Life can be lonely at the top


Life can be lonely at the top

  • By Ian Bradley
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Executive coach as a confidant

Nowadays it seems that everyone has a coach- a life coach, an exercise coach even a financial coach. In my case, as an executive coach who is also a clinical psychologist, I have the advantage of being able to draw upon a vast array of psychological knowledge and techniques to help my business clients. The help typically begins by deconstructing the problem situation and then suggesting the many tricks and tools that psychology has empirical evidence of effectiveness – all heady stuff, right!

However, often what I provide my clients is someone to talk to.

Why is such a seemingly mundane aid so important? Because as one advances in an organization, one gains power but loses social support.

It’s ironic that career advancement is associated with many perks including power of decision-making, salary, and maybe even the corner office, but not social support. The fact is that the vital ability to talk to colleagues about problems and challenges diminishes with success. Often, this leaves C-level executives alone to wrestle with self-doubts, challenges or even successes.

Consider the typical, regional sales meeting where district sales managers are held to task concerning missed sales targets by the VP of Sales. What happens after a particularly tough meeting- the managers get together in informal groups to gripe or vent. What happens to the VP? He or she goes back to their office to think.

Although there always is an executive team, senior executive are often too busy to discuss their own personal challenges. When they do meet, it’s often a meeting run by the CEO where the dynamic is to achieve results and not share concerns that are often incorrectly perceived as signs of weakness.

In addition to bringing psychological solutions to workplace problems, my role as an executive coach involves being an important, and sometimes the only, confidant. This role is especially important with sensitive topics such as succession or major organizational change where careful preliminary planning is required before the issues can be expressed more directly in the workplace.

Executive coaching like psychotherapy embeds specific interventions and techniques in a supportive and understanding relationship.