The Value of Executive Coaching

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Olympic gold medalists Jamie Anderson, Chloe Kim and Mikaela Shiffrin have coaches. Pat Summitt, the late coach of the University of Tennessee’s women’s basketball team, was hugely influential to female coaches and players across the nation. During her nearly 40 years of coaching, Summitt achieved the record for the most all-time wins for a coach in NCAA basketball history.

Even Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and one of the richest people in the world, announced at a Ted Talk, “Everyone needs a coach, whether we are a chief executive officer, leader, teacher, basketball player or bridge player…we all need people who will help us reach our goals and give us feedback.” It’s interesting, though, that when Stanford University did a survey some years ago to learn if most CEOs had coaches, only about 30 percent said yes. But almost all of them would be open to it.

What is executive coaching, and does it work?
Perhaps look no further for your answer than to Jeff Bezos, the founder, chairman and CEO of Amazon. If you consider financial wealth a good indicator, then executive coaching worked for him. He just bested Bill Gates as the richest person in the world.

Of course, financial wealth is not the only benefit of executive coaching. It also contributes to continual and lifelong learning.

It is true that at one time, coaching was frowned upon and had a negative reputation due to its “remedial nature.” If things weren’t going well in the old days, well, you just stuck it out and hoped for the best. Seeking help was a sign of weakness, almost like advertising that you couldn’t do your job. But today, with successful and well-known people such as Elton John and Oprah Winfrey seeking out executive coaches, it’s a surefire way to reach the top of your field faster and with fewer problems along the way.

Executive coaching is one-to-one performance coaching and is aimed at motivating and inspiring executives to increase their leadership ability, which subsequently improves their company or organization. Executives who hire these coaches may be experiencing difficulty with managing and engaging others around them. Perhaps they are experiencing problems communicating more effectively with a new branch manager in a new market, or working with a technical team since they are lacking in that area of expertise. Most executive coaching revolves around behavioral change with regard to people and relationships. This type of coaching is usually performed by coaches outside of the organization for an agreed-upon duration or total number of sessions.

When it’s done correctly, executive coaching takes time. It should be impactful and come with an action plan. If you are a CEO or high-level corporate executive, also known as C-Suite level, your company needs to be prepared to pay your coach a rate similar to that of the corporate attorney. You want a coach to be experienced, quick to understand your situation and able to offer excellent ideas and solutions. That’s why a good executive coach is worth the price.

But keep in mind that your coach is not being paid to be a quick-answer consultant. Their job is to increase your ability to become independent in action and thought. Beware of executive coaches who hard sell themselves as “coaches bearing answers and fast results.” Be sure your coach is equipped with legitimate skills and your company has vetted the coach or performed some type of post-coaching evaluation from other contractual arrangements.

You will most likely be contracting for a six- to twelve-month period that includes a few meetings every month plus phone calls and emails. With Skype, email and instant messaging, it’s more productive than ever before.

If done right, coaching will open your eyes to personal barriers and increase your effectiveness with others, not to mention yourself. But it works best when you are ready and open to learn. Otherwise, you will be wasting both time and money.

There are many other ways to tackle growth as a leader in addition to executive coaching: mentoring, reading, other training offered within the organization and, most certainly, your manager. If you feel that you haven’t received enough attention from your very own manager, practice polite assertiveness to encourage what you need. Your manager is already being paid to coach you.

In the end, executive coaching should provide exceptional results for you. Many of us don’t really know what’s it’s like to “be us.” We can’t see ourselves objectively. A good coach can show you a new perspective on yourself. Imagine getting personalized behavioral insights that you’ve never known and then having the ability to understand these attributes and apply them in actionable steps.

After a successful relationship with an executive coach, you could dramatically change your day-to-day life. ■

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