When You're at the Top and You Need to Succeed --
How Coaching Helps Executives Create Sustained Success
By Jim Jenkins
In today's rapid-fire business environment, executives have little time to hone
their leadership skills. As a result, many latch onto quick solutions that
Many executives turn to management books for help. They often select titles
based on length - reading as many pages as possible on a plane ride - rather
than real instructional value. Often, executives are left frustrated after
consuming these books. The solutions are superficial and don't lead to the exact
results most executives expect.
The fact is, management takes more than "one minute," and figuring out
where "the cheese" is doesn't explain complex organizational dynamics.
If intricate business issues could be solved in 100 pages or less, why do so
many leaders struggle to become tops in their field? And what can they do, given
their tremendous day-to-day job pressures?
One solution for an executive seeking long-lasting change: Engage a qualified
What is coaching?
In the past few years, coaching has emerged as one of the most effective ways to
cultivate professional and personal skill sets for both teams and individuals.
Typically, someone other than the executive's supervisor does the coaching. This
allows for greater objectivity and the freedom to experience learning on a
person's own terms.
"Executive coaching" is the term used to describe coaching for senior
business leaders. There is a collaborative, individualized relationship between
an executive and a coach. The goal is to inspire sustained behavioral change and
to transform the quality of the executive's work and professional life. Even
though executive coaching focuses on work situations, coaching can often result
in significant personal transformation as well.
Some areas in which executive coaches can help include:
-Developing interpersonal and communication skills;
-Balancing work and life issues;
-Dealing with conflict;
-Thinking strategically for business planning;
-Improving customer service.
A 2001 study by Manchester Inc. showed that coaching brings about major changes
in developing leadership and management skills. Coaching also fosters personal
growth, business agility, and enhanced communication skills, all of which can
significantly impact a company¹s bottom line.
Coaching is a conversation. It's a dialogue between a coach and a client that
focuses on achieving results. Whether it's learning how to communicate better,
balancing multiple priorities, or making effective presentations, coaching helps
people access the things they know.
Coaching is also learning. The coach is not a teacher and isn't necessarily an
expert in the fields of those they're working with. But a coach can observe
behavior, assess what the client isn't seeing, and create ways for the coachee
to act in a new way.
How coaching works
Coaching involves listening, reflecting, asking questions, providing
self-observations, and doing exercises. The coach creates an environment where
the client ultimately becomes self-correcting (learning how to correct the
behavior themselves) and self-generating (creating their own questions and
Coaches must ask the right questions. A coach engages in a collaborative
alliance with the individual to establish and clarify a purpose and goals, and
then develops an action plan. Sometimes a coach will get permission to ask
others about someone's job performance and present the findings to the client.
This often creates an opportunity to gather genuine, anonymous feedback about a
supervisor's management skills without putting employees at risk.
Change and transformation are also key. Coaches enable the individual to grow
and generate new behaviors, striving for long-term performance. Behavior
patterns are tough to change. But a coach observes the habits and opens up new
possibilities, providing support during the difficult process of change.
Coaching in action
Tracey, a training director for a technology firm, would try over and over to
get organized. She went to Franklin Covey training and purchased a Palm Pilot.
But she was still losing many hours of productivity trying to organize her
multiple projects and deadlines. After attending four different workshops on
time management and using several software packages, Tracey still could not get
Her next move: Hire an executive coach. The coach helped Tracey realize that she
was trying to fit into systems that didn't support her work style. Tracey was a
highly visual person who needed to see things in order to find them. Her coach
worked with her to design a large wall rack so she could see her projects and
folders every day. This small change had an immediate impact on her work.
Almost overnight, Tracey became more organized. She even found time to start
writing a book, a project she never had time for before. Within a year, Tracey's
job performance not only improved, she found that she was more organized in
managing her finances when she applied the same approach at home.
Return on Investment
Coaching offers a very attractive return on the initial investment, or ROI. This
is one of coaching's most significant benefits, as a developmental tool.
The most widely cited research on coaching comes from a 2001 study by Manchester
Consulting. One hundred coaching subjects were asked to estimate the monetary
value of their coaching experience. From there, Manchester developed a
"conservative ROI" estimate of the coaching. The study determined that
coaching returned more than five dollars for every dollar spent.
Executives who engage coaches understand that changing a behavior doesn't happen
overnight. They understand that no book speed-read will transform their careers.
Coaching involves a real commitment to deeply understanding the changes that are
needed to increase an executive's effectiveness. And by going beyond the bullet
points in a 100-page management booklet, coachees have given themselves a
competitive career advantage.
Jim Jenkins is a certified professional coach, owner of Creative Visions
Consulting, and co-founder of Innovative Play LLC in Frederick, Md. He
specializes in partnering with executives, front-line managers, and HR
professionals who are committed to creating sustained success in their
professional lives and in their businesses. For details, call (866) 322-8263 or