Erin has pointed out several inherent biases that many executives bring to the coaching process.  I can't say that I would argue with a manager who prefers having a coach who's actually done a job like theirs, only bigger!  This makes good sense if you approach coaching from the following perspective held by many C-Level managers I've work for and with:1 ."The purpose of coaching is to tell people how to do their jobs".  Senior managers and executives are paid to be experts in their business, to act decisively, and be sure of themselves in their dealings with others.  This reinforces the erroneous assumption that an effective coach must bring the same, or even pronounced, business experience to be able to "direct" clients in the right direction.  It is legitimate for senior managers to want a coaching experience that is pragmatic, action-oriented, and gets results.  However, they must understand the difference between a "coach", an expert in changing  thinking and behavior to become a better leader, AND a "mentor/advisor/consultant", who can/will provide specific direction and advice on business decisions.  2. "A coach with line management experience will be more pragmatic and business-focused" .   Many of these managers assume that coaches without line management experience are "human relations" types who will waste their time asking open-ended questions and encouraging them to reflect on their navels.  It's ironic that many of the managers-turned-coaches I've collaborated with bring much more pop-psychology and "woo woo" factor to their coaching than most coaches would ever consider. The lack of education/experience in legitimate psychology, business, and behavioral science is, in my opinion, at least as problematic as the perceived deficit in line management experience for coaches.3. "Only someone who's excelled at the game I play can coach other players".  The question I often ask senior managers, both in interviewing for coaching assignments and when working with them is, "How many coaches of superbowl champions were star players in the NFL?"  The answer is, almost none. In 1984, half of the league’s head coaches ­— 14 of 28 — had played in the NFL. As of 2014, the number has dropped to only six.  Two of the winningest coaches of all time, Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh, never played in the NFL either.  The ability to excel at coaching has little to do with having actually performed a functional or line management position.  The point is, having "played the game" of management is really no indicator at all of the skill or effectiveness of a coach that someone may choose to work with.4. "Only someone who's done my job (only bigger) could possibly teach me anything".  Not all senior managers are narccisists, but many possess a healthy (and in some cases unhealthy) dose of inflated self-worth.  Consequently, behind the need expressed by at many senior managers to want a coach who has line management experience is the belief that they have nothing to learn from someone who hasn't met, if not exceeded, their own personal and career achievements.  In most companies, having an executive coach confers status and importance (especially if you are an effective senior manager), so the perceived status and importance of the coach's background and experience is of equal concern to these individuals.  5. "An experienced manager will stay focused on the business stuff". Even for the most enlightened and motivated people, coaching can be a threatening proposition.  I believe that many senior managers prefer working with ex-manager coaches because they assume they may bring a more empathic (if not forgiving) perspective to the coaching process and not get into the messy world of feelings, motivations, blind spots, derailers, and impact of their behavior on other people.  The perceived "safety" of working with an ex-manager who has walked a mile in the client's shoes and who may "go easy" on the client because of that is another potential reason that senior managers may prefer a coach with line management experience.Thoughts?Tim Athey Ph.D

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Go to top