Why executive coaching is back in vogue
Executive coaching can improve performance at work and help people progress their careers, Marielena Sabatier says
Executive coaching is back in fashion. The growing optimism in economic growth has led to resurgence in the number of companies investing in executive and leadership coaching as the learning development tool of choice for senior executives and CEOs.
According to CIPD’s 2014 Learning and Development study[i], 78 per cent of organisations intended to carry out leadership development activities in the next 12 months in order to change behaviour or organisational culture, as well as develop high-potential individuals.
Research from Henley Business School[ii] last year found that individual and team coaching are the top leadership and development tools for businesses; and that 83 per cent of organisations intended to make use of coaching, with external coaches preferred for executive and senior management.
Before the financial crisis, executive coaching was becoming a popular way for companies to develop emotional intelligence in senior leaders. However, investment in coaching naturally dropped off during the past few difficult years.
Now it’s back on the agenda as businesses seek to take advantage of growth opportunities there is a notable growth in demand for coaching aimed at developing people’s softer skills such as self-awareness, empathy and interpersonal skills, which are deemed as just as important for today’s leaders as good business acumen.
The use of coaching in business has been around since the 1980s but it’s only now that businesses are starting to understand its potential to develop leaders and give them the edge in an increasingly competitive global business environment.
A recent report ‘Coaching: A Global Study of Successful Practices - Current Trends and Future Possibilities 2008-2018’[iii] , commissioned by the American Management Association demonstrated a growing interest in and use of executive coaching worldwide, primarily aimed at increasing individual performance.
This study highlights that for many – executive coaching is a new venture - with 87 per cent of companies said they had been running their coaching programmes for just over a year, and only 33 per cent saying they have existed for over five years. The study also found 57 per cent of companies were using coaching more than in the past.
Life coaching or executive coaching
People are often confused about the difference between life coaching and executive coaching. Although there are some crossovers, a key distinction is that life coaching covers personal issues such as helping someone lose weight, gain confidence or become more motivated. Executive coaching on the other hand focuses on improving performance at work and helping people progress their careers.
There are times of course when life coaching and executive coaching overlap and personal issues can sometimes be discussed in executive coaching; for example, if someone was going through a divorce and it was affecting their performance at work then it would be appropriate to address how it’s affecting them, in order to help them be more focused and be more engaged at work.
Equally, life coaching can veer into discussions about work and career, as they are often big issues that can affect someone’s confidence or motivation, or cause them to feel stressed in their personal life. The important thing to remember is that both types of coaching are completely confidential and are designed to help people in whatever area of life or work its needed.
Some of the main benefits of executive coaching are that it helps leaders raise their self-awareness, learn about what might be holding them back or hindering their success, improve their self-confidence, increase their gravitas and ensure better communication skills. It can help leaders become more authentic and make it easier for them to inspire, motivate and influence those around them.
The ability for CEOs to communicate effectively, to reward, innovate, as well as care about and develop people will motivate employees far more than the ‘lone-wolf’ leadership styles that are no longer acceptable.
Tips on choosing an executive coach
For executive coaching to be truly effective the client must trust the coach in order to open up and reveal more themselves in order to get the most out of the coaching experience, and the executive coach must have the experience, skills and tools to create passion purpose and results.
Get this right and leaders can greatly improve their performance and achieve even better results for their company.
Below are some tips for choosing a coach:
Corporate experience – a coach must have a real understanding of what it’s like to work in a large corporate environment, although which sector this is in is not so important.
Coaching experience – a good coach will be able to demonstrate their depth of experience. Anyone can say they are an executive coach so look for a track record of success, testimonials and good references
Chemistry – this is really important. People must be able to open up and trust their coach and trust is often built up over time as they work together on a regular basis. Qualifications and training should be a given and companies must ensure they check these
Confidentiality - people must feel confident they can confide in their coach and that this will always be confidential. Break this and trust will be lost.
Challenge and support – a coach must be prepared to challenge but also support people – a mix of challenge of empathy is needed in equal doses
Nigel Paine stresses the importance of trust.
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