&
INTRODUCTION
*
The Tale of Two
Clients,
or The Coaching
Conundrum
“Engaging in an executive coach for your high performing
talent tells them that they are valued and that you are
investing in their future. A coach builds awareness around
successes and failures and provides a supportive partner who
reflects the commitment to your executive’s personal and
professional long-term success.”
—Judy Jackson
Senior Vice President
Head of Human Resources
Digitas
E
xecutive coaching has often in the past been used to remedi-
ate damaging behaviors demonstrated by those with enough
institutional authority to do significant damage to people
and to the organization that employs them. When powerful execu-
tives behave badly by making ill-advised financial or organizational
gambles, their organizations suffer. When an organization suffers,
the suffering trickles down to a variety of constituency groups.
Profits can be lost, benefits can be lost, jobs can be lost, and what-
ever good things customers and the community at large derive from
the organization’s goods and services are diminished or disappear al-
together. Anything, such as coaching, that helps managers and execu-
tives make good decisions is worth the investment, whether that
means turning around a manager’s or executive’s thinking and/or in-
volving them in more productive habits, skills, and activities.
The emerging trend that is eclipsing the mostly remedial ap-
proach to coaching is to identify high-potential leaders inside or-
ganizations and engage them with skilled coaches early on. The
emergent practice is to use the guidance of a business coach to
make high-potential individuals more effective businesspeople the
same way a sports coach improves the performance of a gifted ath-
lete: transforming natural talent and ability into highly refined
skills and capabilities. While coaches in business and sports spend
time reprogramming bad habits, addressing skills gaps, and estab-
lishing the most productive and efficient activities to enhance the
businessperson’s or athlete’s ultimate goals and objectives, coaches
prefer to (and should) enter the equation sooner rather than later.
The Coaching Connection is, in part, about connecting the dots
between the need for highly skilled, knowledgeable, and wise
coaches and the exponentially increased benefits of preemptive
managerial and executive skill and competency building as opposed
to reactive, after-the-fact interventions. If we have learned anything
from the history of coaching, it is that effective leadership does not
come naturally to the vast majority of people who are promoted
into leadership positions and are paid to lead. We have also learned
that leading is not easy for anyone facing high-pressure demands
from employee, customer, and the board, internal and external eco-
nomic challenges, and complex marketplace competition.
The Conundrum
Who, then, is the coaching client? Is it the individual or small team
receiving the coaching or the organization that is paying for it?
x INTRODUCTION
Reread the opening paragraphs of this introduction and note how
many times the individual manager’s or executive’s fortunes are
tied directly to the fortunes of the organization and vice versa.
Throughout this book you will hear us discuss this symbiotic rela-
tionship, this interdependence, if you will, between the organiza-
tion and the members of its organizational population.
That makes our final answer: The individual and the organi-
zation that employs the individual are co-clients. We are not talk-
ing about someone who has been referred to professional therapy
by the human resources department to be treated for depression
or to receive marriage and family therapy, although even those re-
ferrals have a potential benefit to the organization by helping to
develop a happier and healthier employee. We are talking about
the growth and development of individuals specifically in how
they do their jobs and interact professionally with others now
and in the future, both of which are directly and inexorably
linked to the health and well-being of the organization that em-
ploys them.
Conundrum solved. The tale of two clients unfolds. In marriage
counseling, neither partner is the client. The relationship between
them is the client. So it is with business coaching. The highest value
a coach or a manager who coaches can bring to the individual or
to a small team is to find the place where the best interests of both
converge.
The diagram of the contextual coaching process illustrates
how the individual and the organization are considered separate
at first but begin to merge as the coaching process progresses. Ul-
timately, if the coaching is successful, the individual’s and the or-
ganization’s interests become one—or as blended as humanly
possible. A well-coached employee who has experienced such con-
vergence will be able to articulate how his or her function adds
value to the organization.
Look no farther than a commonly held definition of organi-
zational culture to discover why the organization functions the
way it does. Organizational culture is the driving, guiding—often
unspoken—force that defines how an organization conducts busi-
ness, treats its internal and external customers, and positions
itself in the marketplace. Organizational culture is also defined
as the shared beliefs, values, and behaviors that inform the real
INTRODUCTION xi

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