The Genesis Of An Executive Coach
My team of three analysts had just spent three months and countless hours benchmarking a healthcare organization’s productivity to determine the opportunity to improve. We had developed reams of PowerPoint documents with charts comparing the system to dozens of other, similar healthcare systems nationwide. We had databases, Excel Spreadsheets, comments from the system’s management, hundreds of Medicare cost reports, and up-to-date input from a network of leading clinical managers from around the nation. Our analysis was sound, complete, and better than any other consulting firm could have provided. We discovered that the hospital had the opportunity to save about $12 million in costs without hurting quality. The COO had just reviewed this material with me, and looked across the table at me.
“That’s about right,” he said. “I was guessing $10 to $15 million.” This COO had just spent about $250,000 of his organization’s money to come up with a number he already knew. But we both already understood that he had to use an outside firm to justify his instincts to his Board and management team. Then he surprised me.
“I didn’t hire you for this analysis,” he said. “And I didn’t hire you to help us achieve our cost target, because my management team can do that without you. I hired you because I need someone to walk me through the pain that this change program is going to cause. I need someone I can trust, who will support me when the going gets tough.” It was at that point that the power of Executive Coaching became clear to me. The executives I had been working with were competent, and usually knew what they had to do. But they needed someone who could serve as a sounding board, provide insights, and help them to stay focused and resilient in the face of enormous challenges and pressure. Many of these executives perceived more value in a few 30-minute meetings with a trusted, supportive advisor than they did in a quarter million dollars worth of highly-educated analysts on a consulting team. They knew ahead of time what the analysts would find. What they needed was someone who could help them make tough decisions and do what it took to improve performance.
So I tried an experiment. I started focusing more on Executive Coaching, and less on analysis/consulting. The results were excellent. I did less work, made more money, and had more fun — without the hassles of managing teams of consultants. My relationships with clients got stronger, and I could work with more executives than before. I worked on more interesting engagements, often by phone and without having to travel. A wide variety of executives were looking for coaching, although they didn’t use the word “coaching” too often (and neither should you, if you happen to be an Executive Coach). The problems they faced involved the following issues, among others: • Gain more influence in their organization. • Launch a new initiative. • Get commitment and build alignment among their executive team.
• Improve their business relationship with their boss. • Implement difficult changes. • Grow their organization. • Improve their leadership skills as they ventured into new, unfamiliar areas. • Quickly gain knowledge about new functions (e., marketing, finance) where they lacked experience. • Make a transition to a new role or organization. • Avoid burn out and balance work, family, hobbies, and health. • Make decisions with incomplete information.
• Get clarity about organizational strategy and direction. • Make improvements in response to negative feedback from colleagues. Usually they had good instincts about what to do and needed someone like me to listen to their concerns, serve as a sounding board, debate with them, ask probing questions, and – when appropriate – to offer advice and insights. I helped in other ways as well. I interviewed colleagues and constituents to gather input and advice in a safe, objective, and confidential way. I structured and facilitated short meetings with a Board of Directors or management team to gather ideas and develop consensus. Sometimes I led training sessions and workshops with management and up-and-coming managers about key management topics. I would never go back to traditional consulting work. Executive Coaching is far too rewarding, in terms of both value to me and value to my clients.