June 2005 Best Practice
Executive coaching is an “experimental and individualized leader development
process that builds a leader’s capability to achieve short- and long-term
organizational goals”. To achieve maximum results, the organization, executive
and executive coach should collaborate together. This report will introduce the
role a coach plays with leaders in the organization, ideas about when providing
coaching might be a good idea, obstacles coaching might face, as well as
provide some examples of what other organizations are doing to make coaching
Increased Use of Executive Coaches
It seems when you are talking about employee and executive development, you
cannot talk for too long before the subject of executive coaching comes up. In
fact, the U.S. spends an estimated $1 billion on executive coaching each year.
One reason for this increase is a stressed out corporate America. Executives are
constantly under increasing pressure caused by downsizing, globalization and
technology improvements that make executives on call 24/7. Some executives
have difficulties living with those pressures. In addition, Generation X does not
believe their employer will look out for them in the long run and Baby boomers
are burnt out and feel undervalued. Change is coming more rapidly in
technology and employees are trying to hang on. Meanwhile, employees are
trying to find a balance of work and life and no longer want to spend 70 hours per
What does this mean for today’s leaders? They need to adapt and engage their
workforce – now more than ever! However, some executives do not have the
skills to do this. Some executives are asking (begging) for executive coaching,
while others hide in the shadows, hoping not to be selected to go through an
executive coaching experience. As Gary Ranker, an executive coach said,
“Sometimes people are told they have to work with me because their behavior is
causing problems. You make it very clear to the executive that they have no
choice if they want to stay with the company. Greed and fear are important
Enter: Executive Coaching
It seems everyone knows a few people who have gone through an executive
coaching process. The industry is growing faster than coaches can keep up.
Coaching hopes to produce learning, behavioral change, and career growth in
the employee who’s being coached. It begins with an assessment of where the
executive currently is, what areas should be improved, which skills could be
enhanced upon, and what goals the executive has. Then, coach and executive
will work together to prepare a plan in which to meet those goals.
How Coaching Can Work
Coaching is successful when the organization, coach, and executive agree to
accomplish specific goals. Remember that there are other people interested in
the success of the coaching effort, including senior management, peers, direct
reports, and other important people in the executive’s life.
Coaching can be measured by improved performance, productivity gains, skill
development, workplace relations, client satisfaction, and retention of top
performers. Michigan-based Triad Performance Technologies, Inc. evaluated the
impact of coaching on 56 regional and district sales managers. They found
positive results leading to an estimated $2 million increase in profits. Specifically,
they saw changes in sales strategies that led to increased revenues, improved
client satisfaction, performance improvements from managers who had not met
objectives previously, and retention of top-performing staff.
A study of 1,361 senior managers looked at multi-source feedback ratings before
and after executive coaching was conducted. The results found that managers
who worked with an executive coach were more likely than other managers to set
specific goals and solicit ideas for improvement from their supervisors. In
addition, they found managers who worked with an executive coach had
improved ratings (over managers who did not) from their direct reports and
Another study conducted by Thache in 2002 reviewed the effectiveness of
executive coaching. They tracked the progress of executives who participated in
six months of coaching and a 360-degree feedback process. According to direct
report and peer post-survey feedback, the results indicate that the combination of
a multi-rater feedback and individual coaching increases leadership effectiveness
up to 60%.
Coaching is a highly under-regulated profession. Many executive coaches are
just scratching the surface, preaching about the joys of good listening and not
needing to win every argument. They teach technical people how to get along
with savvy sales executives, but not much else. However, how qualified are
these coaches to guide executives in setting goals and performing on the job?
Steven Berglas (who has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Duke University
and taught as a professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management) criticized
executive coaching because coaches can make bad situations worse when they
lack the background of dealing with psychological problems. They do not
understand the problems that pop up. Sometimes coaches open up Pandora’s
Box – they unveil how issues in the past or present are reflected in the current
position. However, most coaches are not psychologists. They do not know how
to deal with depression or how to help someone cope who was traumatized in
the past and now has to deal with this information being uncovered. Coaches
must understand this distinction and know when to step down and involve others
who can effectively deal with the situation.
Berglas says untrained coaches may make a problem worse by focusing on the
problem, not the person. For example, a problem executive at an automotive
parts distributor was coached for four years by a former corporate lawyer for
unacceptable behavior including publicly humiliating a mail clerk. Unfortunately,
the coaching only reinforced the behavior. After a while, Berglas was called in
and found the executive had a serious narcissistic personality disorder that could
not be corrected by coaching. In this case, the organization wasted a lot of
money on something that was not able to help this executive.
Marshall Goldsmith, the nation’s best-known coaching guru said, “These
executives are very well-educated and rich. They can’t be fooled and won’t
waste time. If they think you are wasting their time, they will tell you to go away
incredibly quickly.” Goldsmith earns more than $100,000 in fees for each
executive he works with.
