The practice of confrontation in executive coaching

Giuseppe Ando
min read
The practice of confrontation in executive coaching
The practice of confrontation in executive coaching | peopleHum

How confrontation plays a role in executive leadership coaching

Over the years, the term "confrontation" has been so widely used in professions based on communicative relationships, that its most authentic and original meaning seems to have been lost.

The concept of "confrontation" in a professional sense, ie as a technique of exchanging thoughts and contents aimed at framing a problem or, in any case, a problematic context or potentially identifiable as such, arises in the context of transactional analysis and is a specific technique or procedure that must be used in equally specific contexts. Coaching (and not only) has taken possession (in my opinion legitimately) of this technique, focusing it more on aspects related to factual planning (action, change, implementation, etc.) rather than on an exclusively aware framing of the problematic context.

Furthermore, the coach is not a partner in identifying the problematic framework, but his partnership is expressed in indicating an internal exploratory method, to autonomously set in motion one's own potential for analysis and synthesis aimed at producing concrete behavioral changes. But when does "confrontation" come into play in executive leadership coaching? Comparison is required when a logical discontinuity (contradictions, blatant lies, reticence, etc.) is perceived in the coachee's speeches or a total, or even partial, inconsistency between the intentions formulated by the coachee and the real behaviors.

Once again we talk about the contract between coach and coachee, that is, between commitments mutually assumed to achieve a goal based on a behavioral change. The non-fulfillment of the coachee requires a review (here is the "comparison") of the commitments undertaken and of the methods for confirming and maintaining them, between the coach and the coachee. IS' an authentic confrontation that puts the coachee in "default" to bring him back to his original contractual responsibilities.

It is the specific task of the coach to conduct the "confrontation" with appropriate technical methods to safeguard the integrity of the coachee's self-esteem and self-confidence. In this sense, the confrontation process must follow a series of specific steps, in order to ensure that the problem is not avoided, but, at the same time, that the situation does not degenerate into a sterile and compromising conflict. Below we try to hypothesize a typical procedure:

  • Negotiation between coach and coachee of a suitable place and time to discuss the contents of the original executive leadership coaching contract.  
  • Review together the parts of the agreement that specify the objectives of the coaching path and the methodological and operational methods to achieve them.
  • With an adequate communication style, choosing appropriate tone and words, the coach indicates all perceived discrepancies between the provisions of the contract and the real behaviors of the coachee.
  • The coach indicates which behaviors would have been preferable (according to his NOT unquestionable way of seeing) and asks the coachee if this stimulates in him the right reflections to propose behaviors that lead to greater adherence to the contents of the agreement.
  • At this point the coach asks the coachee what his perception of the situation is (it is important that it happens after the coach has explained what his perception is) and what reaction this confrontation provokes.
  • The coach listens and then proposes to reach an agreed conclusion, of which the coachee is the main protagonist.

Obviously, no one likes to be "confronted," so a calm, respectful and unemotional coach position is more than helpful. The comparison procedure is fundamental when it comes to bringing the coachee's "declared" to coherence with respect to his real actions and behaviors.

About the author

Giuseppe Ando is a C-Level & Executive Coach - Associate Partner at the acclaimed Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching. With a career that presides at the crux of the Venn diagram of Passion, Skills, and Experience, Giuseppe’s reputation as top executive coach has spanned decades. Among his many accolades, he is also recognized for his unique ability to understand and inspire those he coaches to excel professionally and personally while also delivering their organization’s desired results.

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