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Absolute Importance of Executive Coaching

by Srinivas Saripalli

The executive coaching and leadership coaching industry is worth $2 billion and is a global industry. Statistics show that coaching  make up 70% of all organisational leadership training courses.

The question this article seeks to answer is why companies and corporates spend so much money in training their leaders whereas we all know that companies and organisations have to deal with small budgets. Some have argued that spending money on leadership coaching is a fruitless expenditure, but as already stated, this article will spell out the many reasons why it makes business sense to invest in leadership coaching.

People assume that leadership coaching will bring the following benefits to companies and organisations:

  • Improved and speedy learning
  • Increase in critical thinking
  • Improved performance from teams
  • Maintainable change in organisations
  • Increased leadership self-awareness in order for leaders to capitalize on their strengths
executive coaching and leadership coaching
Absolute Importance of Executive Coaching - BLUE AGILE

The Origins of Executive Coaching or Leadership Coaching

Research shows that leadership coaching originated at Oxford University in England in 1830. The first usage of the word in the sporting context only coming 31 years later. According to Wikipedia:

‘The first use of the term “coach” in connection with an instructor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford University slang for a tutor who “carried” a student through an exam. The word “coaching” thus identified a process used to transport people from where they are to where they want to be. The first use of the term in relations to sports came in 1861.’

Whilst it is evident that leadership coaching bring beneficial advantages, there remains a challenge, or challenges, in assessing their effectiveness. One of the challenges is that the perceived benefits of leadership coaching require time to effectively evaluate. Adding to the challenge is the fact that leadership training programs differ, no wonder that it is a Herculean task to measure them.

Hence we see that there is little research done to measure results. Statistics show that of organisations interviewed, 27% said they did not measure the results of leadership coaching. This ought to be a disturbing fact since the organisations spend sizable amounts of money on leadership coaching yet they were not aware or had not information as to whether the coaching provided results – useful or negative.

Evaluating Whether Leadership Coaching Brings Results

Since it is a Herculean task to assess the results of leadership coaching, what plans do we have to answer the question whether it works in real terms? An organisation that can help us evaluate the benefits of leadership coaching is The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). The CCL has a unit dedicated to the issues dealing with the evaluation of leadership coaching. The unit is called Evaluation Center. Moreover, there are scores of academics and professional in the leadership coaching industry that are dedicated to answering whether the programs offers the benefits touted.

Research shows that leaders who received coaching and training were perceived as superior in terms of effectiveness. They were perceived as inspirations among their peers and possibly those below them. They were thought as more content with their jobs. In turn, those not fortunate to receive leadership coaching were said to have made remarkable change as those who had received it.   

There is little information to inform us whether leadership coaching benefits everyone or just the leader alone. That said, surveys have shown that if the coachee (person who received leadership training) enacts some of his training, groups associated with the coachee improved their performances. The effect of leadership coaching is detailed in my blog article titled: Clear Effects of Leadership Coaching and Defining What Transformational Leadership Is

Critics of Leadership Coaching

Since there is no fast and hard rule as to what makers a coach, critics bemoan the lack of professionalism in the industry. Critics bemoan the fact that there are scare regulatory bodies.  

Coach and Coachee: Putting the Relationship Under the Spotlight

At its heart, leadership training relationships are connection between people. The relationships are based on bonding, devotion and belief. The relationship is meant to help coaches confront and question their assumptions, in the process helping the coaches to take lessons from their past lives, in the end expanding the coachee’s thinking.

Expert aligned to the Center for Creative Leadership’s training and philosophies believe that the responsibilities of coaches vary. They think coaches can either be experts. They can be partners that offer meditative learning and dialogue to coaches.

They think coaches can either interpret feedback they receive from coaches. They think that coaches can use coaches as people they can account to. They think that coachees can look to coaches as their role models. The responsibilities of coaches and their approaches, it follows, is both dependent on what coachees need and what outcomes they need for themselves.

Why Assess, Challenge and Offer Support?

For leadership coaches to attain a holistic picture of their coachees, they have to assess them. That is the sole purpose of assessing coachees. The coach needs to understand the unique characteristics of their coachees. They need to understand the contexts as well wherein their coachees operate in. All this will allow coaches to identify opportunities for growth and improvement in their coachees.

From individual coaching sessions, coaches can formally or informally collect data to assess coachees. Formally, or informally, coaches have at their disposal interviews and observation they can use to make assessment. These assessments can then be spread out through all coaching sessions.

It has been noted that experiences that bring out the best growth chances for coachees are disequilibrium-creating experiences. Disequilibrium-creating experiences are challenges that provokes the coachee. An example of such experiences are encouraging coachees to stretch into actions that places them in unfamiliar territories. In other words, growth-inducing experiences stem from pulling coachees out of their comfort zone. This allows leadership coaches to analyse inside and outside impediments holding coachees from growing.

The ‘third leg of the stool’ is support. Support allows coachees to do away with the impediments blocking the success and growth. This third leg of the stool allows them to withstand the pain and discomfiture typically found in processes of growth.

Here is how coachees can receive support from leadership coaches:

  • Leadership coachse must help coachees commit to the processes
  • Leadership coaches must enforce commitment and make clear the actionable steps coachees must take
  • Leadership coaches must make coachees accountable in carrying out the steps as outlined
  • Leadership coaches must help coaches explore the appropriateness of the resources accessible to them
  • Leadership coaches must show patience and not be harsh when coaches dither in their performances
  • Leadership coaches must motivate coachees to find continuous feedback on their actions and impact those actions have

The Relationship Between Leadership Support and Coachee Results

Another methods the Center for Creative Leadership is to have the coach and coachee rate each other. This gives the coachee to rate their own coach, suggesting if their coach was helpful or not, destructive or otherwise. On the other end, coaches assesses coaches by looking at a number of plans or goals the coachee was supposed to achieve or carry out.

A majority of trainees rated highly the support they received from their coaches. The number sits at 65 percent. 55 percent of training rated their coaches as providing ‘medium’ support. Those who rated coaches as providing ‘low’ supervisor support sit at 42 percent.

Studies show that leadership coaching is consistent in helping trainees edge closer to their goals and targets. Data showed 67 percent of trainees made significant strides in achieving their goals, or had at least inched a step or steps further.

So Does Leadership Coaching Really Work? The Conclusions

With leadership coaching becoming more widespread, and assessment models being revamped, the Center for Creative Leadership continues to gather information and data that shows that leadership coaching works. As a note of caution, though, people and organisations should never take it for granted that all training programs and trainers will guarantee good, professional and desirable results.

Without a doubt, leadership coaching costs a lot of money and it takes a lot of time as well. The logical thing is to never stop monitoring – and monitor time and time again, all in all to see if the leadership coaching is beneficial. It is the responsibilities of organisations and companies that make use of leadership coaching to make sure that leadership coaches and their coaching strategies are both up to standard and that they can be measured by formal methods. That said, this article is in support of leadership training.

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