Coaching partnership as support for leaders

Coaching is not commonplace in my country, although its practice is rapidly developing

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Several years ago, I was invited to deliver a presentation on coaching at a conference for brand managers. I was introduced to a senior manager of one of the companies – a strong, self-confident businesswoman in a black suit. We chatted briefly, and she shared that her company was presenting at the conference on a new brand being launched. We exchanged a few more words and she, being very busy, hurried along to another meeting.

The story about a highly-anticipated innovation was of great interest to me as I had relatively recently left a position with a company to launch my coaching business.

After a couple of months, I received a call from a person who introduced herself as an HR manager of a company. She briefly explained to me that they had conducted a regular 360-degree assessment and needed a coach to provide support to one of their leaders. This leader was valuable to the company and was being considered for promotion. The company had not previously tried coaching, and so, at the beginning of our discussion the HR manager was rather cautious.

Finally, I was invited to a face-to-face meeting with this high-potential leader in the HR manager’s office. When the formalities were over, I realised, to my surprise, that the leader who required coaching was the senior manager whom I had met at the conference. She insisted I should be her coach. I was surprised because the person the HR manager had described seemed to be a different person from the one I had met. My perception had been of a self-assured and capable manager while the HR manager described someone overloaded and close-to-burnout—someone who needed support. The two images in my mind seemed incompatible.

At that time, I realised that the most successful leaders, who bear high responsibility for business outcomes and people, sometimes need support and partnership even more than their direct reports.

The main areas of the long-term coaching contract, which started immediately, were: coping with uncertainty in the future business environment, maintaining strategic vs operational perspective, and decision-making, adoption of the “right to make a mistake” for herself and her team members (perfectionism was an issue), influencing peers and upper management (strengthening her voice at board meetings, with suggestions and innovative ideas), as well as the very significant need to delegate responsibilities.

Businesses naturally focus on achievement of goals, financial metrics, revenues, and profits. These goals are the outcomes of people’s performance. Employees become a vital value of the company, provided there is a shortage of professionals on the market, people management based on appropriate leadership style (eg. Hersey-Blanchard situational leadership model or Sir John Whitmore’s coaching leadership style) is a core priority. Many companies focus their efforts on people development and retention. Yet, if the problem is at the deep level of values or is exacerbated by internal conflicts or a lack of life-work balance, and so on, the traditional motivational tools of salary increase, promotions, additional responsibilities, training and team building are unlikely to be effective. As leaders gain greater mindfulness, this can become a severe problem, particularly if that leader is in a top position with the company.

Reflecting on my own career path, I recall its stages and peculiarities. I have worked for more than 20 years in multinational companies in different managerial positions, from the bottom to top management. I am aware of company structures, business models, strategies, people management, recruitment, performance management, people development and team formation. From my own experience, I know that people management has its ups and downs, failures and victories, mistakes and right decisions.

Today I am confident that if I had been partnered with a coach during my career development, I would have had a smoother passage, with the support of an equal, provoking higher inspiration and greater insights.

Now, when I have a long-term partnership with a client, I closely follow their progress. I feel the strength of coaching when I see the client transform and the impact of that transformation on business results, as well as improvements in the leader’s personal life. I have learned to trust those I coach, the coaching space, and myself.

Serving clients, I understand that I am not alone. I have a sense of belonging to a professional community, I am inspired by my fellow coaches who share similar principles, competencies and values. Each specialty has professional standards and ethics. Doctors have disease treatment guidelines, and teachers have standards of pedagogy. My colleagues, ICF members from all over the world, adhere to Core Competencies and a Code of Ethics developed by the International Coaching Federation (ICF).

For more than six months, I worked with the senior manager from my story. She had been on the verge of quitting for several reasons. We covered a lot of ground in terms of coaching co-operation. Finally, she chose to stay with the company and it was not long before she was at its helm. The coaching leadership style became one of her favourites.

Watch Judy’s story and discover how coaching can help leaders and teams in your organisation reach new heights

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the world’s largest organisation leading the global advancement of the coaching profession and fostering coaching’s role as an integral part of a thriving society. Founded in 1995, its 50,000-plus members located in more than 145 countries and territories work toward common goals of enhancing awareness of coaching and upholding the integrity of the profession through lifelong learning and upholding the highest ethical standards. Through the work of its six unique family organisations, ICF empowers professional coaches, coaching clients, organisations, communities and the world through coaching.

In India, ICF is represented by six vibrant chapters, all led by volunteers — ICF Bengaluru, ICF Chennai, ICF Delhi NCR, ICF Hyderabad, ICF Mumbai, and ICF Pune.

The author, Victoria Marakina is an ICF Member and Associate Certified Coach (ACC), who has graduated from the International Institute of Coach Management, SLAcademy (Executive coaching, CCE). She has over 20 years of experience in managerial positions in business (pharmaceuticals, medical devices). She has secured outstanding sales results, introduced and managed changes, including crisis management. A graduate of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, she formed marketing teams from scratch and lead them to success. Using a coaching management style, Marakina educated and developed people. She also established a corporate school for marketers and HIPOs in sales and has her own lectures at the High School of Economics. Marakina is the author of the published manual for marketers in the pharmaceutical industry.

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