Executive Coaching from the Executive’s Perspective

Not long ago I invited several CEOs and Presidents to share what executive coaching is as they experience it and define it. To continue this Series, here are their thoughts and commentary to Question 11.

Q 11:  How critical (or essential) is it that an executive coach be someone from ‘outside’ the organization versus someone from ‘inside’ the organization?  Why?

“I thought this was a trick question…so I’ll answer it very clearly…always outside. If you are inside an organization, you have a contaminated perception because you are part of that context. The value of the outside coach is that he or she has clearer vision and is better able to say the unsay-able.”

“I think it should be someone from the outside because of the neutrality the person would bring. It would have to be a pretty large organization for it to be someone from the inside.”

“Although it’s harder to be objective the longer you (the outside coach) are involved with a particular institution, there is something potentially valuable about the outside coach having experienced a lot of other companies, organizations, and institutions…like your perspective on the issues and traits in common. While they can all still be fairly distinct, they are probably not unique.”

“You (the outside coach) don’t have a stake in the outcome. If the organization is not doing well, you are not responsible for making it better. You are there to help the people there make it better. And that’s a very important distinction.”

“There is also the issue of confidentiality. I do think it is easier to keep some level of confidentiality if it’s an outside person.”

“I do think that sometimes chief executives need to rely on wisdom from outside because there isn’t always a lot of objective wisdom inside the organization at every moment. When you are in it, you very often can’t see it…objectively, or otherwise…also, there are blind-spots…lots of them for lots of reasons, and inside people no matter how well intended can’t see them either.”

“If the person is inside, eventually that person becomes imbrued with the same way of thinking about things as the people they’re trying to be helpful to. So I am biased toward someone from the outside, who theoretically brings a fresh, uninfected perspective with a capacity to be less attached to a particular outcome…a managed objectivity, so to speak.”




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