Value-Focused Executive Coaching

When I talk with managers and leaders about executive coaching many of them are aware that executive coaching would be helpful, but they have to prioritize how they use their time and balance the short-term pressures of what is on today’s plate with putting aside time for more strategic development. With this in mind, I think the challenge for a coach is to ensure that there is a return on the leader’s investment of time and resources and also a return on involvement of the leader’s energy. I believe that the focus of coaching has to be on helping leaders improve their performance and deliver additional value to their organizations – I have used the term – Value-Focused Executive Coaching (VFEC) to describe this type of coaching.

Modern Leaders Face Many Challenges

There are many challenges that add to the complexity of being a leader today and I would like to highlight three of them. The first challenge is that leaders are expected to constantly improve their productivity and output from their teams. The business environment is changing rapidly and productivity must increase to meet this dynamic situation. Leaders and businesses that do not meet these challenges will soon fall behind. The image I am often left with is the leader is walking up an escalator going down – if they don’t keep moving forward they will fall off the end. We all know examples of great leaders, but we also know that there are leaders who do not meet the productivity challenges and do not change rapidly enough to keep up. There is a gap between a leaders actual performance and their potential performance. I believe this gap in leadership has a major impact on the success or failure of their organizations and teams. This “leadership gap” not only has a direct impact on the leader's performance but also impacts all of their employees. It is diificult to estimate the cost of the “leadership gap” or to assess the opportunity costs associated in the lack of productivity. If a leader is performing 10% below their potential, there is an even bigger cost because of the gap in potential performance of their employees. For example, in pharmaceutical research it may result in one less drugs getting to patients just because of the “leadership gap” and the wasted resources and time that we suffer with bad leadership.

The second challenge is that leaders have to manage complex, virtual networks of employees, some who report to them and others who are alliance partners (either internal or external to their company). The modern leader is expected to manage these virtual employees where influencing skills is more valued than traditional authorative power. Leaders who can shorten “virtual distances” are most effective in delivering innovative products and services to market. I wrote about some of these challenges in a previous post on LinkedIn - Leadership in a World of Co-Creative Complex Networks.

Finally, the third challenge is that a large number of leaders are in “transition”. They are either preparing for their next role, transitioning into new roles (internally or externally) or changing their organizations following re-organization, downsizing, etc. To be an effective leader in modern organizations, these transitions have to be managed carefully, with the first 90 days being crucial to sustained success. There is rarely a second chance to make that first impression and mistakes made in the first 90 days are difficult to recover from.

VFEC involves working with executive business leaders to identify astute insights that will have a significant impact on their business performance and help them address difficult, complex business challenges. This includes helping them discover how to reach their full potential as leaders. VFEC is aimed at leading to improved business performance and getting a return on investment (ROI) of time spent in coaching. Improved business performance means that there will be significant impact on one or all of the following: lower costs; reduced cycle times; improved quality or increased innovation. An improved business performance must impact the bottom-line for an organization and therefore must have a demonstrable positive ROI.

If you are an executive coach or you have been coached you probably have come to the conclusion that for a successful coaching engagement you need a skilled coach and a coachee who has volunteered to change their performance and sees the value of coaching. You probably have paid less attention to the “coachability” of the organization. Coachability in this context means does the organization create positive energy for coaching to be successful. I would suggest for VFEC, a coach should have an understanding of the coachee’s organizational context, strategy, characteristics, culture and conditions. This will help in defining meaningful, impactful solutions and actions during coaching sessions.

Finally, for VFEC to have a measurable impact on an individual’s effectiveness, the coach should also be aware of the challenges a coachee and their organization face. These business challenges can be viewed on a number of different levels as follows:

  1. Environmental challenges – what is the business environment the company is working in, including global and national aspects such as economic, regulatory and market pressures?

  2. Industry-wide challenges – what are the challenges that the whole industry faces?

  3. Company challenges – what are the specific company challenges?

  4. Organizational challenges – what are the issues individual parts of a company face, e.g., R&D?

The VFEC approach may not be suitable for all situations and is not suited to every coach’s experience or skills, but I would suggest it is very valuable in many business settings.

If you want details of VFEC please visit my website -

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