Agencies find value in coaching
Executive coaches can help teach the best way to manage employees
- By Wade-Hahn Chan
- Nov 29, 2007
Football players cannot act as a team without a coach to guide them.
Federal agencies are beginning to think about their senior executives in the same way.
For the past few years, federal agencies have used outside consultants to advise senior executives on ways to handle managerial challenges. As executive coaches, these advisers help leaders with challenges such as implementing the President’s Management Agenda, developing strategic plans, communicating and evaluating employees.
Christine Williams, director of leadership development at NASA, said the agency has used executive coaching since 2004. NASA hires consultants to coach its senior executives, and those executives in turn act as coaches for employees at the GS-15 level.
Other agencies also provide coaching services. Some, such as the General Services Administration, provide coaching to midlevel staff members. The Treasury Department established a franchise agency, the Federal Consulting Group, to provide fee-based coaching and leadership development.
Michael Goldberg, president of Building Blocks Consulting, said executive coaching has been a mainstream practice in the private sector for only a few years.
He said about 40 percent of his jobs now involve coaching; two years ago, he did almost no executive coaching.
NASA acquires its executive coaches through Boston-based Cambria Consulting.
The agency renewed its commitment to the practice by awarding a five-year contract to the company in late September.
Derek Steinbrenner, principal and manager at Cambria, said coaching is unique in that it provides a one-on-one learning experience.
Coaches can use the executive’s work environment as a basis for advice about ways to handle difficult situations more effectively.
“At its core, coaching is a skill set, it’s a methodology, and it’s different from consulting,” Steinbrenner said. “Coaching is asking the right question, getting [executives] to think through the issue.”
For that reason, executive coaching can be equally effective in government and industry, Goldberg said. Most management issues transcend subject matter, he added.
“There are only so many management issues.
You could probably count them.”
Goldberg said that although his last job was coaching an Army lieutenant and his next one will be helping the director of a large manufacturing company, the issues those leaders face as managers are strikingly similar. All managers, he said, must be effective at communicating with subordinates, performing reviews, resolving conflicts, encouraging employee partnerships and managing time.