5 Skills Executives Most Seek to Improve – And How Coaching Can Help

As per a survey, 51 percent of senior executives reported they “receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches.” Over two-thirds (68 percent) of those senior executives reported that getting outside help was their own idea. These executives realized they needed continuous improvement to compete for the shrinking number of jobs up an organizational pyramid. They likely viewed outside consulting and coaching as a competitive advantage.

Senior executives: are you in the 51% of your peer group that is getting leadership advice from outside coaching and consulting, or are you in the 49% that is not?

According to the survey, these are the five skills that executives named as their biggest opportunities for improvement. While informal mentoring and consulting can help improve those skills, many executives invest in an executive coach to get more focused and structured help.

1 – Conflict Management – 34% of senior executives believed they needed to improve their conflict management skills. An executive coach can help by uncovering the underlying reasons for conflicts by conducting 360-degree interviews with an executive’s team and colleagues. A coach can facilitate meetings to surface and address conflicts in a safe, controlled way. A coach can also practice role playing to help an executive prepare for crucial conversations with colleagues and others where conflicts could erupt.

2 – Decision-Making – 26% of senior executives believed they needed to improve their decision-making skills. The independent perspective of an executive coach can help here. A coach can be a sounding board without a bias or stake in the decision. A coach can also push an executive to test their assumptions in a way that subordinates may not. A coach can also bring in outside perspectives as a brainstorming partner to help find out of the box solutions to problems.

3 – Planning – 21% of senior executives believed they needed to improve their planning skills. Talking with a coach can be a great way for an executive to translate ideas and goals in their head into options on paper. Because they bring an independent, outsider perspective, coaches can ask the questions that people on an executive’s team may not ask. An executive coach can also introduce tools, templates, training, and external best practices that can help with planning. A coach can also help executives hold themselves accountable to start and finish planning in the timeline required.

4 – Listening – 18% of senior executives believed they needed to improve their listening skills. Thankfully, listening is a easy skill to understand. It just takes discipline and change management to make it a good habit. Coaches can use behavioral coaching to help executives focus on improving their listening skills. Once identified as a goal, the coach can help their executive client measure and track progress on a regular basis in stopping bad behaviors (e.g., interrupting, not paying attention) and demonstrating desired behaviors (e.g., active listening). The coach can also get feedback from the client’s colleagues on their improvement in listening.

5 – Empathy – 18% of senior executives believed they needed to improve their empathy skills. Senior executives can struggle to empathize with colleagues who do not share their executive focus and mindset. A coach can identify an assessment tool that can help an executive understand how and where they perceive things differently than others. A coach can also be a sounding board and use a technique called active inquiry to pose questions to help an executive consider the impact, and perceived intent, of their actions on colleagues.

Hiring an executive coach can be a worthwhile investment for executives of all types. For those seeking to continue climbing up the ladder to CEO, it can provide a valuable competitive edge over executives who insist on a “go it alone” approach. For executives content with where they are, coaching can be a great way to make work more enjoyable … for themselves and everyone who works with them.

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