It is important to ensure this does not happen at your organization. The coaching
profession is trying to become more regulated. The International Coach
Federation does not have regulations on who can be a coach; however, they are
currently developing standards, and they are looking at instituting mandatory
credentials. Organizations like the Executive Coaching College and Georgetown
University Center of Professional Development offer certifications in executive
Besides focusing on the problem instead of the person, some coaches end up
being confused on who their client is. Is the “client” the organization that is
paying the coach, or is the “client” the executive being coached? It is important
to differentiate between the two to ensure the coach has the executive’s best
interests in mind, while creating results for the organization.
In addition, sometimes executives become dependent on the coach. If the
coaching extends longer than the initial timeframe, examine the situation to
determine if the coach is extending the session for monetary reason or if the
executive has some loose ends that need to be tied up through coaching. Also,
some executives become dependent on their coach for working through
problems. It is important the coach remains a coach and does not create a
relationship where the employee is dependent on him/her to maintain the
Good coaches will help the executive establish goals and measures, as well as
foster independence and analytical thinking. A good coach maintains
confidentiality and will end the coaching contract when appropriate. For tips on
how to select an effective executive coach, please see Exhibit A.
Example of What Other Organizations are Doing
The StorageTek Guidance Continuum below provides an understanding of
various sources of leadership development and how that supports the
organization and the individual. The chart shows a consultant is focused mainly
on the organization, whereas a counselor is primarily focused on the individual.
Depending on the leadership development need, it will help determine what type
of intervention you use, based on the current needs of your organization.
Impact on Organization Personal
Impact on Individual
Consultant Coach Buddy Mentor Counselor
Role Definition: Role Definition: Role Definition: Role Definition: Role Definition:
Focus: Corporate Focus: Role of Focus: On-boarding; Focus: Personally Focus: Development
goals; the individual in meeting successful job interested in the of individual; healing
organization’s corporate goals; acclimation career of an Allegiance entirely to
effectiveness personal Equal allegiance to individual in another person
Allegiance to the effectiveness person and part of StorageTek Formal contract, fee
corporation; Equal allegiance to organization Allegiance primarily for services
guidance to person and Informal agreement to person External; may be
individual is in organization Logistical expert Informal agreement through referral
organizational Formal contract, goal providing orientation Internal; outside own One to one
context focused information chain of commend Professional
Formal contract, Either external or Internal One to one credentials
objective focused internal One to one Informal relationship: Work scope often
Often external; hired One to one/many Work peer or not sponsored, not includes life issues
as outside influence; Expert or behavioral colleague paid Confidential
if internal, maintain Work scope Short term, defined Confidential relationship
neutrality collaboratively work scope relationship
One to many/one arrived at by both
Expert or behavioral “StorageTek
Work scope directed protected”
by organization /
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts hired an Executive VP of Creative Entertainment
who had professional experience in theater in New York, but had never held a
corporate job. Ann Hamburger creates “fabulous entertainment” through staging
all live shows, parades, and other extravaganzas at the parks and resorts.
However, it was known that if she didn’t perform to standards, Disney would not
have kept her on staff. She had to learn about Disney corporate politics, and
learn them quickly. Anne met with her coach, Brenda Eddy, over 4 years ago, to
help her sort through the complexities of surviving and thriving at Disney. The
coaching gave Anne the tools she lacked coming into the job and has been
extremely successful in her position.
To gain an understanding of the coaching activities and process please see
It is difficult to quantify changed behaviors. Marshall Goldsmith promises that if
he does not produce results, his clients do not have to pay for his services. He
does not judge if the coaching was successful. He let’s the people who work with
the executive decide that. They are the people who see the executives behavior
each day, and are in the best position to evaluate changed behavior.
Return on investment is difficult to measure, but can be measured over a number
of years. Below is a list of a number of ways to track the benefits of coaching.
Individual and Team Measures Measures for Comparing Coached
vs Noncoached Individuals
Climate survey results Performance ratings
Achievement of performance and development Retention rates
plans Promotion rates
Improvements in productivity, quality, customer Climate survey results
Achievement on specific accounts, products or Entry into top talent pool
Development of more strategic marketing plans
Organizational Measures The ROI of Coaching
Employee engagement and commitment Verify changes in results and behavior
Climate survey results Estimate the financial benefit of these changes
External evaluations of organizational Determine how the role of coaching enabled
management and leadership changes
Cost of providing coaching
Calculate cost/benefit of coaching
Unfortunately, executive coaching is an expensive option that can be somewhat
risky. If the intervention is successful, it can have huge payoffs for the executive
and the organization. If the intervention is not successful, the organization is left
with a significant expense with nothing to show for it. When looking at executive
coaches, ask for feedback from people who have gone through his/her program
before. Ask to speak with others the executives know to see if behaviors were
actually changed as a result of the coaching effort. Networking with other HR
professionals will help you find out which coaches are successful and which are
not as effective.
