Is There Value in Executive Coaching?
Most companies work to develop existing employees and build employees into managers. When an employee reaches a vital management position, there may be skills the employee still lacks. More and more organizations are utilizing executive coaches to assist new managers or improve existing managers. An executive coach is not an expert in a particular field. A president of a major company will not be able to hire an executive coach that has all the knowledge as to how to run a company. The role of the executive coach is to guide leaders through difficult processes. The coach serves as an unbiased guide to point out aspects of decisions that the leader may not have otherwise considered.
Another role that an executive coach plays involves developing interpersonal skills. Believe it or not, not all leaders possess skills needed to successfully run an organization. An executive coach typically joins a leader or manager for a day or so and watches interactions that occur. The coach will give feedback to the leader on areas that need improvement or situations the leader handled well. For example, an executive coach may state, “You may want to write emails more carefully. Consider what you are writing in an effort to avoid offending employees.” Perhaps the leader was not aware of how his or her emails could be misinterpreted. The executive coach can point out shortcomings such as this to strengthen interpersonal skills.
Executive coaches are most commonly hired from outside organizations. However, organizations have begun to house their own executive coaches for increased availability. Most organizations that have used executive coaching in the past feel that there is great value in utilizing this tool as a means to develop employees. An article from the Washington Post a few days ago talks about how the government made a contract with an executive coaching group to provide coaching to members of the Department of Homeland Security. The reason in hiring the executive coaches is an effort to increase leadership skills of existing employees. The government feels that with an abundance of baby boomers on the road to retirement there is the need to focus on succession planning. Younger employees will need to have the skills to lead government agencies and executive coaching is one way to develop younger employees.
What are other skills that can be developed through the use of executive coaching? An important skill that not all new leaders possess is time management. Executive coaches often use techniques such as in-basket tasks to increase time awareness. The in-basket technique provides an employee with a pile or list of tasks that need to be completed. The employee is given a certain amount of time (typically about an hour or less) to delegate tasks to other employees and decide which tasks need to be accomplished first. This is beneficial because of the ability of the executive coach to provide immediate feedback to the employee.
I mentioned in a previous post how goals can aid employees in productivity and performance on the job. Leaders of organizations are no exception to the rule. They can also gain a lot from setting goals and holding themselves accountable. The problem is that leaders often have a more difficult time creating goals for themselves because of the immensity of his or her role at the organization. The executive coach can assist the leader in developing specific goals that target areas of needed improvement observed by the coach. A beginning goal could be for the leader to acknowledge employees good performance rather than only pointing out mistakes.
There are of course those that argue that executive coaching is not worthwhile. It is true that not every organization and every employee will likely benefit from executive coaching. And depending on the organization’s size, this development tool may be too costly. However, executive coaching has aided many organizations during periods of change and for succession planning. In conclusion, it is up to an organization to decide if executive coaching will be a worthwhile tool.
What do you think about executive coaching? Is there value in the tool?