How Would You Feel About Having An Executive Coach?


Today I had an interesting conversation with an HR leader. She called me because her company wants to hire an executive coach for one of their leaders, and she was concerned about how the leader might “take it.” We both realize that people have different perspectives about executive coaching based on what they have heard from others. So, today I want to arm you with some basic information about coaching. If your company wants you to work with an executive coach, you might ask, “What does this REALLY mean?” and then explore how your company has used coaches in the past. For example, some companies use coaches only for remedial purposes, to get performance back on track. This can create a negative perception about coaching because no one wants to be viewed as “having problems.” Other companies use coaches to develop high potentials and high performers, with a focus on elevating their performance and preparing them for bigger roles. AT&T, for example, does this well.

If you’re exploring coaching for yourself, have been asked to work with a coach, or are considering a coach for one of your employees, keep these three things in mind:

1. Coaching is an investment with an expected return

For business leaders, having a coach is often seen as a status symbol, and can be the mark of someone being groomed for great things. There is an inherent expectation that the coaching will take performance to a higher level. So, whether or not you asked for a coach, think about how you could use a resource like this to accelerate your business results AND advance your career (because the two definitely go hand-in-hand). What would make this a worthwhile investment of your time and the company’s money (i.e., the business case or expected outcomes)?

2. Coaching is used selectively

Especially in a tight economic environment, companies rely on a variety of resources to develop their employees. For example, your boss could easily ask you to attend a training session or participate in a group development program rather than give you a coach to work with one-on-one. However, when used the right way, executive coaching creates lasting changes in on-the-job performance compared to those alternatives. And since it usually requires a higher investment per person, most companies use coaching selectively.

3. More companies use coaching for leadership development

The seventh annual Sherpa Coaching Study highlights a greater emphasis on coaching for leadership development:

“In 2012, the majority of coaching is designed for leadership development, with the balance of coaching split pretty much equally between transition and problem solving. That applies equally to companies of every size. Over seven years’ time, the amount of coaching used to solve a specific behavioral problem has dropped from 40% to near 25%.”

So, what does all of this mean for you? First, remember that coaching can help you develop your leadership skills faster and more companies use coaching for this reason. Second, tie coaching to what you want to be known for as a leader and what you want to accomplish. This will help others understand what to expect. Finally, remember that it’s all about getting results: working more strategically and effectively, and having a greater business impact.

To learn more about coaching, check out these short audio files on our website at