An interview with Jim Clarkson about executive coaching
What is the purpose of coaching from your perspective?
A key goal or purpose of coaching business leaders is to enhance their capability to achieve their business goals, through effective self-leadership and usually through effectively leading others. Through coaching I provide an opportunity to stop and reflect on their goals, values and work experiences so they can learn from their experiences and determine more effective and efficient actions they can take to achieve their goals and the goals of the organization.
How would you support an executive in working toward a specific developmental outcome?
As a professional coach, I serve as a credible and confidential “thought partner” who can challenge their thinking by asking the kinds of questions that help them surface entrenched assumptions to think more clearly and objectively about how they can take action. Most always, coaching involves helping leaders learn how to modify their thoughts, feelings, and behavior to act more effectively in specific situations or with specific tasks.
What kind of process or structure do you typically follow in coaching executives?
I follow a systematic process which includes first building a collaborative relationship with the organizational sponsors and with the executive. Building a trusting working partnership is foundational to effective coaching and leadership development. I then conduct assessments which may include 360-degree feedback and / or objective assessments of personality, needs, and emotional intelligence to help the executive identify developmental needs and formulate an action plan. With a solid leadership development plan in place, i coach the executive to successful completion of that plan.
Whenever possible, I like to include the client’s manager and direct reports in discussing the plan and expectations. In most cases, I follow-up with an abbreviated form of 360-degree feedback to pinpoint the impact of changes.
Do you link the client’s improvements to the context or business in which the client works?
I believe it is critical to link the client’s coaching program directly to the business objectives s/he is to achieve. I try to keep a line of sight between the end business results required, i.e. metrics for capture of market share, customer satisfaction, etc.; what metrics the leader’s team must achieve in order to achieve that end result; what the leader must do to facilitate or lead his or her team to success in achieving those objectives; and what the leader must do to lead him or herself in order to be most effective in leading his or her team to success, This alignment between the individual leader, his or her team, and the greater organizational goals is central to all effective developmental initiatives. We are not in the business of developing people. The business purpose is to satisfy customer expectations and maximize ROI. By developing people, i.e. leaders and their teams, the business is investing in their assets which adds value.
How are you qualified to coach executives and other corporate leaders?
In a world where almost everyone now calls him or herself a “coach”, I am the “real deal” as a professional coach. In addition to my own corporate operations management experience, and successful track record in this practice since 2001, I bring . . .
- master’s degree in human resources development with emphasis in leadership and organization development from the University of Illinois, (also served as a graduate teaching assistant in the graduate course, “Management Skills”)
- bachelor’s degree in community counseling (was also an undergraduate teaching assistant in the course, “Communication Skills & The Helping Relationship” and served as a peer counselor)
- graduate of three professional business coach training programs, and numerous other continuing coaching education workshops and seminars,
- certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR),
- qualified with multiple executive development assessment tools,
- instructor of professional executive and business coaches for the International Coach Academy, which is accredited by the ICF,
- professional member of the International Coach Federation (ICF), former member of the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC);
- current leader of the Brain-based Coaching SIG, exploring the implications of recent discoveries in neuroscience for coaching for behavior change,
- testimonies of effectiveness from over 25 people I’ve worked with; and
- a long, successful career of coaching corporate executives and business leaders to achieve business and career goals.
So how did you get into this line of work?
Even while I was in high school I began to read Psychology Today magazine and began to think I would like to be a career counselor. After graduation while I was in the U.S. Navy I was a Personnel Petty Officer and served as an career counselor on the naval air station where I was based.
After discharge I attended college and immediately became involved in a series of counseling-related jobs. I was an undergraduate teaching assistant in a course called “Communication Skills and the Helping Relationship” and served as a student peer counselor. It was then that I was introduced to Microcounseling skills, the behavioral modeling approach developed by Dr. Allen Ivey. Another of my mentors, himself a student of Dr. Albert Ellis, taught me the finer points of counseling using a Rational-Emotive-Behavioral (REBT) approach and supervised me during a four-year period while I conducted individual, group, couples, and intensive group therapy marathons.
Though I received a great deal of positive feedback for my counseling and training skills, I decided to return to graduate studies and explore what I thought to be the more challenging field of Organization Development.
After earning my graduate degree in human resources development I worked for Westinghouse Electric at the Hanford Engineering and Development Laboratory as a management trainer, career development adviser and internal organization development consultant. After a few years there, I was promoted to a new job at a specialty metals manufacturing division, where I served as a senior organization development consultant, managed the employee relations function, recruited engineers and technical people and administered management assessment centers.
A few years later I was recruited as the internal organization development consultant with the Public Service Company of Oklahoma in the human resources planning and organization development unit where I was involved with several enterprise-wide change initiatives, as well as managing the assessment center process.
In each of my roles I have been involved in coaching leaders at all levels of the organization. So really throughout my entire career I have been developing business leadership development coaching knowledge, skills and abilities.
I have been one of the fortunate few who has been able to follow my career interests from early on and have a career I am passionate about.