Beware of Executive Coaches

In the spirit of truth in advertising the notification of “Beware of Dog” should also apply to Executive Coaching.

 The domain of Executive is growing rapidly for 2 incongruent reasons. Foremost it has been well researched and documented that the use of external coaches is the most impactful leadership development vehicle.  Secondly, with the displacement of so many executives, there has been a proliferation those who now carry the career title of Executive Coach.

 The more cynical of us remember the late 90’s when a displaced executive was going to “start a” That aspiration has now been supplanted by well-intentioned but unprepared advisors whom are now “coaches.”

 It is doubtful one would feel comfortable being represented by a lawyer who hadn’t been to law school, or treated by a doctor who didn’t attend medical school…essentially the baseline criteria.  So why should any executive feel more sanguine being advised by someone just because they are now a “coach?”

 The above is further complicated by the “industry” lacking any regulatory oversight. 

 This dilemma prompted Discussion Partners to do a Pulse Survey of our relationships reformatting the standard question, “to be an effective leader, what skills do you need to possess,” to “to be impactful what are the top 5 critical skills needed by an Executive Coach.” 

Top 5 Responses

  1. Strong Business Fundamentals – There is a need to be clear.  Many coaches focus on advising on strategy and operations as well there are those who focus on leadership effectiveness.  The response had more to do with the third area in that even when advising on the quality of a leadership bench, or correcting some less then attractive behaviors there is a need for the coach to know enough about business to be credible with their client.
  2. Sensei Tendencies – The ability of the coach to weave in “war stories” or “lessons learned” from the coaches experience.  At Discussion Partners we refer to this as Illustration Advisory an intervention whereby we can share an example.  There is of course the need to resist the temptation pontificate “when I was a young manager”. 
  3. Willingness to Confront – The desire to avoid offending to preserve economic security can be taken too far in a relationship.  There can be diplomatic ways to articulate “what the hell were you thinking”? 
  4. Intellectual Curiosity – This attribute surprised those of us at DPC, and therefore shame on us!  It is only  logical that a client is entitled to expect that their advisor is staying current.  Although the John Boudreaus, Noel Tichys, David Ulrichs, Jim Collins’s and Michael Porters are in a class by themselves, the reputation of the coach can be enhanced if they share insights from others, and their own documented point of view. 
  5. Willingness to Admit Failure – Staying in a bad marriage is counterproductive if not counterintuitive.  The same logic applies to a coaching relationship.  If it isn’t working the coach should be the initiator of the relationship separation.  Anything less is suboptimal for the client and candidly an unfair position for an enterprise sponsor. 

 You will note that there is a presumption of a methodology and highly-attuned interactive skills!  Both are considered Threshold Attributes by the prospective client.

 Given the proliferation of those calling themselves Executive Coaches, the above is offered as a point of view to assist you in what DPC refers to as QQ (Qualification/Quality).



Generation Y – Guide to Thriving at Work

I hope you are all doing well during these very interesting times!

On Friday I had occasion to visit with Tammy Erickson a friend and colleague for many years. She shared with me her new book, Plugged In-The Generation Y Guide to Thriving at Work.
I read it over the weekend and frankly could not put it down.

The book is the third one Tammy has written on the dilemma of managing the four separate and distinct age cohorts currently in the workplace. There will be a fourth book published next Harvard Business Press.

I found her insights on point based upon all of our experience of managing the younger workforce and as parents and grandparents. It is also a wake up call for those of us in the Human Resources domain to recognize that during this turbulent period there is a need for us to take the medium term view of how we manage expectations for this cohort. As we develop our displacement and eventual replenishment strategies we need to be mindful of how “Plugged In” and observant are the Generation Y members. They will be looking to all of us to be thoughtful and compassionate as we navigate through this economic crisis.

I would encourage you to visit Tammy’s website at

Have a great holiday season and a prosperous 2009!


The Future of Work

As we enter a new decade, I wanted to alert you to some terrific work being done by Dr. Lynda Gratton of the London Business School.

Lynda is a recognized authority on Collaboration and Signature Employee Experiences.

Her resarch on The Future of Work is relevant, and informative and hers and her associates conclusions extremely helpful.

I would encourage you to check out the site

As the decade ensues we will be experiencing exciting changes in the labor market composition.  Dr Grattons research in this regard is exceptionally insightful.