The leader creates the space where the follower wants to step into

Mr Leary-Joyce, you founded the Academy of Executive Coaching in 2000 and are Executive Chairman. How did you become a coach?
I started out in the Gestalt psychology field as clinical practitioner running individual and group therapy programmes. This evolved into then becoming a trainer at the Gestalt Centre London on the Diploma and later Masters courses. I was also very interested and got involved in the business development side of the Institute and later was appointed Managing Director for next 12 years.
Having both the psychological and business experience I became a Process Consultant specialising in leadership and group/team facilitation in organisations.
When coaching became known in the UK in 1995 it fitted well into what I was already doing and so reduced my clinical practice and started to work as an executive coach. Later in 2000 it was clear that there was a need for Advanced Executive Coach training that capitalised on my business/coaching experience on so along with two consultant/coach colleagues I started the AoEC and the first Advanced programme for coaches. There were quite a number of Coaching Foundation courses but none to take coaches into the deeper psychological area while applying it in a business context.
Since I’d been involved in the professionalising and accreditation of Humanistic Psychotherapy practitioners it was natural to get involved in the development of the new coaching professional bodies in the UK – ICF, APECS, AC and EMCC. I was EMCC President in 2012 helping to create dialogue between the professional bodies since it was confusing for those new to coaching as to which organisation to join to get accreditation.
It was also very important to me that if I ran an organisation providing coach training we had to create a culture that had a coaching ethos. This we’ve worked at over the last 18 years and believe strongly that we have built a strong brand because we practice what we teach.

What would be, in your opinion, the most critical reason why a company should hire a coach?

The goal of business organisations whether commercial or not-for-profit is to provide an excellent product or service for the best value. Therefore the most critical reason for hiring a coach is to help the organisation to improve performance and raising quality of business practice. Executive coaching help individuals address personal blocks whether emotional or mental that limit them in performing at their best. So it has to be personal performance of individuals in reaching the business targets that is the reason for hiring a coach.

You said once that coaching is very similar to tango. Could you explain that in more detail?
Tango quote “The leader creates the space where the follower wants to step into” this directly parallels what a leader and follower needs to achieve in any business team. The leaders knows where he is going, makes a clear and compelling reason for going there and communicates in a way that the followers really want to go. The follower is not passive and compliant but actively engaged and wanting to make the team effort a success. By trusting and believing in the leader the follower takes responsibility for enacting the leader’s direction. Our job as a leadership coach is to help the leader address how well they are creating clear and compelling direction. By using Tango as a metaphor and utilising Tango exercises the leader can get a powerful insight into their style and expertise in this area

Searching for Return on Investment for coaching is like a holy grail in business. What is your experience, how could we measure the impact of coaching on the client’s business?
RoI can only be measured if there is investment in clarifying the current conditions at the start of the coaching and the objectives are clearly identified and change in behaviour/attitude is measured. To do this effectively takes time and money and organisations do not want to invest in this so it becomes like a ‘holy grail. Management are happy to trust the coaching process, probably because they have experienced themselves or seen the value in others and set loose objectives relating to KPIs at the beginning then reviewing the achievement at the end.

If the goal is about ‘confidence’ or ‘leadership presence’ then it’s very difficult to measure objectively the outcome. Yes certain behaviours will indicate an internal shift but only the subjective experience of the coachee will ascertain whether the coaching has been successful and worth the investment.

Financial RoI is more straightforward in smaller businesses where the financial impact can be seen and measured. The cultural impact is easier to see and address. Also in sales teams, especially where more than one member is coached, and the process and targets are clearly identified. This performance coaching is very focused measured by behavioural change towards the sales target.

If you had a chance to describe coaching in one sentence, what sentence it could be?
Coaching facilitates the coachee to uncover their innate wisdom and experience to find their own direction and solutions.

The Academy of Executive Coaching, UK, is the most prestigious organization for education and certification of the Executive Coaches in the world, recognized by the two largest international organizations: ICF (International Coaching Federation) and EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council).
AoEC Serbia is now accepting applications for certification of new executive coaches. Academy starts on March 14, 2019.
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