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A coach and a plan: The best way to develop an executive

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Every organization – large corporation or startup – wants the best, most efficient means for helping executives acquire the skills to be effective leaders.

What are the best methods: Leadership development seminars? Mentoring programs? Leadership coaching?

All of these solutions have their place, but hands down the best way to develop an executive is to provide him or her with a coach.

When Tiger Woods wanted to improve his swing, he didn’t attend a group seminar or ask another golfer to meet occasionally to offer advice. He found a coach to help him break down what he was doing wrong and then work with him to change his bad habits and rebuild his swing for peak performance.

A leadership coach provides the same kind of individual focus and support for skill building. What, exactly, does this involve?


Some people come on board fully aware of what skills they need to develop.

For example, they might hire a coach to work on presenting, decision making, media relations or better time management. Or they may want to work long-term with someone to help implement a better hiring and performance management process.

Others are less clear about what they need to improve.

They might have technical expertise in product development, but less skill in people development, and so are unsure where to focus. Leaders in this situation can engage with a coach in self-discovery to gain clarity about what would be most impactful to improve.


Ideally, this process starts with an opportunity for leaders to learn about themselves.

What are their leadership and communication styles? What are their motivators or values? What are they naturally good at and where are the skill gaps?

Is their emotional intelligence well developed? What about their ability to make good judgments and quick decisions?

Through online assessments, leaders gain insight into who they are and how they prefer to operate in the workplace. This awareness is an important starting point in leadership coaching for one simple reason: How can you lead others if you don’t understand yourself?


The next step involves gathering 360-degree feedback from everyone to whom the leader is accountable – board members, bosses, peers, direct reports, even customers.

This creates a detailed portrait of how others perceive his or her leadership and expands awareness of deficiencies that need to be addressed.

With the data generated by both of these diagnostic tools, the coach and leader create a professional development plan. A coach will work with the client to answer these key questions:

< What are your short-term goals?

< What are your long-term goals?

< What new behaviors or habits do you want to create?

< How will you know when you’re making progress? What will be evident?

< What is your top priority?


Priorities can include things such as mastering conflict resolution skills, holding people accountable or improving decision-making or strategic-thinking skills.

Once these are identified, skill development begins through weekly meetings or calls, depending on the leader’s schedule or preference.

The time commitment can involve three, six or 12 months depending on the needs. (It usually takes at least 90 days to master a new skill.)

Some people continue a coaching relationship indefinitely because they like having a trusted adviser outside the company to serve as a sounding board for complex issues or because they’re lifelong learners who continually seek new challenges.


Star athletes and business leaders take every opportunity to learn how to improve.

Yes, they may participate in seminars and seek mentorship, but they also know the best way to up their game is to get one-on-one coaching from a trusted expert off the playing field.

And those who want to stand out seek help sooner rather than later.

That’s why, in business, coaching isn’t just for executives any longer. It’s for business owners and aspiring leaders at all levels determined to extend the upward trajectory of their careers.


Shawn Kent Hayashi of Center Valley shares her expertise in developing top performers and high-performing teams as an international executive coach and consultant. She is the author of the trilogy: “Conversations for Change,” “Conversations for Creating Star Performers” and “Conversations That Get Results and Inspire Collaboration.” She can be reached at shawn@theprofessionaldevelopmentgroup.com.

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