7 Ways Executive Coaches Elevate Your Game

Don’t take our word for it – listen to our clients! They really have internalized our messaging. Here’s a guest post from Tech Soft 3D CEO Ron Fritz, who is applying what he learned from Moementum to his company.

A couple of weeks ago I was speaking with a fellow CEO, and the topic of executive coaches came up.

“Listen,” he scoffed, “I’m at the top of my organization. I didn’t get there because I’m clueless, so how is someone who isn’t even here on a daily basis going to tell me how to run my company better?”

Hubris at its best. Wow. Think of the most elite performers in the world in any pursuit – athletics, chess, martial arts, etc. They may be peerless in their particular field and yet they all have coaches. Because one thing they cannot possibly provide for themselves is an external view of how they can improve. So why would it be any different for business leadership?

In my experience, executive coaching provides several significant upsides. Here are the major benefits that immediately spring to mind.

Outside Perspective: You live and breathe your business. They don’t. Because they’re not as wrapped up in it as you are, they can see things from a different angle, which helps you see things from a different angle. As an executive, I believe our primary roles are: think, decide and communicate. These outside perspectives help ensure you’re doing all three better.

Insightful Questions: A good executive coach doesn’t tell you what to do (well, sometimes they do when a club over the head is what’s needed), but instead will expertly hit you with that perfectly timed, sharply insightful question. You’ll know it’s the right question because the answer opens up before you – unlocked by someone who knew just the thing to ask. It’s a difficult skill to master and if you have someone around you with that ability, consider yourself extremely lucky.

A (Safe) Sounding Board: There are often a number of topics that are difficult to talk about within your organization, even amongst your senior team. You may not recognize the impact your words have, so when you’re just sounding out an idea or brainstorming, it can still sometimes cause serious ripples. Executives must be very cautious with how and when you talk through ideas that are rattling in your head or problems that you’re just beginning to grapple with. An executive coach gives you the space to speak freely, whether that is the professional equivalent to screaming in your pillow or talking through a new idea until it becomes more fully considered (or rejected).

Long-Term Thinking Partner: Because of the nature of the job, senior executives become very comfortable thinking in longer time frames. Since it is an act of ambitiously imagining a future that may be quite different from the reality of today, asking most people to cast their minds well into the future can make them pretty uncomfortable (at best) or make them think you are completely disconnected from current reality (at worst). But an executive coach is accustomed to working with people who operate in these kinds of time scales. As a result, you can think, dream and plan with a partner who is comfortable “going there” with you.

New Ways of Thinking: A good coach should bring strengths you don’t necessarily possess to the table. If your coach’s personality and POV matches your own, they may simply turn into a “yes-man” (or woman). Ideally you want someone who has abundant skills in an area you’re still learning. I’ll often ask myself, “how would Moe react in this situation?”, or “how would Mike approach this particular problem?” Escaping your natural thinking pattern to model that of someone whom you respect can bring some fantastic insights.

Accountability: Often those at the top of the organization aren’t strictly accountable to anyone for completing important, but not urgent, tasks. Because you have the power to forgive (excuse) yourself, you often let it slide. Maybe you think you don’t need this kind of external accountability – but consider this. Ever try to get into extremely good physical condition without a coach or personal trainer who expects you in the gym every day at 6:30 a.m.? Or try to lose weight on your own vs. meeting with a nutritionist weekly, handing in your food log and standing on her scale? Big difference in results. Inserting some accountability in your world may not be comfortable, but there’s no question it’s highly effective!

Truth Telling: Yes, sometimes the problem is you (or at least partially you). It’s good if you can recognize this yourself, but human nature sometimes prevents us from conceding we’ve contributed to a problem. A good coach will tell you the truth when those inside your organization may be reluctant to. It’s always critical to make sure you have people around you who will speak truth to power. All you have to do is be willing to listen!

How did I gain these perspectives? I have had the great opportunity to work with some outstanding coaches. First is Moe Carrick of Moementum. We began working with Moe during a seminal moment for our company, as we shifted from 100% founder-led to a model that would help us scale through the next growth phase. We learned an immense amount about ourselves and where our focus should be. It’s no exaggeration that we have been forever changed (for the better), both as an organization and as individuals. Working with Moe, I came to the insight that the trick is not to try to be a better leader. The trick is to try to be a better person, and better leadership is simply a happy result of that work.

Next I have had the chance to work with a friend turned consultant, Mike Goldstein. Mike’s extensive experience with much larger organizations, operational efficiency, finance, management and budgeting helped us transform in many important ways. Not only do we now run the business with a more accurate view of reality, Mike helped us zero in on the key levers we need to push to continue to improve the business. Again, we as an organization are better, but the managers who have worked with Mike have individually improved as well.

Finally, it’s remarkable to me the lasting impact a good consultant can have when the fit between the individual and the needs of the organization match. If you get it right, it’s money and time very well spent.

Jim Morris