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Executive Coaching in Crisis and in the Every Day

Executive Coaching in Crisis and in the Every Day
By Sally Coates, Sally H. Coates Consulting

Uneasy is the head that wears the crown.
(Shakespeare, in Henry IV, Part 2, Act 3, scene 1, lines 26–31)

Now more than ever, in this time of crisis, multiple voices are prepared to give you their great advice… ‘heavy is definitely the head’. Blogs, news briefs, group emails, government policy briefs, all have suggestions for how you, the CEO/ED, should navigate these difficult times.

The noise can be overwhelming, particularly as you struggle to run your nonprofit agency, juggle programming, and appease stakeholders all at once. Staff, donors, grantors, the board, volunteers – who should be your priority?

An Executive Coach can be the silent partner to answer your questions about which road to take, which outside voice to listen to, which internal voice to hear and encourage you as you decide what to do. Coaches in the ‘every day’ also support long term Executive Directors in their drive to keep learning and maintain their passion for the mission and the work.

So, what is executive coaching; why is it important and is it worth the cost?
Coaching is a one-on-one relationship between an ED/CEO and a skilled, experienced coach who listens objectively to issues, questions and concerns, and frames them within the interests of your organization, best practices and standards. It goes beyond a leadership course or workshop; a coach can assess your concerns, programs and board or development issue – in crisis and in more stable times – to sort through the essentials of what needs to be accomplished. A coach facilitates professional development in current circumstances and supports growth to address long-term demands.

Many nonprofit leaders do not have the luxury of an executive coach. There is always the concern that requesting the support of a coach implies poor performance, lack of belief in your own ability, or lack of trust by the board. Yet in this Joan Garry article, Joan makes the compelling point that Roger Federer, best of the best in the tennis world, has a coach (or more) with him all the time. This does not indicate a lack of performance or confidence in any way! Another concern is the cost of a coach and using funds for staff development. A nonprofit board must consider the worth of such an expense and consider creative ideas about funding sources.

If the board is prepared to make the cost and time investment in an executive director, a coach can have a tremendous impact on both an organization and its leadership. A leader empowered with new skills and confidence is inevitably more effective and less stressed.

Impact Foundry maintains a list of nonprofit consultants and their ‘special expertise’ that is accessible here.

Many consultants are now offering their services pro-bono. Could you benefit from executive coaching? Now might be the time to find out.

Sally has 30 years’ experience as an Executive Director with a variety of nonprofit organizations. Her resume includes responsibilities of Board Chair, board member and executive management, as well as development, finance, accounting and treasury operations. Most recently she served as the Executive Director of the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program in San Francisco. Prior to that she was the Executive Director of Episcopal Charities of the Diocese of California, and Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Bay Area Affiliate. Her volunteer roles include Board Chair of Guide Dogs for the Blind, President of the Junior League of San Francisco, and Chair of the national board, Episcopal Communities Services of America.