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Three Questions To Ask Before Starting An Executive Coaching Project

I recently read a very smart blog written by renowned executive coach Marshall Goldsmith.

In the blog, he lists the three questions that he uses when he is reviewing a new executive coaching assignment.

He goes on to say that these three questions will help determine whether the executive coaching engagement will meet objective and be successful.

The three questions that Marshall Goldsmith asks are:

Are The Client’s Challenge Areas Behavioral?
Goldsmith points out that executive coaches can be divided into two categories – strategy/business and behavioral. The strategy/business consultants which make up about 10% of the total are experts on strategic/process planning and specific business skills. These consultants mostly work with the organization in total and less frequently with individuals.

The remaining 90% of the consultants who market themselves as Executive Coaches, Like Marshall Goldsmith and our team at The Frontier Group, work on behavioral challenges. These challenges can cover areas like emotional intelligence, cross-cultural competency, leadership, communication or teamwork. In these engagements, the executive coach will work on making positive changes to the candidate’s behavior in an effort to promote a lasting positive change

Does The Client’s Challenge Areas Involve Ethical or Integrity Issues?
Goldsmith very smartly frames up why coaching for integrity issues will not work:

I do not coach people with integrity issues. I read an article in Forbes once that I found very disturbing. It was about people who, instead of being fired for ethics violations, got coaches.

My personal belief is that people who commit integrity violations should be fired, not coached.

Ask yourself, how many integrity violations does it take to ruin the reputation of a company?

Just one.

You don’t coach integrity violations. You fire them.

Is The Candidate And The Company Moving in Opposite Directions?

Goldsmith also points out that the candidate and the organization have to both be headed in the same direction or the executive coaching provided will not be effective. If the organization is looking to develop a collaborative culture to drive innovation a coaching assignment for someone who is strongly individualistic will not work. It will ultimately come down to it being a bad fit for both parties.

Executive coaching is a powerful tool to promote positive behavioral change when it is used in the correct situations. The three questions that Marshall Goldsmith asks before any engagement help to bring clarity to whether coaching is the right tool.