Interview on Coaching with Mike Armour

An interview with Corey Quinn for

What is your definition of an executive/business coach?

Let me begin with the definition of coaching that I give students in my EMBA seminars: Coaching is interactive dialogue in which a facilitator (the coach) uses questions, feedback, and encouragement to help a learner gain deeper self-understanding, improve effectiveness, accelerate achievement, and become fully self-directed in pursuit of personal and/or professional goals.

Within this larger coaching framework, executive and business coaching are special niches defined by the unique demands of executive leadership and business development. While business and executive coaching are quite similar, they are best seen as two different disciplines. Executive coaching generally tends to be focused on the responsibilities of either the current position or the one to which the client aspires. Business coaching, on the other hand, often deals with the entire gamut of business processes, in addition to the executive development of the client.

Why did you become a executive/business coach?

First, because my own career in demanding leadership roles helped me understand the leadership pressures and challenges of top-level executives and people charged with bottom line performance of a business. Second, when I help entrepreneurs and high-level executives improve the quality of their performance, it unleashes a multiplier effect that benefits the health and well-being of the entire organization. This, in turn, gives everyone a more rewarding work experience.

What is unique about your coaching practice?

Two things. First is our focus on strategy, as reflected in the name of the company itself, Strategic Leadership Development International. Because we focus on top-level executives, entrepreneurs, and business owners, our clients are typically men and women who must excel at strategic leadership.

Many of them made it to where they are today by being superb at tactical decisions or through demonstrated technical expertise. They have crossed a threshold, however, where they must now become thought-leaders at the strategic level, not as tacticians or as subject matter experts. For many people this is not an easy transition, and we help them make it.

Second, my firm functions like a virtual company. I have built an alliance of colleagues nationally and internationally, encompassing a wide variety of coaching and leadership development skills. This allows us to quickly form custom-designed teams for engagements that are so large, so geographically dispersed, or so demanding that they exceed the capabilities of one or two coaches.

Because most of these coaches also sub-contract to some of the largest consulting and leadership development firms, they are proven top-line coaches. Thus, with our low overhead as a virtual company, we can offer clients big-firm coaching expertise without the big-firm price tag.

Who is your ideal client?

The ideal client feels the urgency for change, is outcome oriented, is ready to accept full responsibility for effecting the outcomes he or she desires, enjoys learning, and is committed to the coaching process. The surest sign of commitment to the process, I've found, is willingness to adjust calendars and schedules so that coaching sessions are a top priority. Otherwise coaching engagements easily lose momentum.

When is it time for a person to start seeing a executive/business coach?

The majority of my clients come from one of three groups. First are people for whom the demands of their role require them to step up their performance markedly. This may be the result of a promotion, changing market conditions, expansion or restructuring of the company, downsizing, new product lines, regulatory changes, crisis within the organization, conflict over strategic direction — the list is pretty extensive.

Second are those who are in critical career transitions. For mid-level executives, this may be when they become a manager of managers for the first time. From that point forward, every move up the corporate ladder brings enough new challenges that a coach can be quite helpful.

Lateral moves can also be a timely moment for coaching. Companies frequently prepare high-potential managers for greater responsibility by moving them into new functional areas where they can gain valuable knowledge and a deeper understanding of the business. These lateral moves often move the manager outside of his or her technical expertise and can be just as demanding as moves resulting from promotion.

The third group — and one that has grown significantly during the economic downturn — are people who are ready to step out of corporate life and start their own business or professional venture. If they have always worked within a large company environment, they may have little experience with the ancillary issues of building a business. Now they must develop expertise in a whole host of business processes that never concerned them directly before.

Copyright 2011