The Role of Executive Coaching in Building Top Teams: Experience Matters

Coaching is becoming a commodity, and while still valuable, it is beginning to lose the power and impact of its ability to, as Marshall Goldsmith says, “Help successful people get even better.” Working at the top of the house is a different experience from simply debriefing a 360 and creating a development plan with little follow-up. Good coaching brings an intellectual and emotional challenge to the executive and requires an understanding of what is important to this person given the context, milieu, and challenges that he or she faces.

Good intentions simply don’t cut it.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s fascinating book Outliers, he explores some of the unique characteristics that make people exceptional—even outstanding—in their field. Outside of some innate ability, his research indicates that there is a minimum level of practice that is the foundation for excellence. As Gladwell (2008) notes, “The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”

Ten thousand hours to be expert as a musician, a mathematician, a surgeon, or an executive coach. As we think of what is required to assist an experienced leader, who already has a track record of success, to raise the bar even higher, our experience tells us that executives want someone who can understand their business, understand them, and be someone they can talk to. This requires an experienced coach with the ten thousand plus hours of doing this work across multiple industries for many years. Developing leaders who create and sustain Top Teams is too important an investment to not do it right.

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