Lonely at the Top?

In a recent episode of the Radio 4 programme, Bottom Line, the subject matter was ‘Lonely at the Top’. The programme had 3 guests – 2 senior business leaders and an Executive Coach talking about why many senior executives now employ personal coaches to help them through their toughest business challenges.

Coaches can provide confidential, independent support for senior managers who find life lonely at the top. But shouldn’t the boss be capable of making decisions on his or her own?
I have been an Executive Coach for the past 7 years and have run my own coaching business for the past 2 years. My observations on where and how a coach can help a leader include:

  • Opening the leader’s eyes to a different perspective
  • Looking at how the leader works on a day to day business and exploring with them where and how they might be more effective
  • A confidential sounding board. The higher you go in an organisation the fewer people you can talk to confidentially, especially if the buck stops with you
  • Enabling a leader to work through their thinking and reflect on the choices they have. A coach will quite often come up with a number of alternative options that the leader may not have thought of
  • Look at the leaders balance in life. How is their work / life balance? How good are they at self-care? The more senior you become the more the lines can become blurred between home and life.

I’m a great believer that in coaching you pay for what you get. The difficulty for those looking to hire a coach is that at present it is unregulated so anyone can set themselves up as a coach and start practising with little or no experience or a coaching qualification. Here are my suggestions to ask a coach to ensure you are getting a great coach:

  • What coaching qualifications do you have? (All good coaches should have a coaching qualification)
  • How often do you attend coaching supervision? (All good coaches should have regular coaching supervision)
  • How many clients are you currently coaching and at what level? (Are they coaching leaders at the same level as you?)
  • How many hours coaching have they amounted over the past 6 months? (How experienced are they?)
  • Describe your coaching style and the impact it has on your clients? (Would this style be right for you?)
  • What personal development have you done as a coach over the past 12 months (Good coaches continually learn and develop themselves)
  • What coaching associations are you a member of? Is this displayed on your website? (Good coaches will be a member of a coaching association and be guided by the associations code of ethics)

The best feedback I was recently given by a client was “Thanks Fiona for another great coaching session today. You have made a big difference to my life”.

If you find the right coach, they could make a real difference to you, both personally and professionally.


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