Executive coaching is in some important ways like coaching golfers. Professional golf coaches run the spectrum from coaching duffers to coaching Tiger Woods, Phil Michelson and Anthony Kim. With the high handicappers, it is easy to see why they want to improve their game and less easy to understand why the very best seek to improve. The interesting fact is that , like the best professional golfers, notable leaders in every industry want to continue to hone their skills and success as a leader. One might think, to continue the golf analogy, leading a healthcare organization is far more complex and difficult than it is to master golf. The truth is that they are both difficult and the best golfers and the strongest leaders hunger to become even more skilled and successful.
In my work with CEOs and other senior leaders of Healthcare Systems and hospitals, it is a matter of fine tuning one’s thinking and reaching greater clarity. Leadership skills, integrity and an interest in doing the right things, from all perspectives, are evident in the executives I coach. The common desire of executive clients is to work with a coach who will:
- Intently listen.
- Ask questions designed to bring out best thinking
- Challenge and expand upon one’s thinking.
- Affirm and encourage wise and, many times, bold decisions.
- Hold them accountable for following through on what they decide is the best course of action.
Working with a coach can be like having a trustworthy and encouraging minister or Rabbi, the toughest and most challenging professor and a candid best friend all in one person.
Some of the topics most frequently discussed during coaching exchanges include:
- Creating a clear understanding of the client’s strengths and how to fully best use those strengths.
- Creating and executing strategies which will result in the organization being acclaimed by patients, employees, physicians, board members and the communities served for its: excellence in patient care; clinical quality; financial performance and the sense of friendliness, service orientation and courtesy.
- Strategies to create more effective use of time and attention to priorities.
- Effective delegation.
- Creating a stronger culture of accountability.
- Leading a more trusting and effective executive team.
- Strategies to more successfully lead exceptional executives, underperforming executives, the Board of Trustees/Directors and physicians.
- Decision making strategies related to exceptionally large capital expenditures.
- Strategies to enhance and maintain the Board’s (or fellow executive team member’s) full trust and confidence.
- Reorganizing or consolidating Boards.
- Leadership transition strategies.
Some of the most common questions asked during coaching exchanges include:
- What are your strengths?
- If you were to more fully use those strengths, what would you be doing differently?
- Using those strengths, what are the most important things you can be doing for the organization?
- What else might you do to help the people whom you lead more fully use their strengths and talents?
- If it would be smart to delegate more, what would be the first things you could delegate?
- What would be the implications for you? For those to whom you are delegating?
- What is the best use of the time you will have available if you delegate more?
- As a leader, what are some of the things you could do to create a more effective and trusting executive team?
- What needs to be done to come to the very best decision on this issue?
- Cutting through the clutter, what are the most important things that you should be doing?
- What really makes a difference in this situation?
- What is at the heart of this?
- How do you best say that to convey what you want them to hear and act upon?
- What can be done to improve physician buy-in, understanding and relations?
- What are the best ways to keep the Board, Executive Committee or Chair informed?
- If you want to become the CEO, or gain a promotion, how do your thinking and actions need to change?
- If you and others were to think of you as a spectacular leader, what changes would occur in your thinking, actions and results?
While the insights and experience I have gained along the way are valued, the best solutions most often come from my clients themselves after asking some questions. Some of examples of questions to expand and clarify thinking are:
- If there were another good solution/answer, what might it be?
- Thinking broadly what might be other possible options?
- How will that be received by the impacted individual or group?
- If I step back and take out the emotion and stress, what does look like?
- How will this decision look in 2 or 3 years?
- Who really needs to be on board with this?
- If I were the Board chair or the CEO, what questions would I be asking?
- As a leader or the leader, what is my responsibility related to this?
- What is the smart and the right thing to do?
Just as a skilled executive coach can be a catalyst for improved thinking and executive and organizational performance, a skilled executive can ask questions like the ones posed in this writing to bring out the best thinking of other executives.
Some executives initially look at coaching as a remedial action or believe others will view him or her as having weaknesses that need “fixing”. The fact is that the opposite is true. Executives are respected for their commitment to become not a good or great leader, but a spectacularly successful leader. Like great athletes, they continually strive to become even more skilled. They become role models for the success that comes from an ongoing appetite for positive change.
Halstead Executive Coaching