Coaching is HOT!

an article by Barb McEwen

Driving the trend for executive coaching is the business reality that good people are hard to find and even harder to keep. The flip side of the coin is helping managers address difficult performance or behavioral issues in a time when there is a constant need to stay competitive. Companies are seeing boomers retire and are now looking to develop within. Coaching is a way to help employees create their own personalized development plan -- something that is very much needed in our constantly evolving business environment.

Eighty percent of Fortune 500 companies now offer executive coaching. By hiring external coaches, companies can assure their people of the confidential nature of the learning plus its one-on-one approach. They have also found that coaching is essential for creating change and moving people towards their highest productivity and potential.

In the past year we have assisted numerous executives, both male and female, take a look at ways in which they can improve. We have helped them focus on their communication and listening skills, hone their leadership abilities, learn to manage and delegate more efficiently, key into the importance of influencing up, gain improved negotiating skills, deal with difficult people and handling conflict better. In the process they have become more politically savvy, they are able to recognize and appreciate gender, cultural or generational issues and at the same time gain new personal insight.

It is common to hear comments such as, "Today has been great. It has helped me focus on what is really important and the steps I now need to take. I appreciate the new tools and techniques. Thanks so much."

Coaching is hot because organizations and individuals are both realizing the importance of continuously learning. In years past the focus was solely on training. One and two day seminars were booked and attendance was mandatory. The results were short-lived since there was no assistance to integrate the learning into everyday circumstances. Why learn about goal setting when your issue is about how to handle poor performers? Coaching centers in on what is important to the client. The results are immediate and long lasting. Three months after a seminar the participants will be hard pressed to tell me three things they learned. Conversely, years after a client has been coached they can name a series of things they learned and are presently using. Often they integrate coaching techniques into their own leadership style.

The link between people and the bottom line has now become very clear. Improve your people, improve your bottom line.

Another significant point is that research shows that the quality of the relationship between a manager and his or her staff is what drives the quality of products and services. The number one success factor for any manager is their "relationship with their subordinates". The most common reason why executives derail their careers is their emotional incompetence. These are usually discussed in terms of:

  1. an insensitivity or an inability to appreciate another's perspective;
  2. not being able to work well in a team;
  3. poor interpersonal relations.

Coaching assists managers in their own development and the development of others. There’s a potential big payoff in speaking to what needs to be addressed.

Defining Executive Coaching

A brief definition of coaching as formulated by the International Coach Federation:

Professional coaching is an ongoing partnership that helps clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life.


Why Executive Coaching?

Executive coaching can be very useful in helping executives carry what they learn in their one-on-one sessions into the workplace. The objectivity that an outside executive coach brings to a developmental opportunity is helpful to managers seeking to make difficult changes in attitudes, work habits, perspectives and interpersonal relationships.

There seems to be little question that coaching is a valid method of producing desired change with leaders. Companies that have employed coaches will agree that, overall, there are performance improvements, as well as improved well being among participants.

The top reasons for offering coaching include:

  1. Sharpening the leadership skills of high-potential individuals (86%);
  2. Correcting management behavior problems such as poor communication skills, failure to develop subordinates, or indecisiveness (72%);
  3. Ensuring the success, or decreasing the failure rate, of newly promoted managers (64%);
  4. Correcting employee relations problems such as poor interpersonal skills, disorganization, demeaning or arrogant behavior (59%); and
  5. Providing the required management and leadership skills to technically oriented employees (58%).

The Masterful Coaching Experience

What makes a masterful coaching experience, one that provides long-lasting and sustained results? On the face, coaching sounds like simple goal setting with accountability and motivational pep talks thrown in. Not so.

The work of truly effective coaching involves much more than goal setting. It involves encouraging potential and expanding an individual's capacity to achieve 'stretch goals' that bring about real change.

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, winning organizations need to combine a traditional management style that focuses on strategic and bottom-line results with the new emerging management style which includes team building, effective communication and a broader people-first orientation. One shoe does not fit all and this requires ongoing learning.

In its simplest terms, executive coaching involves expanding a leader's capacity to take effective action. It involves challenging underlying beliefs and assumptions that are responsible for one’s actions and behaviors.

The coach is trained to help their clients examine their 'Knowing/Doing' gaps -- what they know they need to do and what they actually do. This is fertile ground for personal growth and development, but is also the area where people can become defensive and resistant. It takes a skilled professional to help someone out of these stuck areas, or blind spots – where they may not see with clarity. Some talented coaches have spoken of the magic of asking the right question at just the right time.

By now, we all recognize the value of a good sports coach. They provide their team members with reliable feedback and have the ability to "hold up a mirror" in a way that enhances performance. After any major league game, coaches review the day's videotapes relentlessly. They watch it over and over to see what worked and what didn't. Managers can use this same technique as well. Stuart Levine, author of The Six Fundamentals of Success, suggests that at the end of the day, perhaps on your way home, spend a few minutes going over in your mind what worked and what didn't. Think about the conversations you had, the actions you took and how you handled challenging situations. Reflect on what it is that you learned about yourself and others. Commit to improving.

Since we all want to be proud of who we are -- both in our own eyes and in the eyes of others -- the insight and guidance of an executive coach is a cost efficient and viable option for you to consider.


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Barb McEwen is a Master Executive Coach and Organizational Strategist who works with corporations and individuals worldwide. As founder of 20/20 Executive Coaching and 20/20 Executive Women she has spent the past twelve years working with high potential individuals to help them hone their leadership and management skills. Contact Barb at