The 50/50 Odds of Executive Coaching

We often receive calls from our clients that go something like this, “Peter, I have an executive/manager on my team who is technically sound and highly competent at doing his job.  However, when it comes to motivating his team or effectively building necessary relationships with team members in other departments, there is significant opportunity for improvement. Can you help us?”

Our clients are always a little taken aback when I inform them that we have a 50% success rate. Half the time, our coaching clients are excited to have a coach and see it as a valuable investment in their careers. The other half of the time, coaching clients remain stubbornly committed to their ways and are intent on trying to ride their technical merits up the corporate ladder.


Our experience working with thousands of managers has shown us even though an executive/manager has risen through the ranks and knows the technical components of his/her job extremely well, they still may have opportunities for growth in the areas of leadership and building relationships where others willing follow.


The challenge is that being a technical expert is not enough when someone rises to higher levels of leadership in an organization. With each move, from doer to supervisor; supervisor to manager; manager to director; director to vice president; vice president to CEO; higher levels of leadership skills are needed.


Our research has clearly demonstrated that when executives/managers don’t excel as a leader, they struggle in the following areas:


  • An abrasive style of written or verbal communication
  • Inability to build a strong, effective team
  • Doesn’t realize ‘we’re all on the same team’ and fails to build strong cross-departmental communication and teamwork
  • Unwillingness to provide constructive feedback and hold people accountable
  • Unable to accept constructive feedback
  • Unable to resolve conflict with peers or direct reports
  • Lack of responsiveness to internal customers
  • Unable to effectively present information to a group in a persuasive manner
  • Difficulty prioritizing objectives and tasks
  • Failure to produce timely results
  • Refusal to hold subordinates accountable to specific performance standards and desired results


Leaders that are unable or unwilling to improve their skills in these areas eventually find themselves facing a roadblock when they attempt to move to the next level, or worse, may find their career completely derailed.


We’ve also had the opportunity to work with highly successful leaders, who are committed to the goal of taking their leadership to an even higher level and willingly seek the support, input, and direction of a “coach.” We strongly believe coaching can be an effective tool for all leaders.


If you’re a motivated leader who sees the value of coaching, there are two types of coaching support we recommend to help executives and managers become even better leaders.


One-on-One Coaching


A motivated executive or manager can find it valuable to review their strengths with a coach and develop an action plan to “turn up the volume” in the areas they believe are hindering their true leadership potential.  Ideally, the coach will have also gained feedback about the leader from interviews with the Human Resources professional or the executive or manager’s supervisor.  The key to success in these one-on-one coaching sessions is the desire of the leader to improve. If the individual doesn’t have a desire to be coached or is not motivated to change, coaching will be unsuccessful.


Leadership Development Assessments (360’s)


One of the most powerful tools to provide feedback and coaching to an executive or manager is the 360 Leadership Development Assessment. First, a customized assessment is created based on interviews with the executive/manager to be coached, human resources, and the executive/manager’s immediate supervisor.  This assessment (75-100 questions) is then posted on-line and completed by:


        • The leader being assessed (leader rates himself or herself)
        • The leader’s immediate supervisor
        • The leader’s direct reports
        • The leader’s peers
        • A cross-representation of internal customers who interact with the leader


The 360 assessment is a powerful tool because the data literally becomes a “mirror” that the executive/manager holds up to both affirm their strongest leadership attributes and develop an action plan for their identified opportunities for improvement.  It’s easy to deny the feedback of any one individual.  Yet, that denial becomes much more difficult when you have the feedback of many individuals who interact with you at different levels.  For example, it’s not uncommon in the initial coaching sessions to hear an executive/manager say something along the lines of, “My boss says that my style of communication is abrasive or mean, but while I may be stern in some of my communication I’m not abrasive or abusive.”  It’s easy to deny the feedback of one. But, when 10 or 15 or 20 people who work with you on a daily basis tell you something about your style of communication or leadership, it commands attention. If ten people say you have a tail, sooner or later you have to turn around and take a look.


When the 360 is completed, the coach works with the executive/manager to develop an action plan.  Once the action plan is in place, follow up meetings will be held at regular intervals to ensure the plan is achieving the desired results.


Sometimes clients ask, “Is it worth it to hire a coach?” The answer is – absolutely. Fifty percent of the time, we coach leaders who take the coaching feedback and create significant leadership and organizational success. This fifty percent success factor will far outweigh the coaching failures who suffer from what we call “Popeye Syndrome.”  These leaders have a unilateral focus shared by Popeye, the famous cartoon character who simply said, “I am what I am.”  Even if you and your organization are not able to create a leadership “win” through coaching, you will know that you did everything possible to support this leader in being a success.


Have you worked with a coach? Would you want to? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments!

(2) Comments

  1. I have had the opportunity to work with three different coaches. One was provided to me by my employer. The next was one I paid for myself and the third came as part of a gift to a nonprofit organization where I was president of the board and both the executive director and I participated. In each situation it was a great learning experience and I really enjoyed the process. One included a 360 assessment, another utilized information from a book which was then practiced and reported back during meetings and one was simply weekly meetings to discuss various happenings and methods of discovery.

    1. Hi Ron,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, I’m glad they have been positive experiences for you. Great to hear about the different methods that work best for individuals and organizations.

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