To develop talent, companies need to pursue a number of different initiatives, such as continuing education and mentorship. In addition, talent development programs should not neglect members of the executive staff, who can benefit from executive coaching. A recent report commissioned by the American Management Association called Coaching: A Global Study of Successful Practices predicted that executive coaching will become more popular in 2016 and moving forward.
This increase in executive coaching owes to many factors, not least of which is the Harvard Business Review statistic that two out of five chief executive officers fail within 18 months of assuming the position. The rampant failure may stem from the isolation of the role, which can be mitigated by an executive coach, who doubles as a sounding board and confidante. Another major factor in the increase in coaching is the generational shift now occurring in the business world. As more baby boomers begin to retire, more executive coaches are needed to help with succession planning and to ensure that the next generation of C-level leaders have the tools they need to succeed.
Yet another driving force behind the increased rate of executive coaching is a growing focus on talent retention. When companies invest in coaching, they show their executives they are valued, and in turn, work ethic often improves, as does job satisfaction and happiness.
Regardless of the reasons behind the expansion of executive coaching, the practice has a number of benefits, including:
Executive coaching encourages introspection and helps people analyze their own behavior, as well as how people tend to respond to it. This increased self-awareness helps individuals lead with more confidence and fine-tune their behaviors to communicate more effectively. In addition, many executives struggle with self-limiting beliefs, and coaching can help them overcome these obstacles. Coaching also helps people see when they are leading effectively, when they aren’t, and what they can do about it. With this self-awareness, leaders have the ability to reach their full potential.
Better leadership skills.
Greater self-awareness lays the foundation for better leadership skills, especially as executives become more effective communicators. However, executive coaching can help leaders develop skills in other areas, such as emotional intelligence, which is the ability to recognize and manage one’s personal emotions, as well as those of others. This ability increases an individual’s capacity for empathy and helps executives connect more fully to their employees. The modern business world is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of emotional intelligence, and it tends to reward people who can control their impulses and handle matters with care and thoughtfulness, rather than bluntness. Executive coaches understand how to help people cultivate these skills to inspire confidence and build stronger teams in the office.
Increased sense of purpose.
When companies invest in an executive coach, that very act makes the employee feel like they have significant value to the company, and it will often motivate them to work harder. Executive coaches understand how to channel this energy into a greater sense of purpose that aligns with the executive’s values and the company’s goals. Great executive coaches can provide the inspiration that enables executives to achieve more than they ever have in their career, which benefits the company while also reinforcing the executive’s newfound sense of purpose. Over time, executives tend to become more confident in themselves and their work, which will also improve their relationships with colleagues and other employees.
Choosing the Right Executive Coach
Unfortunately, not all executive coaches are effective or qualified, and even if they are, their personality may not mesh well with every upper-level manager. And when personalities conflict, the results can be devastating. What one executive considers motivational, another person may see as overbearing or uninspiring. In addition, some coaches may encourage further dependence on coaching, which undermines the sense of confidence and independence that the executive ultimately should develop. When looking for an executive coach, it’s important to ask about his or her personal style and to consider the personality of the leader who will be coached. In addition, it’s a good idea to have a sense of the executive’s particular issues and concerns, as some coaches may have more experience with certain problems than others. In the end, fit is extremely important.
Companies should also ask a prospective coach about his or her background working with executives in their particular industry. Corporate environments are much different than the other settings that these sorts of coaches have often worked, and it’s critical that they understand how the company works in the larger context of the industry. If the coach does not have direct experience, then he or she should be willing and eager to learn.
Trust is also important, especially in a corporate setting where trade secrets may be openly and frequently discussed. The company, as well as the coach, needs to trust that everything is kept confidential; a nondisclosure agreement can assist with this.