Corporate leaders routinely take strategies from ideation to execution. However, that process can often be a rocky one that’s peppered with multiple challenges. In one study, 90% of companies failed to execute their strategies smoothly. Execution is a common challenge across organizations. There’s good news, though: Effective coaching can remove obstacles, optimize workflows and achieve comprehensive buy-in.
Why and where do strategic initiatives break down, though? In 2021, author Jeroen Kraaijenbrink explored the common problems faced by leaders charged with bringing strategies to life. The resulting list includes ineffective alignment, ineffective communication, ineffective change, performance and project management, and, perhaps ironically, ineffective strategy.
Kraaijenbrink’s accurate assessment of these problems can be boiled down to a straightforward equation: E=AMC. Put simply, strategic execution (E) requires holistic alignment (A), changes in mindset so people behave in new ways (M), and the right capabilities (C) to bring the strategy to fruition.
Where does coaching come into the picture? Coaching can help with the A, the M and the C. It allows leaders to build collaboration, trust and transparency while developing critical capabilities necessary to achieve strategic goals. Coaching also helps leaders shift their underlying belief systems so they can become dynamic role models for the people around them.
Developing a Successful Coaching Program
Though coaching isn’t a new concept for leaders, leveraging coaching to push forward strategies is somewhat novel. However, its importance can’t be underestimated. Coaching allows leaders to stay focused on moving a strategic idea ahead by closing the gaps that are obstructing the A, M or C in the E=AMC equation.
Coaching is effective in this area for another reason: It, like strategy, is a continuous process. Most leaders are constantly shaping plans and driving strategic campaigns. Coaching can be customized and performed in tandem, as well as reviewed and adapted as needed to achieve preferred outcomes. The fluidity of coaching ultimately benefits all the people involved as it hones their skills, supports and rewards performance, and advances a forward-leaning culture.
Strategic Execution Coaching in Action
To get a better visualization of how this kind of coaching can work, consider the real-life example of a chief financial officer (CFO) at a consumer package goods (CPG) company. The CFO wanted to transform the business’s finance from being focused on reporting to providing more overarching insights. Yet, his vision kept being thwarted because his team was constantly dragged into the detail of meeting the reporting cycle and responding to other internal demands. He finally found his answer in coaching.
With his coach, he took a step back and reevaluated the situation. He realized his team wasn’t changing because they didn’t have confidence in the value they could add. With this understanding, he started communicating their value and growing their self-assurance by changing the structure of his team’s roles and metrics. Consequently, they began to see themselves and their functions in a new light. And his strategy for them to become business partners — and not just data deliverers — began to take shape.
Suggestions for Making a Coaching Change
Leaders who are not seeing movement in their strategies should consider either seeking coaching themselves or applying coaching with their leadership team. The focus of the coaching program might be on:
1. Changing mindsets.
The more experienced a leader is, the more likely it is that they have the core capabilities they need (the C). Therefore, the success of their initiative will depend more on changing mindsets (the M).
This will apply both personally and organizationally. As individuals, leaders should consider the mindsets they need to let go of before changing others. Perhaps they are too attached to their own ideas, have perfectionist tendencies, or move too fast to take people with them. They should also consider the old beliefs of unconscious blind spots that will need to change for their organization to fully embrace the new strategy.
2. Forging alignment.
Driving alignment across an organization or even a small team can be challenging. The key is often a mix of helping leaders find simple and concrete ways to communicate the direction with finding ways to make it real for those on the receiving end. Coaching can help with both. Used at scale, it is a wonderful way to help each leader reflect on what the strategy means for them, how they need to change and to establish practical actions to bring it about.
3. Measuring success.
It’s a true adage: What gets measured gets managed. Leaders who want to measure their success at coaching can leverage MBIR, or “Mindset,” “Behavior,” “Impact” and “Results.”
How you measure each will vary depending on the strategy. For example, one pharmaceutical industry client wanted to coach its leaders to be more effective at achieving their ideas. In this case, the client chose employee engagement data as an impact measurement. Did employees experience their managers differently?
Taking the step to become a better coach can be a game-changer for any leader looking to move strategic initiatives from inception to completion faster and with better success. It’s a transformative experience that requires humility, openness and eagerness. Leaders ready to embark on the journey will net all the positives that come from self (and team) improvement.