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Making the Most of Executive Coaching

Executive coaching is now a $1-2 billion industry, experiencing incredible growth around the world despite the recent economic downturn. It seems everyone is using coaching for a wide assortment of reasons: developing leadership effectiveness, managing international transitions, or even improving "executive presence". Various research studies show 55% - 70% of the Fortune 500 are now using executive coaches. In our 2005 research, 43% of CEOs and 71% of executive team members had worked with a coach.

So you are thinking about hiring a coach for yourself. Should you work with a coach? How do you make the most of this important investment? Based on my 15 years experience screening executive coaching requests (as well as our research interviews) I have a few recommendations for you.

A Coach for What?
While it is trendy to claim, "I have a coach," you need to be clear on why you want coaching. Most commonly, coaches are used to help an executive develop their leadership capability. But there are coaches to assist in transitions, next career steps, personal life challenges and more. Ensure you are hiring the right coach matched to your development objectives.

Look For A Great Coach, But Not a Mirror Image
Your organization should offer a choice of pre-identified, pre-approved coaches (if not, ask for it). Review their bios and interview them. Executives told us "ability to build rapport" and "business experience" were far and away the most important factors in their selection. Choose a coach you can relate comfortably, yet will also keep you on your toes.

Work Hard, But Smart
Leaders tell us you will really need to dedicate yourself and your time to your coaching experience. Be challenged and open to new ways of doing things. But don't over use your time – or become too dependent - on a coach. You want to accomplish specific goals as quickly as possible. You have to do the heavy lifting, your coach just guides you along the way.

Measuring Results: It's About You
Your leadership improvement is actually measurable, as identified by those working with you. Our research repeatedly shows that the more you follow-up with those working with you regarding your coaching goals, the more likely they are to see you as improved in follow up "mini surveys". Stay connected to your key stakeholders, and make sure your coach measures improvement.

Make sure your boss is supportive, and keep them involved
A vast majority of satisfied coachees identified a supportive boss during their process. Ensure your boss is behind your coaching effort, let them know what development areas you're working on, and check back along the way to see if they are noticing improvement.

Finally, as one leader told us, "I would say if you have coaching done well, you change your life, and your life as a business leader." Take full advantage of this rich and unique development opportunity. It could be the most rewarding experience of your career!

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