Executive coaching creates an opportunity for real change to happen in
executives and teaches them necessary skills for their positions in the
organization. By understanding what coaching consists of and when it will be
effective, your organization can find an effective coaching solution to meet your
Curtis, S. (Jan/Feb 2005) “Leadership Coaching – Fast Track Development”
Lockwood, N. “The Challenge of Determining the Return on Investment of
Executive Coaching” SHRM White Paper.
Jensen, G. (March 2004) “A Case for Business Coaching” FOCUS.
Lockwood, N. “Executive Coaching – Best Practices” SHRM White Paper.
Shuit, D. (Feb 2005). “Huddling with the Coach” Workforce Management.
Smither, J.W., London, M., Flautt, R., Vargas, Y., & Kucine, I. (2003, Spring).
Can working with an executive coach improve multisource feedback ratings over
time? A quasi-experimental field study. Personnel Psychology.
Thach, E.C. (2002). The impact of executive coaching and 260 feedback on
leadership effectiveness. Leadership & Organization Development Journal.
Vincola, A. (2000). “Put Me In, Coach” World at Work.
How to Select an Effective Executive Coach
1. Define the desired outcomes
2. Network with other HR professionals regarding best practices and lessons
3. Interview coaches.
4. Conduct reference checks.
5. Determine if assessment of the executive is necessary.
6. Be committed.
External coaches should have:
Graduate-level education in behavioral sciences, such as psychology,
sociology or business
Understanding of the executive’s environment – relationships at all
levels of the organizations with an understanding of the goals, values,
and dynamics of the organization
Experience in using assessment tools
Demonstrated track record of successful coaching in organizations
Interpersonal skills to develop rapport and trust
Good listening skills
Knowledge in adult learning theory, organizational systems and
development, change management skills, leadership development, and
possess a strong base of knowledge about the business itself
Ability to maintain confidentiality
One on One Coaching: Flow of Activities
One-to-one executive coaching works through a continuous cycle of assessing a
client’s goal, customizing a program, coaching sessions, an analysis of outcomes
and making corrections for a successful program.
Steps Activities Outcomes
1. Defining the context Coach meets with leader and Understand context.
sponsor to identify program
outcomes and benchmarks.
2. Interview with leader Coach conducts extensive Understand leader and the
interview with leader, listening world in which he/she works
for commitments, immediate and lives – an important part
concerns, common of the assessment process.
communication style and
pattern of fulfilling promises.
3. 360-degree interviews Coach speaks with leader’s Develop a broad view of the
team, boss, peers and others leader that is grounded in
who know the leader well. multiple perspectives.
4. Assessment and design Coach makes assessment and Design customized program of
designs customized program. practices, exercises and
5. Leader and sponsor review Coach presents themes and Leader and sponsor both
program design to leader and commit to program.
sponsors, answers questions
and revises as necessary.
6. Individual coaching Leader and coach discuss Leader becomes more
meetings (typically 3 hours of pressing issues and the competent, more fulfilled and
coaching per month for 6-12 leader’s progress in able to self-correct.
months) developing competencies for
the long term. They meet in
person when possible and by
telephone when needed.
7. Mid-program review Coach meets with leader and Coach makes changes,
sponsor (individually or additions and corrections to
together) to compare actual program.
outcomes with intended
8. End of program review Coach meets with leader and Leader continues to improve
sponsor (individually or without coach and/or commits
together) to compare actual to continuing relationship with
outcomes with intended new set of outcomes.
Source: Integral Leadership (a New Ventures West company)
AgriBank HRCS Coaching Services
Achieve Peak Performance
Accelerate Executive Development
Develop High Potentials
Improve Personal and Interpersonal Effectiveness
Impact Business Results
Achieve Career and Life Goals
A trained and certified professional coach from our HRCS team can work with
your organization in a variety of situations:
Challenging thinking, giving feedback that others won’t give and offering a
fresh perspective from outside the organization.
Developing new competencies, enhancing skills and accelerating
Grooming high potential and top performing employees for future
Developing personal and interpersonal skills in order to be more effective
Counseling around career and life choices.
Creating a more engaged and accountable work force.
The Coaching Process
We will work with your organization to initiate a coaching plan that helps
participants develop their core strengths and enhance those areas which will
keep them from reaching their full potential. Our three step process includes the
Step One: Assessment
We begin with a clear understanding of the organization’s goals for coaching.
Once we are clear about the desired outcomes the HRCS coach uses a variety
of assessment tools to identify and clearly understand the individual’s
development needs (i.e. competencies, motivations, strengths, development
needs, and possible barriers that may keep the individual from reaching his/her
Step Two: Personal Development Plan (PDP)
In conjunction with the individual’s manager the HRCS coach will work with the
individual to develop a “Personal Development Plan” (i.e. goals and roadmap)
that is tailored to his/her unique personal and professional development needs
and performance goals.
Step Three: One-on-One Coaching
Once the goals and road map are in place, the HRCS coach will meet with the
individual on a regularly scheduled basis (in person or on the phone) to provide
guidance, feedback, problem solving and support in order to optimize talent and