External coaches play a greater role in successful leadership development today more than ever before. C-Suite executives want the confidentiality and skill set of an outside coach. Although some organizations have internal coaches, they rarely work at the most senior levels. In business, a coach’s role is typically to help executives develop in some key areas that will enhance their leadership capabilities or, at times, in a specific content area, like marketing. Sometimes this engagement is developmental where the person coached is being groomed for a next step or an expanded role in the organization. In other cases, the coaching can be remedial to correct some executive behaviors that are seen as unproductive and, worse yet, that negatively impacting others on the team.
I was asked to coach a leader who on any assessment of emotional intelligence would score low in areas such as self-awareness and empathy. The amount of time this executive spent on defending his actions and questioning the perception of others could have been better spent learning how to improve. The company wasted its money on this assignment. Effective coaching requires a willingness to learn and, when necessary, to change behavior. Defending your actions is futile on the path to self-improvement.
How defensive are you to coaching? If you’re considering coaching for someone in your company, how open are they? You might want to get a read on the level of defensiveness by assessing where you or another falls on a coaching defensiveness scale. If you’re brave, you might want to ask someone who knows you well to rate you.
The Harvard Business Review ran an article on “Coaching the Alpha Male” by Kate Ludeman and Eddie Erlandson in their May 2004 issue. The article provides a useful scale to assess coaching defensiveness:
How Defensive Are You?
+10 Plan the change, engage others, set milestones, and implement.
+9 Communicate genuine enthusiasm about making a change.
+8 Think out loud, making new associations about the problem.
+7 Take full responsibility for the problem and its ramifications.
+6 Request information and examples about the problem.
+5 Openly wonder about your role in creating the problem.
+4 Express genuine curiosity about the issue and how to resolve it.
+3 Express appreciation for the messenger, regardless of delivery.
+2 Summarize key points without interjecting your own thoughts.
+1 Look interested, breathe, and demonstrate an open posture.
Breakthrough: choosing curiosity over being right
-1 Show polite interest while inwardly preparing your rebuttal.
-2 Provide a detailed explanation of your point of view.
-3 Justify actions with compelling logic and an interpretation of events.
-4 Interrupt to give your perspective.
-5 Interpret comments as attacks and feel misunderstood.
-6 Convince them that you’re right and they’re wrong.
-7 Make snippy replies and show your irritation nonverbally.
-8 Blame or complain about someone who’s not present.
-9 Intimidate or attack the messenger.
-10 Appear to comply, with no intention of doing what you say you’ll do.
Coaching effectiveness and defensiveness are negatively correlated. Executives that display defensive behaviors are still coachable, but it’s more difficult and requires a direct and fact based coaching style.
Get to where you want to be with executive coaching services from Key Associates. We have been providing executive coaching services to a distinguished list of C-suite executives since 1995 and are located in Tampa, FL. Watch the video testimonial below from Robyn Spoto, Founder of SpotOn Digital Media and strategic planning and executive coaching client of ours:
We also specialize in coaching leadership teams across industries and help them perform at high levels. Just because you have a team of individual high performers, it doesn’t mean that they can perform together as a high functioning team. We help you improve and enhance teamwork by designing and delivering a team building experience that focuses on specific issues that you and your team have targeted as top priorities.
For more information on our executive coaching approach, contact us at 813-831-9500.