7 times in your career when it’s worth seeing an executive coach
Why go it alone, when an outside expert can offer you invaluable assistance?
When you’re having significant issues in your personal life, you may go to a therapist. But whom do you see about challenges in your work life? Who can understand what’s it’s really like to manage a team of disparate personalities? And who can help take some of the weight off your shoulders when you’re feeling in over your head? The answer: an executive coach—someone who has been in your shoes and can help you excel on the job.
An executive coach can give you unbiased and confidential advice from the perspective of someone who thoroughly understands the ups and downs of the workforce. “This allows you to work on the skills and behaviors you need to get ahead without having to rely on internal resources,” says Mike Harden, an executive coach based in Potomac Falls, Virginia.
Prices for an executive coaching session will vary depending on region and the specific nature of your case (individuals versus teams, for example). According to the Association of Corporate Executive Coaches, a session with a coach starts at anywhere from $300 to $400. The length of the engagement may vary, as well, from a handful of sessions to several months, depending upon the goals you’re seeking to achieve.
If any of the following seven situations ring an unnerving bell, it may be worth it to hire an executive coach for yourself or your team.
You’re sick of your industry and aren’t sure what to do next
In this instance, an executive coach would help you clarify your personal goals, and align them with your business and career goals, says Monte Wyatt, an executive coach based in Des Moines. A coach could also advise you on what types of jobs could maximize your strengths while still challenging you to grow and learn new things.
You’re in charge for the first time
If you’ve been working as an individual contributor and have now been moved into management for the first time, there will be an adjustment period as you learn to accomplish tasks through others, says Wyatt. Instead of focusing on the technical aspects of your former duties, you now need to focus on guiding and leading others. You may also need to brush up on some soft skills, like getting buy-in, following through, building trust and communicating well. An executive coach can train you in the delicate art of being someone’s boss.
You need a better vantage point
“People hire coaches when they are faced with issues that may be beyond their current skill level,” Harden says. Let’s say you’re next in line for a big promotion, and you’re worried that you won’t be able to cut it. Or perhaps you were recently promoted and are struggling with the increased responsibilities in your new role. Maybe you’re managing a much larger team than before, or you’ve been assigned to a different department. “Coaches can give you a new perspective,” says Harden. “They provide a sounding board to bounce ideas off of and can offer mentoring as an experienced executive who has been there, done that.”
You’re not seeing many job offers
If you’ve been searching for a new job for a while but aren’t seeing any offers, there’s a chance you’re coming up short during the interview. Coaches can offer honest advice and practical tips to help you step up your game.
“I typically do role playing with the candidate, running them through different questions and ‘testing’ their answers, while providing feedback,” says Harden. “I will often help them frame their answers in a positive, articulate way. I also provide feedback on image, voice attributes, body language, and how they should dress. The objective is to give them all the advantages possible during the actual interview.”
You’re in the thick of a reorg
Downsizing, a merger or acquisition or any other restructuring can have you suddenly relearning how to navigate your workplace—potentially with a new boss and maybe even an entirely new team. This situation is rife for potential misunderstandings, so it’s a great opportunity to work with a coach and make that transition smoother, says Gwyneth Anne Freedman, an executive coach in San Jose, California.
This can be an excellent time to consider your role and reputation that you’ll put forth with your new boss and team. “Sometimes people get triggered by others’ behaviors,” she explains, “without considering that there just may be communication style differences.”
You need to shake a bad habit—or help someone else do the same
A coach can help you with any self-limiting behaviors, such as being a perfectionist, being fearful of change or being a micromanager, Harden says. These behaviors need to be curtailed or corrected lest they prevent your career from progressing, or even leading to your dismissal. If an employee under your charge has a self-limiting behavior, it could reflect on you as their supervisor. A coach can advise you on how best to guide your employee and close the gaps in their workplace persona.
Your whole team needs a leg up
“The ceiling of a business is the leadership team, and until the leadership team grows, the business can't grow,” Wyatt says. Sometimes it’s not just you or a single employee that needs help—an entire team, division or organization may need some coaching to reach the next level.
In such an instance, Wyatt says, a coach can also act as a facilitator to ensure everyone is on the same page and focused on growth. A coach can work with team members individually to address their personal gaps and then work with the entire group to educate everyone, think through strategic initiatives and get commitment from everyone to follow through. All of which, of course, makes you look like you’ve got your act together as someone who can be trusted to lead others to success.
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