A Reader Writes:
My boss assigned me an executive coach to help me transition from managing a small domestic team to leading a regional team with greater responsibilities. In the past few months I have received very valuable coaching to help me identify my strengths and weaknesses as I adjust to my new position. I was completely unprepared, however, for the results of a casual Google search that I did on my coach that revealed that he is a lay leader of a fundamentalist religious congregation. On the website of this organization it states many views that I find objectionable, not the least of which advocates a strict assignment of roles within society; a woman’s place is in the home raising a family, marriage is between one woman and one man, and salvation can only be achieved through a specific deity and belief system. My question is this: How can this coach be my advocate if I do not live up to the standards of a religious group that he leads that renders me a sinner?
Consider the variations of this question that the Navigator has heard when clients seek the right fit in a coach:
“I am a middle manager who is taking over a team. In my organization we have an internal coach who can provide ongoing support throughout the year. I am concerned whether this person is a good fit for me. I have strong religious convictions and the internal coach is gay. I do not feel that I can respect this person and it may impede the coaching relationship”
Or this ….
“I have been newly promoted in my company to Senior Vice President (SVP). A perk of this title is to receive the benefits of an executive coach. Several other SVPs have all used one particular coach who they have given high marks. However, these other SVPs are men who benefited from this male coach. I am female who would prefer a female coach. Should gender play a role when choosing a good fit for a coach?”
This is a timely topic in which readers want to know if an executive coach should mirror their own gender, political views, race, and other such demographics. It is no surprise that the zeitgeist of identity politics on a national theme has influenced the warm interior of Human Resources in their leadership development offerings.
The Navigator has heard various opinions on this topic which he has distilled to two diverse schools of thought:
Opinion 1: Effective education means learning from experiences and people that are different from that which you were raised. To build expertise, it is important to gain exposure to teachers, mentors, and coaches who have different values, points of view and experience. A difference in demographic is only one data point to take into consideration of the efficacy of an executive coach which should include experience, certification, integrity, personality, method, and style.
Opinion 2: When seeking the right fit in a leadership coach, it’s important for you to feel that the coach is someone you can identify with, and emulate. You should meet with several coaches to try them out as you would when trying out a pair of shoes. It’s your prerogative to feel comfortable with your choice. A coach with a similar demographic as your own can be more empathetic to your challenges and be better suited to help you actualize your goals.
What are your thoughts?