Leadership

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Executive Coaching, a hot topic over the last couple of years. But is it effective? Does it pay off? Do the results stick?

What Are Your Desired Results?

It’s good to start out by identifying the results you want. For a business owner or business executive, that will surely include improving your ability to move the company to the next level. You will likely want to sharpen your own time management skills. You may want to discuss company direction, or challenges facing your organization. You might even want to review alignment of your company departments with the overall vision and direction. A coach can help you do all of these and more. But you should take time before you start to get these clear, and to define the results you are expecting in each of your areas of concern.

Three Areas for the Buyer to Review

So, who is doing coaching, and what are their credentials?. There is a move today among many professions into coaching, primarily into “life coaching”. There is also a move to certify coaches, emanating primarily from companies whose main business is certifying coaches (duh!). The business man or woman who is considering hiring a coach should review three areas: 1) What actual experience has the coach had in the business world? 2) What results did the coach see when working in that world? And 3) What results has the coach seen since opening his/her practice? In any new endeavor there is a pattern evident, beginning with the opening of the field by people who have worked hands on and are now farming themselves out to others to get them started.

An obvious example is the PC computer industry. In the beginning (the first five years or so) the people available to help with business computing were primarily those had worked on computers. Some were good, some were bad, but they had all learned ‘by the seat of their pants’. As time went on a lot of different credentials came and went, but those that have stuck are those that have produced people who give results, and many of those still are not degreed people. Coaching is no different; if the coach you are interviewing can’t show you results, keep looking.

How Do Coaches Work?

There are a wide variety of coaching approaches, of course, but they’re really not too hard to sort out. If you want someone to discuss things with, bounce ideas and strategies off of, then once or twice a month for an hour at a time will probably meet your needs. In that case, the experience of the coach will have a lot of bearing on the discussion, and the advice you’re going to get.

If, on the other hand, you are looking to change attitudes or build new skills, you will obviously need someone who is going to meet with you more often, and who has a system to help you develop these new abilities. Remember, old habits and attitudes took years to develop, you’re not going to get rid of them by reading a book, talking with someone once or twice, or going to a seminar. It will take directed effort toward a specific end, and the coach is there to advise and to hold you accountable.

What Results Can You Expect?

Results will depend on the type of organization and on the position of the person being coached. A recent study of executive coaching results in a Fortune 500 firm reported a 529% return on investment and significant intangible results to the business (study by Metrix Global). Manchester Incorporated completed a survey of 100 executives and found that the average return on investment was six times the money spent on the coaching process. Interestingly, an internal report from the Personnel Management Association reported that training alone produced a 22% productivity increase, but training combined with coaching increased productivity to an average of 86%.

Why the big results? Some of it has to do with the personal aspect inherent to coaching – it’s just more effective to be able to think through strategies when it’s done with someone else. But there is also the factor of increased accountability, and if it’s done right, the systematic addition of new habits and skills, that account for most of the increase. This is particularly true with an executive or business owner. The executive position has (of course) associated costs that go far beyond the salary of the executive. Decisions made at this level affect the entire company, which may include hundreds or thousands of people. Rework generated by poor decisions here can result in costs in the millions. Poor relationship skills may leave contracts on the table involving the same amount, or result in union activities or significant drops in morale. Faulty direction could put a company out of business, or at best force it through years of playing catch up with competitors. The risks of executive actions are significant, but consequently so are the opportunities when improvement is systematically under-taken.

Conclusion

Executive coaching, done systematically with an experienced coach, is extremely likely to produce outcomes far in excess of its cost. The only caveat being the willingness of the executive to apply himself or herself in developing the new habits and attitudes. In a nutshell – it’s worth the investment.