Executive Coaching: The 1200-Year Old Profession
There’s a famous Zen koan that asks “Why can’t the person of great strength lift his leg?”.
In ancient China, about 1200 years ago: emperors, governors, business and military leaders would often visit and work with Zen masters. The interesting thing, is, that these people were all very accomplished and successful in their own right, yet they sought out masters who specialized in empowering people at a deep level. They asked: How do I change the direction of my business?, Is the way I govern aligned to the highest good?, How do I live out of my own values? Even though they were consummate experts in their own fields, they wanted to move to the next level and create virtuosity in all aspects of their lives. This is a very early example of executive coaching.
Furthering Success with an Executive Coach
Here are two current examples of why people work with executive coaches:
- A very successful and talented entrepreneur, who had recently sold his business, was walking down a busy street in Toronto when he saw a huge billboard advertising a Porsche Carrera. The tagline was “Realize the Dream”. He had probably seen such billboards a thousand times before but this time it stopped in him in his tracks. He owned a Porsche Carrera, and yes, he always thought that this was realizing the dream, but now he knew that wasn’t true. He didn’t know exactly what his dream was, but he did know it wasn’t about acquiring something – it seemed much bigger than that. The billboard reminded him that something major was missing in his life, and that he, in a certain way, was stuck. Later that day, he had lunch with a long time friend who recommended that he work with an executive coach, someone who helps people discover, and move into, a life that truly matters to them. This clicked with him and he felt excited and energized by this possibility.
- A woman, who also was very talented and bright, wanted to move into a senior executive position in her company. She was extremely successful in her position and her technical competency was highly regarded, but she had been passed over for promotions. It wasn’t a gender issue as there were many women in such positions in her company. After discussing her frustrations with her boss, it was suggested that she work with an executive coach. In the coaching process, she started to realize that there were significant areas in her life that she needed to develop. She also discovered it was her own internal paradigms that were limiting her promotability. With the help of her executive coach, she set quickly to move beyond these paradigms, and thus increased her likelihood of being promoted.
Both of these people, through the executive coaching process, developed a greater virtuosity in their lives and were able to move forward in a new way. They also noticed that their legs worked just fine (and answered the Zen koan above). These are some reasons why successful people work with executive coaches.
In the short video clip above, Bill Gates, Chairman & CEO, Microsoft & Eric Schmidt, CEO Google, talks about why everyone needs a coach, including them.