Leadership coaching has become very popular over the last 10 to 15 years. Leaders and entrepreneurs in all industries are taking advantage of a collaboration with a leadership coach. Harvard Business Review reports that coaching is a $1 billion a year industry, however, there is still a mystery as to what is a professional coach and why are so many executives and individuals using them to catapult their careers, and to create better, more fulfilling, richer lives? Let’s explore a few basic questions and potential issues…
What is a professional coach?
The International Coach Federation (ICF), one of the leading global coaching organization and professional association for coaches, defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
Who is using executive coaches?
In a study of the professional coaching industry by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) revealed that coaching was used by 90% of organizations surveyed. Furthermore, even during the economic downturn some 70% reported that they are increasing or maintaining their commitment to coaching. As indicated earlier, utilizing coaching services has become very popular and those in active coaching relationships seem to draw significant value from the coaching experience.
A few things to consider in the process of selecting a coach…
As with any growing profession, there can be a lot of confusion. To help making the best possible choice for engaging a leadership coach I have listed a few “misconceptions” on the matter of executive coaching:
- Executive coaches are professionals who can help you achieve your goals.
The reality is, some, but certainly not all coaches are professionals who can help you reach your desired goals. One of the challenges in the coaching industry is that practically anyone can call themselves a professional coach (or life coach, personal coach, etc.). “Coach U”, one of the largest and longest established coach training organizations in the world stated, “Technically, anyone can hang up a shingle as coaching is not regulated. Many people ‘coaching’ have no idea what coaching is as they haven’t been trained or haven’t been coached by a professionally trained and credentialed coach. There are ‘schools’ that will offer a credential after three hours of training and people read a book or watch a TV program and decide ‘I’m a coach!'” Consequently, the quality of coaches differ radically, hence it is strongly suggested to work with a leadership coach that has been accredited by organizations like Research Associates Corporation (RAC) or the International Coach Federation (ICF), to name a few. They provide independent certification that represent benchmarks for the professional coaching industry.
- Executive coaching is expensive.
Coaching can cost a great deal of money. Harvard Business School’s “What can Coaches do for You?” research whitepaper reports some executive coaches charge up to $3,500 for an hour of coaching and have clients willing to invest as much. While this may be an extreme, most professional coaches charge a monthly retainer of $500 to $2,000 a month depending on the client project.
Assuming that most people utilizing a coaching relationship for their continued progress don’t do that to waste their money one has to conclude that they are attaining results worth equal or in excess to the cost of their coach. According to an ICF Global Coaching Client Study commissioned by the International Coach Federation, individual clients testified a median return on investment of 3.44 times their investment into the coaching relationship. In essence, successful coaching clients view coaching as an investment that produces monetary rewards above and beyond the cost of the leadership coach.
- Executive coaches only help you reach business goals.
A professional coach is an expert at helping others create positive change in their professional as well as personal lives. Some clients may be more focused in professional or business goals such as leadership, getting a promotion, starting a business, etc. Other coaching clients primarily target the positive change they most want by focusing on personal goals such as relationships, time management, work-life balance, stress management, health, etc. Often however, it is actually a mix of both and an effective coach works with the client to help them live a better, richer life – regardless of their type of goals.
- Executive coaching is a nice employment incentive.
Coaching is as much a bonus to employees as are their desk or laptop. Employees may view coaching as a value added benefit, however successful organizations view coaching as something much more than a mere perk. Properly executed, professional coaching will foster employee engagement, enhance creativity, generate more workplace satisfaction as well as drive sales and bottom line results.
As a comparable example, wellness programs have proven to provide up to 300% return on investment. In other words, companies who spend $1 in wellness programs (i.e., fitness clubs, personal trainers, smoking cessation workshops, etc.) tend to earn up to $3 as a result of reduced turnover, less sick days, reduced health insurance costs, etc. Consequently, wellness programs have experienced remarkable growth because it makes financial sense.
The ROI from executive coaching shows similar amazing effects. According to a Manchester Consulting Group study of Fortune 100 executives, the Economic Times reports “coaching resulted in a ROI of almost six times the program cost as well as a 77% improvement in relationships, 67% improvement in teamwork, 61% improvement in job satisfaction and 48% improvement in quality.” Additionally, a study of Fortune 500 telecommunications companies by MatrixGlobal found executive coaching yielded 529% ROI. The conclusion becomes obvious that coaching is not just perceived as a nice-to-have intervention but a viable tool to generate improved results.
- Professional coaching is for “fixing problem” employees.
Coaching used to be a synonym for “you’re doing inferior work, but before we can fire you we need to show that we’ve done everything we can to support you so we don’t get hit with an employment lawsuit.”
Mostly, this is not the case anymore as the concept of executive coaching has evolved to a different dimension. To quote Paul Michelman, editor of Harvard Business School’s Management Update, “whereas coaching was once viewed by many as a tool to help correct underperformance, today it is becoming much more widely used in supporting top producers. In fact, in a 2004 survey by Right Management Consultants, 86% of companies said they used coaching to sharpen the skills of individuals who have been identified as future organizational leaders.”
Effective coaching centers on an individual’s strengths and targets to help the client achieve what they desire in life and at work. The real purpose is to support the client identify and achieve their greater goals and to help them live a better life. A professional coach won’t attempt to “fix” anyone, but to help each client navigate toward a more engaged and exciting future.
- Executive coaching takes too much time.
Executive coaching is a high-leverage activity. Most clients can attain remarkable progress toward their desired future with relatively few coaching hours, the main time investment and effort is in working on the change they intend to materialize. After all there is no free lunch to create success. The coach will help the client to identify what to work on and support making plans to enable effective execution. The actual work to change must be done by the client.
There are two predominant delivery methods for coaching which are one-on-one meeting with clients in an office and telephone sessions for convenience. Both can be equally effective. In each scenario it is important to create an environment with minimal distractions, proper privacy and a strong level of personal connection with the client.
Best practices in coaching call for between two and four sessions per month that typically last as little 20 minutes in an advanced coaching relationship and take up to 90 minutes in the beginning of the coaching collaboration.
- Executive coaches are similar to having a good friend to bounce off ideas while keeping the client motivated.
A leadership coach is not meant to be a client’s friend but may certainly be friendly. A coach is the client’s advocate and expects the best from the client. The coach will work with the client to help reach the desired goals and succeed. The leadership coach will hold the client accountable and challenge the client to grow and do more than the client ever thought to be able to do. The coach will stretch the client in ways that may feel uncomfortable and unlike a friendship, the coaching relationship is unilateral – it is solely focused on the client and his/her goals.
Coaching is good for anyone who is motivated to create a better life, professional and/or personal. Initially, executive coaching was utilized predominantly at the executive leadership and upper management level, and some organizations still focus their coaching efforts on their top performers.
However, professional coaching grew far beyond the executive suite and in today’s professional coaching market place less the 5% of the $1Billion+ industry is spent on the upper echelon of the organization chart. A very forward thinking example is online shoe and clothing company Zappos.com, known for their outstanding commitment to creating a culture of unparalleled customer service. Zappos engages a goals coach full time who works with any employee, not just management, on helping them to their desire of success.
A relationship with a leadership coach pays dividends far greater that one can get with any other investment into personal development!
If you have any questions send me a note…