of their coaching experience.
A leader needs to visualize those changes that would help a company meet its future needs,
achieve employee alignment with these views, and instill the desire in others to put those ideas
When Belkis Dell took over as General Manager at New Horizons Computer Learning Center, she
saw how easy it was for managers to agree in concept with proposed changes, but how difficult
it was to put it into practice. Belkis found that her managers sometimes unintentionally worked
against each other which created extra work.
She chose to first focus on improving her competencies in clearly communicating her vision of
having her managers work as a cohesive team. In coaching meetings, she discussed how to
navigate through the expected resistance to her efforts. With the help of a coach, she
developed strategies to meet resistance head on, articulate her direction and. foster desire
among managers to align themselves with her and work together.
She decided to model for her managers the behavior of acknowledging when she didn't know
something, identifying what she needed to know, and asking for help- the hardest thing for a
leader to do.
Fostering The Skills For Change Needed In Others
Leaders need to be able to create a positive working environment where employees feel safe
experimenting with new communication pathways.
"Jeanne", the President of a Dane County technology consulting firm, was looking for ways
develop her growing staff and make the entire enterprise more efficient and productive.
Working with a coach helped her pinpoint some specific areas of workplace communication and
team building that needed attention. Working one -on -one, the coach helped her raise her level
of skill in interpersonal communication. Then the coach facilitated team building meetings that
involved the entire staff. Increased energy, zest, and commitment to work towards a common
goal were all positive outcomes of the coaching process.
Risk-Taking And Venturesomeness
One of the most difficult competencies for a leader to acquire is to have the courage to try
something new, even when the data supporting it are incomplete as is often the case. Leaders
must develop the skill and the nerve to move ahead when others might be more cautious, in other
words, to take risks.
Mark Nash had been Operations Manager at Full Compass Systems Ltd., Middleton, a growing
audio-visual equipment company for some time. When promoted to General Manager, he found his
biggest challenge was handling the risks involved in supervising his former peers. He now had
more layers of people to work through to resolve problems and stronger personalities to
persuade to his way of thinking. His own hands were no longer on the levers to make things work.
To make a successful job transition, Mark sought the resources of an executive coach. Coaching
provided Mark a forum to talk through the inevitable challenges that come with promotion from
within. Putting up front time into discussing strategic options helped Mark gain more confidence
in using the essential leadership skills of being less cautious and more willing to work with
uncertainties when working towards large goals and when the methods to achieve them were
In summary, these three coaching scenarios illustrate how a coach can guide individuals in the
development of communication and leadership competencies within their job setting.
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