For decades CEOs and other senior business leaders have recognized the value of executive coaching and used it to foster their success. Although it’s now common for executives to have their own coaches, CIOs, CTOs, and other technology leaders 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 analogous 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 energized 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 C or VP level. The good news is that these skills can be very effectively addressed in coaching.
In my coaching practice I often work with CIOs, CTOs, VPs, and directors on goals such as developing influence in the broader organization (i.e., gaining “a seat at the table”); building productive relationships across the C-suite 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 organization as a critical value enabler rather than just an order-taker/cost-center.
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 recognize 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 organization.
- They find themselves struggling to gain influence in the broader business organization, or to effectively communicate technology’s value.
For potential new clients I offer a complimentary consultation, so feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss how coaching might be of value to you or a technology leader within your organization.