Coaching and Mentoring for Senior Executives: Is it worth the trouble?

By On June 28, 2016
Posted In : Uncategorized

In brief – Coaching is essentially about you – your work and your life. The aim is to offer you time to reflect in an environment where you can consider what you bring to the world, what you want from the world, your choices and how you can sustain momentum when things get tough. Coaching can be challenging. But, on balance, I’d say coaching is worth the effort.  It can be even better if coaching encourages you to pay attention to what you really want – your relationship to time, your health, your dreams and how to harness personal motivation to accelerate success and satisfaction.

Why employ a coach? All senior executives face significant challenges that are often intellectually and emotionally draining. Discussing these complex issues in a confidential environment can improve results and reduce anxiety. Through in-depth discussion and analysis, coaching will help you clarify and leverage your strengths and decide how to overcome any weaknesses, blind spots, or gaps in your experience.

Coaching is all about making the best use of your time and energy. Here are a few examples: What do you need from your role, your team, your organisation and elsewhere? Which of your strengths can you rely on when things get tough? What is it like when you are at your best? How do you know when you are not at your best? How do you deal with anxiety? How do you sustain momentum? How do you want to spend the next 20 years?

Thoughts from a client

 …I found Jeanette Cowley very adept at getting to the heart of the issues in a thought provoking yet sensitive manner. She challenged, appropriately, both my thinking but arguably more importantly my approach: really testing the HOW and WHY. When it came to the how she offered alternative ways of doing things and in terms of why, she tested why it was important and whether it really was the most important thing. Overall a very valuable experience in my own development and some lessons and learning I will keep with me for life…Board Director FTSE 100 Company

Who is the client? Coaching works best when the person being coached is regarded as the client. A good coach will be very clear about confidentiality and how to measure results. The focus is on having a confidential environment in which to reflect, invite challenge, and then decide on how to accelerate success. A good coach will ensure coaching sessions are productive for the client and provide tangible benefits for the organisation. Typically, there is also the opportunity to arrange a review meeting in which a relevant third party might be invited by the client to suggest ways to gain maximum benefit from the coaching.

The relationship between a senior executive and a coach. Coaching works particularly well when there is a sound basis of trust and respect between both parties. Essentially the coach should be credible, reliable and able to build a suitable rapport with the client. Most importantly, the coach or mentor must be able to get alongside the client in order to challenge and support them as they think through complex issues.

What does a coach actually do? The objective of executive coaching is to help the client define what they want and care about and then work through a process to decide how to take action. There might be immediate issues requiring resolution as well as long term objectives to discuss and understand. Good coaching focuses on the client’s self-awareness in such a way that he or she can decide what is relevant in any given situation. The client might identify a particular skill they would like to improve or a strength that is being under-utilised. There might be anxiety regarding imminent or longer term scenarios. Whatever the case, the coach and client will consider the issues and decide how to move things forward.

The coach will encourage the client to look at all aspects of an issue, including the theoretical, intellectual and emotional implications. This review will invariably consider key internal and external stakeholders as well as the relationship of any action to the client’s values and wider factors. Coaching conversations can be challenging and deep. The coach will draw on a range of models and techniques and suggest relevant literature or networking opportunities when appropriate to the client’s agenda. The process of coaching and mentoring is always about balancing transactional and strategic issues affecting a client’s business in the context of the client’s life and ambitions: what they want and care about.

And finally…

When do senior leaders typically call on the services of a coach? Coaching assignments fall into six main areas:

  1. Transition coaching – When the client is taking on a new role or facing a significant challenge.
  2. Executive Development – When the client wants to focus on immediate career development and business priorities in the context of longer term ambitions.
  3. Team Coaching – To ensure that, despite any competing agendas, different styles, egos or alliances, team members decide what is important and how to accelerate success with and through each other.
  4. Sustaining Momentum – When the client requires a sounding board. Someone who will challenge and support the client to harness vitality, create the best route to success and achieve long term personal satisfaction.
  5. Performance coaching – when a client wants to focus on one particular skill – for example working with and through other people, dispute resolution, or board level leadership.
  6. Succession coaching – We call this succession for all. It is where the client (typically at the pinnacle of their career) wants to talk about long term ambitions beyond working in the traditional sense. It is a way that the client can hone their long-term ambitions: the impact they want to have in the world and what brings them satisfaction. Once this is understood the client can bring their energy more fully to their day to day work knowing that they have an idea of what they want and care about longer-term.

 Words from two more clients

Jeanette brought a level of professionalism and senior level credibility… as we were launching a series of pan European initiatives that required change and rapid execution. Her ability to quickly understand the complexities of a diverse business with a range of mature and evolving operations was essential to our driving multiple segment sales and service strategies simultaneously. MD and Member of EMEA Board

 From a personal coaching viewpoint, Jeanette has high impact. She is used to working with very senior individuals at Board level and this understanding and context means that she is hugely familiar with the particular issues faced at this level including – impact of loneliness at the top, confidence issues especially when leading major transformational change, feedback and learning/action from 360 and getting prepped for major events or embarking on a new top level role.

 Jeanette is thoughtful, forceful and helps hold a mirror up to challenge individual views. In addition, she incorporates a wide range of visualisation and other tools and these are helpful during sessions but also carry elements of coaching into the “day job” for use by individuals and with teams. You come away from each session refreshed and with a clear plan!

 I have also seen her have high impact with a number of my colleagues – they had a variety of needs and several were initially resistant and sceptical about undertaking coaching discussions – they all came back requesting more time with Jeanette and you could see the impact that she was having with them in day to day work! CEO Financial Services Banking Sector   

Note: In certain circumstances coaching may not be the most effective use of funds and time. In these situations, a good coach will decline the brief and offer alternative options or recommendations.

©Jeanette Cowley Managing Director Go For Growth Limited 2016

Updated May 2017

About The Author

Jeanette Cowley
Jeanette Cowley is the CEO of Go For Growth and a London based mediator, team and executive coach. She has many years of commercial experience culminating in becoming the Group HR Director for a FTSE 100 business. She has a passion for singing and recently learnt how to swim focusing on the joy of breathing out. Jeanette’s current Research: How senior executives sustain momentum builds on work whilst at Henley Business School. Jeanette is currently writng a series of articles on reflective leadership and is about to start writing a book entitled: Breathe Out: How do you want to spend the next 20 years? Contact:

Go For Growth