For decades Chief Execs and other senior business leaders have recognised the value of coaching and used it to foster and harness their success. Although it’s now common for executives to have their own coaches, senior Technical Leaders and technology professionals have lagged far behind. However, the tide has shifted in recent years, and we’re seeing that coaching can have even greater benefits for technology professionals.
What Is Executive Coaching?
In many ways executive coaching is comparable to athletics in that, as with elite athletes, the coach helps the executive reach peak performance. In the case of executive coaching, the goals typically focus on bringing leadership skills to the next level and increasing business results. Executive coaches usually meet with clients anywhere from once a week to once a month, depending on the goals and business situations. Clients can expect to see progress in six to 18 months, and specific goals can cover a very broad range of areas. Individuals who benefit most from coaching tend to have a history of success; to be inspired and energised by the prospect of growth and further achievement, and are committed to making positive change.
Coaches are sometimes engaged by companies to work with senior leaders or high-potential colleagues, and many professionals choose to hire executive coaches privately to support their own development. Gone are the days when coaching was seen as primarily a ‘remedial’ activity for performance problems and many companies now include coaching as a perk for their highest-value employees.
Why technology leaders benefit more
Effective leadership is always challenging; however, technology professionals often face much more daunting obstacles. Senior leadership demands additional capabilities that are very different from the ones that drive success for individual technology practitioners. Leaders need to shift from focusing on just ‘left-brain’ analytical and execution skills, and become adept at right-brain capabilities like leadership presence, business strategy, political savvy and emotional intelligence. To make matters worse, there are few places technologists can turn to for this kind of skill development, particularly if they are already at a Chief Exec or Director level. The good news is that these skills can be very effectively addressed in coaching.
At QA we often work with senior leaders and directors on goals such as developing influence in the broader organisation (i.e. gaining ‘a seat at the table’); building productive relationships across their business and with other departments; effective leadership presence and staff performance management; achieving a better and more visible connection between business priorities and technology goals; and establishing the technology organisation as a critical value enabler rather than just an order-taker/cost-centre.
In the first of the series, QA's Head of Coaching, Nova Ferguson, explains more about how QA can help businesses and individuals with coach mentoring.
When is executive coaching right for a technology professional?
The very short answer is that coaching can be helpful when you find yourself stuck. When you recognise that there are opportunities to achieve more, the skills you’ve developed in the past don’t seem to be enough and you’re not sure what the next steps should be. Technology leaders in particular might consider coaching when:
- They’re moving into a significant new leadership role
- They’re seeking a promotion to the next level
- There’s been a significant business change that’s changed demands on the technology organisation
- They find themselves struggling to gain influence in the broader business organisation, or to effectively communicate technology’s value
So my advice - be open to exploring what shifts you can make in your current process, or what new coaching approaches you might employ to better connect with your objectives. For more information, see our latest coaching courses.
Jennie Marshall is a double award winning Learning Professional who joined QA in 2011 as a Learning Specialist in our Management, Leadership and Personal Effectiveness team. In her career she has enjoyed a variety of roles within different industries including Estate Agency, Imports and Exports, Financial Services, Call Centres, Utilities and Staff Unions.
In January 2014 she moved to a new role within the same department, as Head of Courseware Development where she was responsible for the overall quality, design, development, administration and coordination of our market leading courseware.
In January 2016 she then moved to a new role of Learning Consultant in the same team, where she now leads the design and delivery of innovative learning programmes linked to business / individual performance improvement for our customers.
She is a respect and trusted advisor within the team, and known for her experienced and dedicated approach to learning and development, with expertise including management, leadership and talent and training and facilitation developed within a variety of environments. Jennie has also supported our customers as a Product Owner on a secondment basis, using Agile methodologies to manage and deliver new learning products to their business. Her experienced was recognised in December 2018 when Jennie was awarded Chartered Manager (CMgr) status.
In her role she acts as lead consultant for a number of large clients and remains frequently involved with the development of various initiatives and programmes from graduate programmes to modular skills development journeys.
Alongside developing great learning products for clients, Jennie also works on refreshing the Management, Leadership and Personal Effectiveness curriculum and is a regular blog contributor on QA.com.
When not absorbed in course development, Jennie can usually be found in her garden, or involved in various pursuits through the Women’s Institute, where she is a Communications Secretary. She also features frequently on her local BBC radio station as a newspaper reviewer.
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