More than two decades ago, executive coaching appeared on the scene in corporate America’s executive-level suites. Since then, many executives have benefitted from professional coaching while some still avoid the concept for fear of being stigmatized or perceived as weak. However, as time passes, many confident executives are realizing the value coaching offers—value supported by research.
“Executive people have no one to manage them. Many have all kinds of bad habits, and no one to hold them accountable,” said Richard Spoon, CEO at ArchPoint. “Many of the executives have lost sight of how they treat people and the importance of enforcing good business practices from the top down. If the boss is not going to do it, why would the organization?”
Additionally, executive coaching provides executives with a much-needed sounding board.
“The CEO rarely has somebody who has their best interest at heart,” said Richard Spoon. “Executives don’t have anybody to talk to. The saying, ‘It’s lonely at the top’ is very real. One of the most important things they’re concerned with is confidentiality. The executive coach is a trusted advisor who considers confidentiality as their top priority.”
RETURN-ON-INVESTMENT OF EXECUTIVE COACHING
Determining the return-on-investment of executive coaching is tricky. “The results come back at five to six times the ROI, in general,” said Spoon. “This is why the Fortune 100 companies are already deep into executive coaching. They’ve recognized the value of coaching, promote it and have integrated it into their culture. In the next 10 years, you’re going to witness the exponential payoffs for those companies which integrate this culture of taking care of their most important asset—their employees.”
In fact, in an independent study published in The Manchester Review, 56 organizations were surveyed and the research shows that each executive’s company obtained 5.45 times its investment in coaching.
Of the executives surveyed, 84 percent of participants and 74 percent of stakeholders said they were “very satisfied” or “extremely satisfied with the coaching process. One executive is quoted as saying, “This has been the greatest gift the company ever gave me. They can give you a bonus, but you’ll just blow it on something. But this is a gift that will stay with me.”
BASIC CATEGORIES OF EXECUTIVE COACHING
Typically, the coaches spent their time working with the executives on five basic categories:
• Enhancing leadership skills
• Enhancing management skills
• Fostering personal growth—work/life balance self-knowledge, clarifying career issues
• Enhancing business agility and technical or functional credibility
• Enhancing interpersonal skills
“Executives’ clients need to understand personalities—their own and others,” Spoon said. “If you get that, it saves you so much trouble. Without that understanding, personalities clash and people quit.”
Sawalha recommends weekly or minimum bi-weekly coaching sessions to produce the best results.
“The bottom line for the company is results and improved relationships garner these results,” said Spoon. “Although research currently indicates 5 to 6 times return on investment, what is un-measurable however, is the exponential rate of return on the value of improved relationships. If done right the outside benefits are not, to date, measureable.”
Research shows the “better relationships” benefit of coaching isn’t limited to work relationships. Relationships at home show improvement too.
PROMISES KEPT EQUALS BETTER RELATIONSHIPS
“It’s all about keeping promises and being held accountable to your personal integrity,” Spoon said. “For example, when executives aren’t on time, no one is going to say, ‘Hey, you’re late and we’re all on time, and that’s not cool.’ People don’t want to risk losing their job.”
Coaches have the latitude to ask the question (or questions) that no one else will ask.
“No one questions the CEO,” said Spoon. “They need someone to hold them accountable—someone who is going to ask them the tough questions. Although challenging, this can be and is often refreshing and liberating for the CEO—to finally have someone calling them out, and holding them responsible for their actions.”
Additionally, coaching guides executives how to deliver bad news in a way that’s not cutting.
“Having difficult dialogue and still leaving all parties happy and inspired—that’s not easy to do,” Sawalha said.
The right executive coach works with executives on the biggest detriment to a relationship—broken agreements that never get cleaned up.
“No one thinks to clean them up because they’re so focused on moving forward,” said Spoon. “When you have enough of those broken agreements, relationships can be damaged beyond repair.”
EXECUTIVES ARE HUMANS TOO
Bosses, like politicians, are often painted in a bad light.
“But they get to be humans too. They get to apologize and come back and clean up their messes. If you clean-as-you-go, relationships improve,” said Spoon. “Life is a clean-up job. What would happen if we never got forgiven for something we did wrong?”
One of the biggest impacts of coaching for executives is that turnover usually decreases on a measurable scale.
“Turnover is deadly,” Spoon said. “Many times hiring and firing could have been avoided with better communication.”
To recap, a culture of coaching helps executives and the companies they lead:
• Harness the wisdom and skills of their own internal ‘Yoda’ spirits
• Increase profitability, speed and the quality of decision-making
• Improve the transparency of the organization
• Make difficult or politically charged conversations happen with the invested parties
• Boost teamwork, productivity, engagement, relationships and quality
• Decrease turnover and conflict
• People hold themselves accountable to meet deadlines and communicate potential issues they see before they arise