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James Flanagan

Freelance Training Consultant

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Executive coaching: Criteria for success


James Flanagan gives a high level explanation of the traits - both within the person and the corporation – and the components of coaching necessary for it to be successful.

Fast-moving economic and market conditions require flexibility, creativity and innovation. Coaching brings forth and nourishes the talents and skill sets within others to achieve this. For a manager to be an effective coach it requires more than the application of a technical understanding of a newly acquired skill set.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter in The Enduring Skills of Change Leaders, published in the Leader to Leader Journal, No 13, Summer 1999 states, “change-adept organisations share three attributes: the imagination to innovate, the professionalism to perform, and the openness to collaborate”. She identifies the three most important personal characteristics to make this happen: passion, conviction, and confidence in others. These are the characteristics, particularly the latter, necessary for a manager to become an effective coach.

Chris Lowney in his book, Heroic Leadership, 2005, explains how a manager can achieve this. He identifies four traits - self-awareness, creativity or ingenuity, innovation or heroism and passion. People with these traits know themselves, they think creatively, adapt confidently to a rapidly changing world and respect the dignity and potential of those around them. It is this trait, the ability to recognise the potential of those around them that is the key to effective coaching. By developing self-awareness a person opens themselves to the opportunity to rid themselves of ingrained dysfunctional habits. Stripped of these dysfunctional habits, such as judging others on the basis of little knowledge, they think differently and creatively. Freed of limiting thoughts they begin to take risks previously only dreamt of. Transformed and empowered with this self knowledge they begin to see others differently too, they realise the potential in others.

Developing self-awareness also generates creativity and innovation. Self-awareness allows ingenuity and the necessary confidence to implement changes and the readiness to try something new. If we are more aware of ourselves we become more understanding of the people we engage or work with. This understanding creates a more co-operative environment.


Hugh Murray in Coaching: the Power of Questions defines coaching as an approach to management in which the manager encourages people to reach their full potential by encouraging self-belief and increased self-awareness. Self-belief gives people the drive to achieve their potential, self-development gives them the means. Self-awareness is the foundation of both.

Coaching is about unlocking a coachee’s potential by helping them to learn rather than teaching them how we would do things and demanding they copy. Coaching makes the coachee responsible for the resolution.


A coach encourages self-belief by encouraging the coachee to dig deep within themselves to recognise their talents and abilities. The aim is to create a virtuous circle in which the individual succeeds and this increases his or her self-belief. The increased self-belief leads the individual to strive for greater success and this builds more self-belief. Encouraging self-belief involves two main elements. It helps people to set goals for themselves that stretch them beyond what they can comfortably achieve but which are within their capacity and achieve those goals by encouraging them to devise and implement their own action plans.

The second element is to encourage people to review their experiences and to draw appropriate lessons from them. Coaching encourages them to understand themselves better by providing neutral, objective feedback. In this way negative or unsuccessful experiences can be used to fuel realistic assessments of the current limits of skills or expertise to encourage more learning and spur the avoidance of similar failure rather than a damaging wound to self-confidence that prevents further attempts to develop.

James Flanagan, a training director of consultancy specialising in positive leadership. His most recent assignment has been delivering a programme he and a colleague designed, ‘Manager to Coach,’ in a UK plant of a global manufacturing organisation. James Flanagan helps organisations to change by increasing the leadership and communication skills of management. Using proven methodologies he creates frameworks and develops the skill level and capability of management to use the frameworks.

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James Flanagan

Freelance Training Consultant

Read more from James Flanagan

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