Optimization of the Executive Coaching Experience

When you hear the words “a growth of over 2,000%” your first hope may very well be, “I wish that was my portfolio!”  No such luck!  Rather, this is the growth in the use of executive coaches since 1999. During that same time period, the overall corporate investment in executive development represented less than 1% of revenues.


The explosive growth in executive coaching begins to make sense when you consider the current status of executive development in corporate organizations. A recent study conducted by The Concours Group indicates that as the global recession has dissipated, companies are looking at new and innovative ways to develop their most valuable asset – their talent!  It is important to understand that The Concours Group research indicates that companies are focusing their primary attention on the top three levels of the organization.


A recent Economist cover story highlighted the emerging global shortfall of skilled talent. In addition, between 2010 and 2050 China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Italy and Germany are among countries who will see their workforces shrink rather than grow. The realities of this situation are prevalent in many sectors of the economy, such as oil, utilities, and health care as well as critical positions necessary in all organizations, such as IT.


The proliferation of executive coaching is justified both by demand and effectiveness. The Corporate Leadership Council positions the use of external coaching as the single most effective developmental strategy for executives. Where formal training was ranked Number 5!


As executive coaching has grown in importance as a developmental strategy, so have concerns about how to measure the impact of the intervention.




 Rationale for Coaching


To optimize the intervention it is necessary to justify and position the coaching relationship. nGenera research indicates there are five rationales associated with the inception of a Coaching relationship supported by a dual desire: for the executive to acquire new skills while increasing their engagement.


The top two justifications are the most common. The first is to groom “high potentials” for current and future roles through knowledge and skills acquisition.  The second is to correct non-productive behaviors.


The next most prevalent rationale is for a senior executive to receive external advice on the caliber of their leadership bench strength.


There are two additional rationales found in executive coaching relationships. The first is to allow a senior executive to test an emerging strategic intent with a recognized Subject Matter Expert such as an academic or thought leader. The last rationale is to be fashionable! Although this seems odd, it does happen. Personally, we think buying a Hermes tie or scarf would be a less expensive solution!


  Avoiding the Pitfalls


To ensure the success of the coaching relationship, in the experience of nGenera there are a number of root causes of failure to be avoided.


The first area is when a manager is informed “You need a coach” without appropriate context. Nor do they participate in the selection of the coach. An added complexity is when the highest level of management is not involved in the Coaching program nor appraised of progress.


The next area of concern is that the relationship does not have pre-determined criteria for success. In this instance the relationship devolves into sessions that are primarily focused on “How is it going?” This phenomenon can become more problematic when the coach lacks the skills required for confronting the client when necessary.


The final area of concern is when there is no set timeframe for the relationship. When this exists, you can count on the relationship going on for an extended period – sometimes regardless of the value delivered!


To optimize the executive Coaching relationship we recommend five steps:


1)      Utilize coaching selectively and with those who will benefit the most – avoid the fashionable trap!


2)      Allow the coaching client to be involved in the process, if not the selection of the coach. Their comfort will contribute immeasurably to the success of the initiative.


3)      Set explicit expectations with the client and coach regarding desired outcomes and timeframes


4)      Ensure that senior management is involved with the executive coaching program and its progress


5)      Do not have the same coach for executives whom have any relationship, and/or organizational affiliation



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