As an executive coach, I’ve found myself in situations similar to the scenarios I highlighted in my previous blog post: The Reality of Coaching on the Edge – Part 1, as well as many more situations like those.
And, like it or not, you will find yourself in situations that are not covered by your coach training.
I and others like me who have worked with several leaders within the same organization have a unique perspective that, quite frankly, nobody else has. This unique perspective develops because of the unique and confidential relationship you have built with the leaders, who are likely (and hopefully) speaking with you very differently than they would to their manager, peers or subordinates.
You will have an understanding that could help the organization and your clients. I argue, it is your responsibility, as a steward of what’s best for the organization, to help so long as it does not compromise you, your clients, or the organization. To embrace that responsibility, I propose the following principals for executive coaches who wish to “coach on the edge” while staying true to their integrity, ethics, and best practices:
Your credibility and effectiveness as a coach relies on you maintaining confidentiality, not just with your clients, but with all conversations you have across the organization. Don’t compromise this as an attempt to provide a quick fix.
Develop trust among key stakeholders.
Your success with a single engagement is based, in part, on your ability to develop trust with your client. Though, developing trust across many leaders and other key stakeholders can help to create exponential value. Examples of what’s possible when you have collective trust include: being able to positively influence key decisions, getting the attention of leaders in real-time, being given opportunities to provide additional value (e.g., training, consulting, coaching other leaders), and having the equity required to work through any ruptures that may occur, such as miscommunications.
Coach rather than offer advice.
You will likely have an opinion to offer in these situations, and you’ll undoubtedly be asked to give it. Try and avoid putting yourself in the role of expert. Behind every “answer” lies a curiosity that together, can help you and the other person lead to discover solutions even better than the one you already have formulated in your mind.
Avoid creating a dependence.
Real-time situations such as those stated above illuminate the organization’s need to develop competencies, such as with direct communication, change management, and political savvy. Share your observations with HR and other leaders and help them develop a plan to fill in these gaps.