Executive Coaching: A Mental Model
I often get asked ‘How does executive coaching help the company achieve results?’ or ‘How should I think about the value of exec coaching?’. These are great questions — here’s a mental model for how coaching adds value.
Let’s start with achieving results. Whether that’s mission or financial oriented results, short term or long term results, or others — ultimately, that’s what we’re all here for. As a founder, that’s why you’ve taken a risk and chosen to do this incredibly hard thing of building a startup.
All startups begin with an idea, followed by an initial execution, or Forming phase — usually just you and a few other folks in a room together building cool stuff. Things flow easily, you can turn around and talk to anyone, anytime, and you get a lot done fast.
Then you launch, start to expand the team, and enter the Scaling phase. You hire 5, 10, 20+ people. Suddenly, your job looks a lot different. Your mental model starts to get outdated.
Things get more complex. Rather than just executing individually, you now have to lead and enable a team to scale your output collectively — manage teams, hone GTM strategy, sell effectively, handle finances, create a high performing culture, and about a million other things.
Achieving results starts to look more like this:
So, how do you make sure your leadership is effective in order to achieve results? There are lots of different inputs. Here are a few examples:
You can think about these inputs on a spectrum that spans from People / Relationships focused to Task / Performance focused:
As you start thinking more about what you and your quickly growing team need, you can start mapping these across the spectrum. Some inputs are People / Relationships heavy, like clear communication. Other inputs are Task / Performance heavy like metrics tracking. Some fall in the middle, like accountability. Here are several more examples of the many inputs that fall on this spectrum:
Balancing inputs from across the spectrum is crucial to achieving results. As a leader, if you over-index on Task / Performance, you risk creating low trust, poor communication, and high friction environment, which makes achieving results way harder. If you over-index on People / Relationships, you risk low output, low accountability, and lack of momentum.
So where does exec coaching come in? At the highest level, the focus of coaching is to guide you to be a more effective leader in order to achieve results for your business.
As you break that down into the spectrum again, you’ll find most exec coaching focuses on the left to middle. These are the inputs required to have a strong foundation from which to scale. You need to balance this with things like setting the right metrics, building and optimizing sales funnels, and other task-heavy items —but you’ll generally get advice on these from other subject matter experts (investors, consultants, etc):
I hope this was helpful in building a mental model for how coaching helps leaders achieve results through effective leadership. If you’re interested in exploring how exec coaching can help you be a more effective leader, reach out to schedule a free intro session with me at laurenadellecoaching.com.
For some additional context, here is a longer (but by no means comprehensive) list of topics that coaching focuses on: