Who needs executive coaching?

Executive coaching is also a form of leadership training that helps CEOs and other executives develop their communication skills, understand how to foster professional relationships, and work better with others. Executive training (personal leadership training by someone who provides it for a living) should be used as a powerful prescription drug that works better under certain conditions. When used as a panacea, it is less effective, too expensive and has negative side effects. So when should an executive be prescribed? When should it be avoided? Based on the latest research and the 25 years that I have been training top executives and young leaders with high potential, here are five diagnostic questions to ask yourself before making the decision to hire a coach.

How expensive and time-consuming is executive coaching? While there is a huge variation in fees and agreements between coaches, be prepared to pay a C-level coach the same as you pay your best lawyer. If this seems excessive, consider that a coach must have the experience and knowledge to quickly understand a leader's situation, challenge assumptions and choices, and contribute new and credible ideas. Doing this with the best and brightest is not easy. And given the influence a coach can have on an executive's decisions and actions during a typical six- to 12-month engagement that includes bimonthly meetings, regular phone calls, and email inquiries, a bargain coach whose sophistication doesn't match that of the client is a big mistake.

People, relationships, organizations and behavior change are what executive coaches know best. When an executive strives to learn how best to manage themselves and engage others, you've found the sweet spot for executive coaching. The customer has to want to change. A bright and motivated coaching client can overcome most challenges.

A bright and unmotivated person will waste everyone's time and money. Working with an executive who has been pressured by his boss or by the human resources department to be a coach is a difficult battle, although not impossible. Look for an unusual growth record under the guidance of teachers and mentors. Trained executives easily share their experience.

They are realistic about their strengths and weaknesses. They learn from others, but they do it in their own way, taking responsibility for what happens. They know how to take advantage of a coach. Changing the way you think and act is difficult even when you have the support of others.

But when the key leaders who are above or by your side are indifferent, skeptical, or hostile to the changes you're trying to make, things become exponentially more difficult. Coaching works best when key people in the executive world strongly support it. They need to provide tailwinds, not headwinds. Coaching relationships in a support vacuum crumble before reaching any goal.

When the conditions are right, executive coaching can be one of the best investments in people you can make. But it's not a panacea for all executive development problems. Answer these five questions and you'll make better decisions about who is likely to benefit from coaching. First, many executive coaches, especially those inspired by sports, sell themselves as providers of simple answers and quick results.

Second, even coaches who accept that an executive's problems may require time to address tend to rely solely on behavioral solutions. Finally, executive coaches who don't know the dynamics of psychotherapy often exploit the powerful control they develop over their clients. Unfortunately, the wrong coaching ignores and even creates deep-seated psychological problems that often only psychotherapy can solve. Many coaches gain control similar to that of Svengali over both the executives they train and the CEOs they report to, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Take the case of Tom Davis, the coach who worked with Rob Bernstein, the executive vice president of sales for an auto parts dealer. Executive coaches are well aware of these leadership skills because most of them have years of successful leadership under their belt. During these incredibly crazy, incessant, and spatially blurry times, executive coaching provides perhaps the best of gifts and resources. Executive coaches provide the necessary guidance to support and help their clients achieve their professional goals, so that they can reach their full professional potential.

As management guru Warren Bennis observes: “Much of executive coaching is really an acceptable form of psychotherapy. Not all executive coaches are as indifferent as those at Mansfield to underlying psychological disorders. To better help their executives, companies must leverage the experience of both psychotherapists and executive advisors with legitimate skills. Executive advisors are trained to help a wide range of different clients from different industries, backgrounds, positions, and salary levels.

In fact, many coaches gain control similar to that of Svengali over both the executives they train and the CEOs they report to, sometimes with disastrous consequences. For example, a coach who trains executives to improve their strategic planning skills doesn't need to be a psychiatrist. To achieve quick results, many popular executive coaches model their interventions based on those used by sports coaches, using techniques that outright reject any introspective process that could take time and cause “paralysis” through analysis. For example, many coaches who work with executives who seem to lack confidence use the technique in an effort to get them to perform better.

An executive coach will show you the importance of creating productive relationships with those around you so that you have the ability to motivate, inspire and develop them directly. But realizing that he had plenty of charisma, McNulty decided, while studying business with a specialization in sports psychology, that he would pursue a career as an executive coach. Since many executive coaches were corporate people in previous lives, they connect with CEOs much more easily than most psychotherapists. .

Kaleb Whitcomb
Kaleb Whitcomb

Wannabe web fanatic. Extreme twitter maven. Subtly charming tv geek. Extreme coffee guru. Typical twitter maven.