Action Coaching: Putting Executive Coaching to Work in Real Time

user Mark Teitell
calendar

Many companies use executive coaches to advise their management teams…but to take that guidance to the next level, coaching in action can be even more effective than coaching in isolation. So what is action coaching? Consider this example.

Every few years, the world becomes the stage for elite soccer (or dare I say “futbol”) players. This year, the Women’s World Cup in France saw 24 teams come together to battle it out on the pitch. Little girls the world over started dribbling and dreaming about playing at that level, in the end hoping to be the “next Rose Lavelle,” who herself once hoped to be the “next Mia Hamm.” Players scored, fouled, rejoiced, cried, suffered and overcame injuries. Fans cheered. Teams won and lost. If you are from the U.S. (and are a soccer fan), you would be hard-pressed to not love the outcome with the U.S. women securing their second consecutive, and fourth overall, World Cup title. With four Olympic gold medals as well, they have proven to be one of the most dominant, and influential, teams of all time. Needless to say, the players’ skills are tantamount, but the coaching they receive while in the act of playing as a team is also essential.

There is an important business lesson to be drawn from this analogy, so bear with us for a moment as we put it in context. Imagine this team of world class soccer players getting individual classroom instruction on the fundamentals of soccer and practicing alone on separate fields. Let’s say that they each have select coaches – the cream of the crop, who keep them in shape, work with them on foot skills, and make sure they maintain the right nutrition plan. They are at their peak physical condition. But what would happen if they never had the benefit of playing in a game together until the first round of the playoffs? Would they know how to play to each other’s strengths? Would their coaches know who to consistently rely on for penalty kicks under the pressure of those 90 minutes? How would the x’s and o’s from the clipboard translate to the game? Could they possibly win?

The fact is that while skill-building is essential, you could never compete at this level with without also playing as a team in actual games. Look at any professional sports team – when they are being coached, it is “in action” – in the context of a game time situation. They run drills and practice taking shots (again and again), and they scrimmage to simulate matches…but the real learning happens when they are faced with an opponent. Those are the moments that define the winners. For a management team, this is what action coaching is all about. Many companies use executive coaches. Arguably, it is one of the best ways to upskill leaders as they grow into new positions or inherit new teams. But action coaching is distinctively different and borrows from action learning, a problem-solving technique introduced in the 1940s that requires inquiry, action, and reflection.

Although we’ve known for decades that the best learning takes place in an applied fashion, this concept still isn’t regularly put into practice in the workplace. And if you think about it, it defies logic. Just as you would never expect an elite sports team to play in a match without first practicing together, why would we expect management teams not to apply the practices they are learning from their coaches to real situations?

The problem with modern executive coaching in the business context is that you get the x’s and o’s in the back room, but are not getting the coaching you need in real-time. Traditional coaching is often seen as an isolated learning and development initiative, delivered at an individual level to one person within a team, and primarily for remediation. It is also frequently provided by coaches that have little practical experience. Perhaps most importantly, since traditional coaching is generally delivered in one-to-one situations, it tends to lack integration with important business objectives.

That is not to say that traditional executive coaching shouldn’t be a priority. It is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to help leaders advance to the next level in their leadership journey. Action coaching simply takes it to the next level by using executive coaching in conjunction with real-time team decision-making and problem-solving. What makes action coaching different is that it brings senior leadership teams together and applies the learnings from individual coaching sessions to real problems, situations, and/or initiatives that they are working on together.

Let’s say that your company is undergoing a major acquisition. The management teams need to make sure that the new entity will create shareholder value but are also concerned about cultural changes and how to make the transition positive for employees. Any situation in which the stakes are high and team collaboration is essential to produce better results is a prime candidate for action coaching. Quite simply, action coaching is what has made the U.S. women’s soccer team a dominant force in sports. By taking their individual training, applying it in scrimmages and real games, studying their successes and failures, and putting those learnings into their game with the next opponent(s) , they have created a winning formula.

Imagine something you are working on over the next few months that requires extensive teamwork.

Action coaching could provide you and your team with the game-time situation you need to get the results you want.

Back to TriumIQ

Let’s Talk

Contact Us

Trium IQ

How Good Executive Coaching Might Have Prevented the COVID-19 Crisis in the United States

This article by Andrew Blum was originally featured in Real Leaders. Regardless of political persuasion, we can…

Read

Sheltered in Place: Profound Lessons from Solitary Confinement

Like most people today, my conversations with clients and friends inevitably turn to the topic of sheltering…

Read

Clear Strategies in Turbulent Times: 4 Scenarios for Navigating a Post-Coronavirus World

This is the second in a series of articles about developing strategy in a post-coronavirus world. The…

Read

The Coronavirus: How You Think About It Matters. Try This 3-Step Approach

This article was originally published in Creations Magazine. When you clicked on this article, did you think:…

Read

Bold Action in the Face of Ambiguity: How to Reset Strategy in a Post-Coronavirus World

With the economy grinding to a halt for an unknown duration, businesses are in full crisis-response mode….

Read

Leadership Development: The Key to a Successful Program Isn’t What You Think

A version of this article was originally published in Consulting Magazine. Harriet Tubman was an unintended but…

Read

Virtual Meetings: 5 Strategies for Maintaining Leadership Team Effectiveness When You Need it Most

Facing coronavirus, as a leader you’re being challenged to navigate an ultra-complex landscape of reduced demand and/or…

Read

Leading Through Volatility…Is Your Strategy Ready?

A global health crisis, border closures, virtual workforces, quarantined countries, fluctuating interest rates, online education, sporting events…

Read

Thriving in Uncertain Times: Lessons from Marcus Aurelius

It’s said that we are living in a VUCA world. V.U.C.A. is a military term that stands…

Read

It’s Time for No-Regrets Moves

It’s not hard to get people to agree with the general perspective that the world seems especially…

Read

Building Community in the Unlikeliest of Groups: Breaking Barriers from the Inside Out

This article was originally published in Thrive Global. Ex-cons…successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople. Mutually exclusive? Irreconcilably different? A…

Read

The Art of Strategic Narratives: Story building

The klieg lights have been shining on storytelling as a leadership capability for quite a while now….

Read

Want to Be a Great Leader? Be a Great Coach

This piece was written by Andrew Blum and originally published on Forbes. It’s no secret that the…

Read

The Most Fundamental Act of Leadership

What is the most fundamental act of leadership? There are so many ways to answer this question….

Read

Are Narratives Working for Your Company?

Recently, I met with a CEO who asked me what I thought of his company’s narrative. When…

Read

The Trium Group Partners with Murad Executives and Former Prison Inmates to Explore Powerful Leadership Development

Business leaders from Murad engage in highly impactful workshop – and leave equipped to become living models…

Read