Companies used to engage executive coaches to help fix toxic behavior demonstrated by their top leaders. Today, most coaching is instead deployed in order to develop the capabilities of high-potential performers, including directors and senior managers. Coaching is no longer seen as an aspirin, but as a vitamin.
An ever-increasing pace of change requires leaders to quickly develop while on the job. Professional development programs or training that take the leader out of the organization to focus on general theories rather than the immediate day-to-day challenges are no longer sufficient.
Using 360-degree feedback is a valuable way to gather data and report back to the individual leader. This feedback has been found to stick better when the leader works with an unbiased external professional to create sustained progress based on that feedback.
Coaching provides a way to use the feedback as a springboard to formulate actionable S.M.A.R.T. goals and an individual development plan to bring about sustained behavioral change. Working in close partnership with a coach, the leader can then be given direction and support as well as be held accountable to meeting these goals.
There are now nearly 50,000 professional coaches worldwide representing about $2 Billion in revenue, according to a 2012 ICF Global Coaching Study.
Coaching is no longer limited to C-suite executives in big companies as those of all size and type now realize the importance of raising leadership capacities of high performers throughout the organization.
Many reasons exist for hiring an executive coach, including:
- Uncover blind spots
- Improve leadership presence
- Improve communication skills
- Improve interpersonal skills
- Make sustained behavioral changes
- Assist with a new leadership role
- Help navigate rapid company growth
Bottom line: a coach can assist whenever you desire to grow as a leader.
A coach can be professional development expert (e.g., leadership development, emotional intelligence, performance management) who provides guidance, insight and challenges your thinking. The coach serves as a confidant and trusted advisor on whom you can fully rely upon. When the coach is external, he or she can serve as an objective outside resource to deliver tough messages those on the inside may not be able to do.
The best coaches serve as partners to their clients not because they know the specific details of your particular business, but because they know people, relationships, organizations and how to bring about behavioral change. They can help you with the interpersonal aspects of leading.
A coach can be especially helpful when you are struggling to best manage yourself when you engage with others.
But you also need to be ready to be coached. Those who are coachable are able to readily share their experience. They know their strengths and are able to accept their weaknesses. They are also capable of taking behavioral risks.
Making behavioral change is hard because it’s not instinctual and it is counter to the way we normally behave. It also becomes especially challenging when under stress, which is when it also matters most.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing to hire a coach is whether the sponsors can be counted on. There may be no better link to coaching effectiveness than whether or not leadership either those above or along side the client are on-board with and supportive of the coaching effort.
As Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan wrote in an article titled “Leadership is a Contact Sport,” leadership is a relationship not between a coach and “coachee,” but between the leader and colleague. It is vitally important that those stakeholders surrounding the one being coached are involved in order for coaching to succeed. Coaching cannot exist in a vacuum.
The ultimate goal of coaching is not dependency on the coach or his or her colleagues. The goal is self-reliance and therefore the one being coached needs to be committed and disciplined.
When there’s a good match between leader and coach, clearly defined goals, a roadmap that leads to behavioral change, commitment to the process, and supportive, involved stakeholders, coaching can be extremely valuable in making more effective leaders.