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Executive Coaching

How to manage role stretch

Executive Coaching

Executive Coaching is a service provided by independent coaches, aimed at helping the coachee achieve higher levels of performance and personal fulfilment in their work.

This article examines how to manage role stretch in order to get the optimum balance of both performance and personal development/fulfilment (there is also an executive coaching supplementary article that gives some examples based on MTR-i team roles and personality type).

One of the key areas to address in executive coaching is the degree of stretch between

  1. the executive's personality, preferences and skills, and
  2. their work role and how they approach it.

Executive Coaching and performance

There are broadly two schools of thought on how to increase performance in Executive Coaching.

Our view is that both of these can be true and they represent an important tension that needs to be managed effectively. The main aims in executive coaching are therefore to:

  1. raise awareness of the differing needs of the individual and the job
  2. identify the degree of stretch currently being experienced between the two
  3. set goals for the degree of stretch that the individual needs to achieve
  4. establish an action plan to achieve that new degree of stretch - ie to be stretched more or to be stretched less

The table below provides a useful framework for discussing these steps during executive coaching.

Small stretch
(role is close to personal preferences)
Big stretch
(role is very different from personal preferences)
Good stretch
(experienced as good by the individual)
Fulfilment, contentment, sense of enjoyment, feeling of "I'm in the right job", wanting to contribute, enthusiasm, personal needs met, willingness to adapt (temporarily) to others' differing styles. Meeting challenges, striving to improve, a feeling of "this is doing me good", sense of personal development, increasing comfort with non-preferred roles, other forums where personal needs met.
Bad stretch
(experienced as bad by the individual)
Boredom, stagnation, character 'ossification', lack of challenge, feeling of "I've done it all before", lack of flexibility, unwillingness to accommodate others' styles. Stress, demotivation, difficulty coping, a feeling of "I can't go on with this", looking for other jobs, opting out, depression, 'no light at the end of the tunnel'.

The client should place themselves in the table according to where they are now, and then according to where they want to be.

It is often difficult for executives to choose to behave in different ways, because they are under pressure to deliver organisational goals. In such circumstances, rather than swim against the tide, they should change the nature of external pressure/demands being placed on them. This usually does not involve changing existing organisational goals, but rather changing their work environment - for example, by:

The aim of such actions, from an executive coaching viewpoint, is to change the external stretch so that job pressures and personal development are aligned.


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