This article explores the possibility of dependency in the executive coaching dynamic between the coach and his/her client. Often even though discouraged, executive coaches may give advice or have a strong bias of direction that creates a hidden reliance. So does executive coaching create dependency?
This question is an interesting one as it has payoffs for both parties. The client feels a sense of security knowing that he has someone to call upon when wavering with any challenge. The executive coaching professional by creating dependency ensures that his client remains loyal and that continuity of business ensured.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that this is always the case however I have seen it happen far too often for my liking. Surely the aim of executive coaching is to create self reliance? A coaching job is well done when the executive coaching professional makes himself redundant!
At what point does the extent of guidance, questioning and suggestion need to stop and at what point does the onus revert to the client? This has been question that executive coaching professionals have been toying with for ages. To know the answer is to fully know the client’s understanding and knowledge of the issue at hand. It is easy to pass the buck to the coach and it’s a lot more challenging to squeeze the answer out of the client.
Suggestions of encouraging the client beyond his comfort levels and challenging him to take calculated risks may start to bring some light to this question. Knowing the boundaries is of crucial importance for the executive coaching professional as he walks the fine line between pushing too far and not far enough.
Egoless coaching can shed another angle of thinking on the subject. When there is little ego in the executive coaching dynamic there is no need to control, advise or be right. There is also little attachment to how the results will all pan out. Naturally great results are imperative but there is a big distinction between ego attachment and achievements of coaching outcomes.
Another point to consider is setting the executive coaching agreements upfront. This involves the needs, expectations and promises that each party makes to the other. When this is clearly stated if will be fairly obvious as to the extent of possible dependencies that may occur further down the line.
If the expectation of the coach is to be the oracle and help provide the necessary solutions the result will be total reliance. If however the boundaries are clearly set as to the extent of assistance then the potential for dependency is reduced.
I am also aware of the time pressures that executive coaches are under and that results need to be achieved in short time frames. In cases like these resilience and process explanation would go far in communicating to the powers that be what is realistic and sustainable.