I’m preparing to meet with the sponsor team for one of my clients later today. On the team are two senior executives and my client’s HR business partner. We already completed personality assessments, 360s and feedback. We’ve also prepared draft development goals to be addressed in coaching. Today’s main agenda is to have the goals approved by the sponsor team. Or is it?
We will have the goals approved, possibly with some modifications, but the meeting has a far more important purpose. It’s my chance to advocate for my client — to insist that he be given the development opportunities that will make it possible to attain the goals. This is a critical, often overlooked, aspect of business coaching.
The goal of coaching is to accelerate a leader’s development in a meaningfully way. It’s not unusual for a highly motivated, well coached executive to achieve 2 – 3 years of developmental progress during a six-month period. But it won’t happen if the experiential learning opportunities are not present to accompany the coaching.
Just last year, I coached an internally focused senior executive whose goals required her to strengthen her business acumen in preparation for a possible business unit leadership role. At the sponsor team meeting, I insisted that she be given active sales experience, delivery experience and financial oversight exposure. As a result, she was added to the team on a major sales pursuit, added to the delivery team for a recently engaged client and added to the financial review team for one of the business units which she may someday lead. She was also given the time and support to engage in these activities. Not surprisingly, her coaching engagement was highly successful.
To my knowledge, this coach-advocacy model is not widely followed. It should be. It provides a rare opportunity to set the stage for growth, enabling coaching conversations to be meaningful.