Executive Coaching : An Interview with Dr. Thurman

Have you ever wanted to know a little more about executive coaching? Recently I caught up with one of our beloved Executive Coaches, Dr. Connie Thurman, to ask her a few questions about the Executive Coaching experience.

With over 25 years of experience, Dr. Thurman brings a unique perspective to each coaching engagement.  Earlier in her career, Dr. Thurman was an executive in the manufacturing sector and she is now the Dean of Institutional Effectiveness/Human Resources at Carl Sandburg College.  Connie devotes time to Coaching assignments through MRG where she coaches executives or high potential leaders ready to take that next step in their career.

Read on to learn more about the secret to Connie’s success.

Who should seek out an executive coach?

There are different levels of people who should seek out an executive coach:

  • People currently in mid-management positions who are on a career path to the C-Suite.  This is a big transition and you should seek help if you think it is in your future.
  • Individual contributors who are moving into supervisory roles or those that are moving from technical roles to managing others.
  • Individuals moving from one major business sector to another.
  • People who are experts in one field and now have a layer of administrative responsibilities.

What should a leader expect to get from the coaching process?

Leaders should know that coaching is all about them and the process is very customized.  The coach isn't at work with the leader, so it's very important for the leader to share and be open with the coach regarding problems or hurdles in their workplace. Each person is different. Sometimes they have issues that are more practical, like how to read financial statements or participate in strategic planning.  More often, it’s about the relationships; they want to know how to handle conflict, manage a team, or how to motivate people.  Each situation is unique.  Leaders need to know that assessments are an important part of the coaching process.  Not only do assessments help me get to know the person better, but it helps the participant become more self-aware.  

Alternately, what should a company expect from an employee’s coaching program?

Established outcomes are determined up front.  Each coaching program starts with an agreed upon plan with executives from the client organization which includes performance improvement and areas important to emphasize.  The language with the leader is “I want you to try this” or “Would you be open to trying this?"

What makes an effective coach?

Active listening and past experience. In addition, each program has to be customized to the leader.  I perform research on the front end on the leader, their role, and the organization.  It is important to use all of your tools available, whether that is personal assessments for the candidate or 360 assessments and interviews within the organization. 

My coaching programs are about mentorship.  I see the leaders as business colleagues, which helps to create a better relationship. 

What is your process? 

Assessments, analysis, execution.  I compare the data from the assessments with what the person is saying in sessions.  In face-to-face meetings with the leader, we develop goals together.  I set formal meetings every two weeks but am sure to let them know they can contact me anytime in between and get a response within 24 hours.  I create periodic reports for the organization and the client.  I consider the leaders I coach to be business colleagues and I have remained in contact with many.  Some, I have even asked for help. 

How do you measure success?

I measure success by meeting the metrics of the plans put together in the beginning.  I also measure success through the personal connection I create with the leader I coached.  This is difficult to measure, but I am lucky that many of my clients are repeat organizations.

Can you tell us why coaching is a good investment?

Confidentiality is meaningful to the leader.  It’s a benefit that allows them to open up. 

For HR, it can be hard to get to the root of the problem for an individual when you have an entire organization of people to take care of.  A coach can get to the heart of the issue and start developing and working on solutions. 

For talent and retention, especially with high-potential employees, the value they can add to the organization, the money comes back tenfold.  If an organization is willing to invest in coaching for a high potential employee, that employee is likely to become a loyal and highly productive part of your organization. 

What is one thing you wish people knew about the value of executive coaching?

If you are willing to put in the work, it can be an eye-opening experience and a real career changer.