Tim Stratman is president of Stratman Partners Executive Coaching, Inc. in Chicago.
March 2013, Inside Supply Management® Vol. 24, No. 2, page 36
Personal Connections: Work. Life. Balance.
Senior supply management leaders who commit time and effort to learning and enhancing their skills can make significant career strides with an executive coach.
Picture this scenario: You've just left a meeting with the CPO who initially told you about the promotion. However, you're not the one who won the job. The CPO praised your technical skills but noted that your successes were all individual, with minimal teamwork, collaboration and leadership exhibited in your work. She made it clear that your development in this area is critical for future advancement. Perhaps you need to work with an executive coach.
This example shows how dramatically the supply management world changed in the past decade. Chief officers of procurement and supply management are often members of senior executive leadership teams and play a more visible role in the success of their companies. The potential strategic impact of the supply leader role is being more effectively leveraged; supply management is now seen as a way to accelerate profitable revenue growth.
Despite the evolving landscape for supply management, its executives are often still dealing with the stereotype of being specialists who are primarily quantitative and analytical. Executives in supply management need to counter these perceptions by consciously looking beyond the numbers. They need to visibly lead their people, because leadership is about getting outstanding results through other people. An executive coach could help you gain insights into your own performance and learn to be a more effective leader.
If you're wondering if an executive coach could help advance your career, review these three common signs that coaching may provide you significant benefits.
1) You need feedback. It's almost impossible for us to be truly objective about ourselves. Many executives ascend to the level where objective, honest feedback about their leadership skills is difficult, if not impossible, to come by. The executive's peers and bosses may not see the day-to-day inner workings of the supply management team. So, beyond evaluating the numbers achieved, it is unlikely they can provide useful input on the executive's leadership effectiveness. Effective coaching begins with the coach having a well-rounded view of the executive. A big part of that view comes from confidential one-on-one interviews with people the executive works for, works with and reports to.
2) Your career is transitioning. Several natural places in an executive's career are particularly ripe for a leadership coach, especially in terms of working with other people. Beginning a new position and proactively preparing team members for the next promotion are two of the most common times. Strong executives must be prepared when the next opportunity — for themselves or for their team members — arises. While they are improving their own skills, executives should also be coaching high-potential employees to groom them for the future. From the company's perspective, this is prudent succession planning. For the executive, coaching others is another way to demonstrate to the company his or her commitment to consistently bring more to the table.
Once these executives move into a senior leadership position, they often need to exercise a different set of skills. The focus moves from the work the executive does to the results they inspire others to achieve. This transition can be challenging for all parties. Instead of attempting to have all the answers, the executive needs to create empowered teams, and this is where people skills become a much bigger part of the skills arsenal.
3) You want to perfect your skills. It seems counterintuitive to some that high-performing executives would need a leadership coach because they are already successful. So why would they hire a coach? In actuality, the strongest high-performing leaders know they will never stop learning, perfecting and growing. Each new situation in business brings a new opportunity for learning and skill development. Coaching allows executives to sharpen leadership skills in real time and in real business situations. Many people think a coach is called in when an executive is having significant performance issues. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Coaching is sought out and secured by high-performing, achievement-driven executives.
To be effective, real leadership improvement requires two qualities: time and a willingness to change. No reputable executive coach would take an assignment if those two qualities were not evident in both the company and the executive. An executive who is willing to spend time and effort to make positive changes can learn to fully leverage individual strengths and minimize (or neutralize) the impact of any weaknesses, all of which leads to more effective and authentic leadership.
Executive coaching is customized to the needs of the individual. The executive starts the coaching process by talking about stress management, conflict resolution skills and other dimensions of emotional intelligence. All of this input forms the foundation of an executive profile that clearly articulates the leadership style of the executive and reveals strengths and areas for improvement. The coach teaches how to use these skills in real-time business situations in a way that is practical and highly relevant to the executive's business challenges and operating environment.
Executive coaching is only successful when mutual trust exists between the coach and the executive. Part of that trust is the executive feeling confident in the coach's business acumen and believing the coach has his or her best interests at heart, maintains confidentiality and actively listens. In other words, there must be strong chemistry between the executive and the coach. Add this trust and chemistry to the executive's commitment to making positive changes, and the result is coaching that enhances and accelerates an executive's success.
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