Intensive, one-on-one development
Executive coaching can benefit professionals in any size organization, and at any level of seniority. Although the process is endlessly customizable to fit each client’s personal needs, coaching is most often delivered in one of two formats: Laser Coaching or 360 Coaching, each described below.
Laser Coaching provides an intensive, one-on-one learning experience to help people improve their skills in negotiation, communication and/or conflict resolution. It is ideal for individuals who want to see rapid change and are willing to invest in their own growth.
Some coaching clients (aka “coachees”) have a specific problem or challenge that needs immediate attention. Others, such as newly-promoted managers or executives taking on much larger teams or stretch assignments, are looking for a high-impact learning experience to help them improve skills quickly. And for some, such as extremely senior leaders, Laser Coaching is an opportunity to receive ongoing support from a skilled professional, someone who is outside their line of reporting and can be trusted to offer a neutral and unbiased perspective.
How does coaching work?
The process consists of one-on-one coaching sessions lasting approximately 60 minutes each, conducted by video conference or by phone. The frequency of the coaching sessions is dictated by the client’s availability and preference, typically ranging from weekly to once per month.
The specific format and content of each session will vary. Coaching sessions not only include discussion and analysis of the coachee’s challenges but also incorporate role-playing exercises in which the coachee applies the conceptual tools introduced and receives feedback. Coachees are sometimes asked to engage in “homework” between sessions, such as reflecting on a specific situation, self-monitoring their behavior at work, and/or seeking an opportunity to try a new behavior that had been discussed in the session.
Compared to other learning opportunities (such as training) coaching provides a more intense experience and can achieve results more quickly. This is because the process is completely focused on a single individual, allowing the coach to target the coachee’s challenges with laser-like precision and help them find the optimal path forward.
The 360 Coaching process is similar to Laser Coaching in that it is focused on the individual’s specific challenges and can yield immediate benefits. However, it incorporates an additional element of external feedback from the coachee’s co-workers. Doing so provides both the coach and coachee with a more objective perspective, and can thus significantly enrich the learning experience.
The process typically begins with initial conversations with the coachee and with their manager to determine the specific development goals for the coaching process. These goals will help guide the process going forward.
Then, the coach will interview a number of the coachee’s colleagues, including managers, peers, subordinates and others, to solicit feedback about the coachee. The goal is to gain a multi-directional or “360 degree” view of how the coachee currently operates in their professional context.
The feedback is then synthesized by the coach, who identifies the key themes and documents these in a detailed written report. The report, shared with the coachee (and, if desired, with the coachee’s manager) is a powerful tool for growth, providing the coachee with an objective picture of their development needs. Moreover, the feedback provides the roadmap for subsequent one-on-one coaching sessions between the coach and coachee. The goal of the coaching sessions is to help the coachee understand and internalize the feedback and to work on improving skills in areas of weakness, through discussion, analysis, and role playing, similar to what is done in Laser Coaching.
The 360 Coaching process represents a significant upgrade from Laser Coaching. The inclusion of neutral, objective feedback from a range of people who work with the coachee can illuminate significant blind spots that the coachee is unaware of and which might not be addressed in Laser Coaching.
For this reason, 360 coaching is frequently selected as the service most appropriate where an improvement in the coachee’s performance will have a meaningful, positive impact on the organization’s overall functioning. Many companies choose 360 coaching as the right process for their senior leaders, mid-level executives who manage large teams, department heads with important business responsibilities, and so on.
An example of how 360 Coaching can help:
Cliff* was a talented investment banker being groomed for promotion. His understanding of the financial markets was superb, and both clients and senior leaders loved him. The problem was his employees – they couldn’t stand working for Cliff. He was direct with his staff to the point of rudeness; he criticized them mercilessly, but never gave praise; and he was constantly pushing his team to work harder and get their assignments done quicker. Indeed, many referred to him as “the manager from hell.”
Cliff had discussed the possibility of a promotion with his manager, and intimated that he might leave the firm if he wasn’t able to advance. His manager was in a bind. Losing Cliff would be a real blow to the bank. But given his management style, promoting Cliff would damage the working environment for everyone on Cliff’s team, and could lead to other employees leaving.
The decision was made to offer Cliff coaching. After meeting with Cliff and Cliff’s manager, the coach interviewed a number of Cliff’s clients, peers and direct reports. The themes from these interviews were distilled into a report that was shared with Cliff, and the message was clear: everyone appreciated Cliff’s talents, but he needed to find a more tactful way of communicating, particularly with subordinates. At first Cliff became defensive, and denied the feedback. But with the coach’s help he was able to absorb it, and ultimately recognize that by changing how he communicated he could still push his team to excellence without alienating them. Over a period of months Cliff worked intensively with the coach one-on-one, learning to become more aware of how he was impacting others and practicing alternative ways of giving feedback or interacting with subordinates.
Ultimately, Cliff was able to improve as a manager, and to find a way of communicating that was both authentic and constructive, and went on to become a successful manager at this firm. Retaining Cliff as an employee translated into hundreds of thousands of dollars in saved costs of replacing Cliff, as well as an improvement in morale and productivity in the team that worked with Cliff.
More About Donny:
- Read about Donny in The New York Times
- Learn about Donny’s book, I Hear You