When we hear about Executive Coaching, we usually form an opinion that we know what it is and what it entails. It’s about Coaching, isn’t it? And Coaching is about talking. Why do we need someone to talk to and what good will they really do?

Well, that’s the point I want to talk about.

If you have a problem within your organisation, such as a history of bad decision-making by management or the Board, that has led to a particular mind-set that has resulted in a “stuck” position of culture or leadership, then what would lead you to believe that the level of thinking that got you there will get you out of it?

It won’t! THIS is when you should utilise a Business Coach.

But what if the Coach cannot think at a sufficiently high level of cognitive complexity in order to be of service? What if you, as the CEO think at a higher level than the Coach? Then quite frankly, the Coach could do more harm than good in this situation.

The Coach needs to be able to recognise how you create meaning in your world through your language, and if they are at a lower level (of complexity) than you, then they will not be able to see your patterns. Period. And that is potentially dangerous for you and your business.

In works pioneered by Kegan and Lahey, then Laske and de Vische, the ability of a person to think cognitively and socially-emotionally complexly is imperative for higher levels of thinking that will benefit leaders and pull businesses out of the quagmire of process and contextual stuck-ness. As a Business Coach, it is important to me to ensure I am thinking one level above my clients in order to actually be of service to them. “Above” does not mean “better”.

The various tools available to Coaches are useless unless they can recognise those patterns of thought and meaning-making in their clients that will get to the crux of the problem, and that will be the meaning they give to their experiences. The profile tools you are probably familiar with are not suitable as a measurement for this type of Coaching. They do not offer a deep-enough understanding of complexity of thinking, and focus only on behaviours. Behaviours are a result of one’s level of development, not the other way around.

So when a CEO is “stuck” in his thinking patterns, what he invariably needs is someone who can raise his level of thinking UP a level so when he looks at historical problems he had as a lower level thinker, he will never encounter them again in the same way, as his thinking complexity will have transcended the limited perspective he previously held.

If the Coach you hire cannot see your complex patterns of thought within your dialogue, he will not be able to help you progress. If your Coach relies on one particular method of gathering information about you, such as a written profile system, then he is ill-equipped to understand fully how you create meaning and sense in the world, and thus, how you arrived at previous decisions.

I believe it is this single fact that renders Coaching as less significant than it should be in the UK by Coaches who have inadequate training for their profession, or who rely on the wrong types of tools in order to perform in their role more effectively, which will be the subject of my next published article.