Not every executive or potential executive needs an executive coach. But nearly every executive or potential executive could benefit from an executive coach. Just as in all aspects of business, it's a matter of weighing cost vs. benefit as you look to answer the question: Do I need an executive coach?
Let's first address some questions to help you determine an answer:
Q1) How high up or potentially high up in the company do you rank?
Executive coaching can be an expensive proposition, so your worth to the company will be a factor in whether you qualify for coaching. The answer also will depend upon the size of the company and your job's impact on the bottom line. Most targets for executive coaching need to be at least middle-management. In a mid-sized to smaller company, the budget probably can be tapped for coaching only for upper management. If you're being groomed as a CEO, CFO or CIO, then executive coaching would provide a great benefit to the company.
Q2) Are there certain skills for your current job that you lack?
No one was born into an executive position, so it's no weakness to admit you may have some shortcomings in your skill set for certain positions. Maybe you're a great technician but fall a little short in your people skills. Maybe your brain was wired perfectly to handle the finances as CFO but you're looking to succeed your CEO and you'd like to gain some leadership skills. Maybe you are the CEO with great people skills to rally the staff around you but you'd like to be able to see a grander vision. Executive coaching with the right coach can be an effective way to assess your own skill set and gain in areas you find lagging.
Q3) Are there personality conflicts among your leadership team?
There's no need to assess blame in this kind of situation. Sometimes an outside, objective person can come in and help you smooth over these differences. You most likely didn't get to the top of your business as a psychology expert, so bringing aboard a coach with a psychological background can give you a better understanding of personalities in your organization.
Q4) Have you considered or tried other options before coaching?
Coaching is going to cost the most money and require the greatest time commitment from you, your direct supervisor and/or your closest aides. Therefore, you might consider other options first. A workshop or conference might be suitable to address your needs. Or possibly just learning from a book. Maybe you just need your immediate supervisor to step up and do a better job of directing you to better skills. Executive coaching doesn't have to be the answer to every problem, but sometimes it is the best long-term approach.
Q5) Are you willing to be coached?
You can hire the best coach in the business and spend a ton of money, but if you are unwilling to listen and unwilling to learn, you would be throwing away all that money. Think about how you came up through the ranks. Were you willing to learn from your supervisors and their bosses? If you've always fought against authority and still found yourself climbing to the top, then executive coaching might not be the right fit for you. Even the toughest nuts can be cracked, but that will be up to you.
Key Benefits of Executive Coaching
Now that we've gone over the primary questions you'll want to consider about executive coaching, let's look briefly at the benefits a coach can bring:
An International Coaching Federation survey, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, found respondents said after coaching 70% experienced improved work performance, 61% experienced improved business management, 57% experienced improved time management and 51% experienced improved team effectiveness.
The same survey found 80% reported improved self-confidence, 73% reported improved relationships, 72% reported improved communication skills and 67% reported improved life/work balance. This indicates how coaching extends beyond the workplace and encompasses the person's entire life.
Return on Investment
The ICF survey noted 86% of companies reported they at least made their money back on the coaching commitment. A study by MetrixGlobal in 2001, in the very early days of executive coaching, reported a 529% return on investment, a number that ballooned to 788% when they factored in the benefit of employee retention.
One of the final things noted in the ICF survey was that 99% of companies reported they were "somewhat" or "very satisfied" with the overall experience and 96% said they would go through the process again.
These are some of the measurable benefits of executive coaching. Those who have participated in coaching also report the following intangible benefits: a sounding board to hear your own voice, a chance to clarify values, an awareness of personal blind spots, hearing the cold truth that others cannot tell you, support for making bold moves and learning how you are perceived by others in the organization.
All of these benefits come about because of the nature of executive coaching – the one-on-one interaction between coach and subject. The coach has the added advantage of being able to gain insights from the subject's superiors and subordinates. The long-term nature of the interaction ensures the subject has ample opportunities to discover issues, formulate a plan to address the issues then get feedback about efforts to change. If the subject makes an effort at change and it doesn't work, the coach can recognize this and work with the subject to develop a plan B to improve the effort at change. All of these are benefits that cannot be attained through a workshop or in a book.
Now, it's your call. Or the call of you and your supervisors or stake-holders. Are you ready to commit to the improvements you can gain through an executive coach?