Executive coaching has boomed as an industry because CEOs, managers, SME owners and leaders have discovered that it works. What was once looked upon with scepticism, fear and stigma, is now generating approximately $1.5bn per year. Most larger companies globally employ coaches for upper leadership. Former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, says that the best advice he ever got was to get a coach. Bill Gates emphatically says ‘everyone should get a coach’. What is it that makes executive coaching so attractive? What do you have to gain from it?
Executive coaching can take many forms and applications, and to write about all of these would possibly lose you at the first paragraph. So, let’s make this more focused. We have all been in the situation where we’ve been newly appointed to a role. Here are 8 benefits of executive coaching for newly appointed leaders:
- Boost in cognition
When new in role we have to learn a lot of information, quickly. We are expected to assume operational responsibility while simultaneously getting to grips with the culture, climate, learn about the team, provide objectivity and provide input into strategy and direction. This is a lot of data and nuance which is hard to navigate while in a position of relative pressure when starting a new role. Expert executive coaching helps us to boost our powers of cognition, helping us to view things in a different way, open our minds to unconscious bias, assumption and areas in which we’re likely to derail. This allows us to view the information which we are receiving objectively and rationally, and filter through it more quickly to allow us to get to the point where we can add value to the organisation at the fastest rate possible.
- Hard results
Any good executive coach will be aligning their delivery with the outcomes of the organisation and the team. Executive coaching has been proven to realise greater productivity, more promotions with a lower risk and bigger profits. Coaching of leaders in a new role has been proven to reduce the time from which the leader contributes to the organisation more than they consume by an average of 40% (this typically takes 6.2 months on average without coaching).
In a PWC survey in 2015, coaching was proven to generate a return on investment of 7 times the initial investment. 25% of those surveyed reported an ROI of 10-49 times the cost. Think about your bottom line, and the productivity of your team – what impact would that have on your business?
- Self-awareness and self-regulation
I would say that everyone who has been coached by an expert executive coach is better at seeing what’s happening to them and around them. They can better sense what’s going to happen, view different solutions and are more aware of their blind spots. This allows us to see how we are perceived and where we can improve, as well as be aware of what beliefs or attitudes may be holding us back. That self-awareness is huge in terms of performance in a new role as we are being judged on first impressions. Coaching can help new leaders become more aware of potential risks to their performance in the early days, can increase their resilience and adaptability and in the face of huge change and complexity andn ensures they are more able to face into the challenge.
- The cold truth that others won’t tell you
As much as we’d all like to think that others see us as we’d like to be seen, this isn’t always the case. While we judge ourselves on our intentions, others judge us on our behaviours. Furthermore, others will view our behaviours differently according to their own intentions, experiences, values, behaviours… it can be a vicious cycle depending on how self-aware we are and how much feedback we solicit. Coaching provides a way of accessing and confronting the cold truth that others may not tell you. It also provides an objective space to process those truths and learn to deal with them in a safe environment. This is critical in a new role as we come to terms with our new environment, colleagues and task-load.
- Help you advance things faster and with greater precision
If we’re good, then we all get there. We all grow and develop through a series of experiences over the years. What a coach does is condense the entire process down to a matter of months. For example, a new leader of an SME experiencing rapid growth, or new leader of a start-up who has to deal with an infinite amount of new complexity that may be overwhelming. Yet we have the ability to get there. That’s what the coach helps us to do. Or if we’ve been promoted and never dealt with a board before, then a coach isn’t going to help us successfully deal with a board for the first time. But they will prepare us and put us in the position to have a perspective about dealing with the board. A coach can also help us to develop certain skills and techniques to enable us to do our real work better, which are highly likely to be needed in a new role.
- Space to hear your own voice - to talk something through and gain perspective
Coaching provides an environment of support to help us to think through thorny issues and decide how we feel about them before we make the bold moves needed to lead. It can be lonely at the top of organisations, and after being newly promoted, or taking on a new executive role, having a coach in support to challenge, encourage, provide confidence and empathy can provide valuable perspective when we need it most.
All the points above are leverage points for growth for a newly appointed leader. But don't get me wrong, coaching isn't a panacea. It won't work for someone who doesn't have a desire to learn and grow, or a sense of humility. Also, not all coaches are a good fit and the right chemistry and skills match between a coach and a coachee is important to get right. Yet, with benefits like those above, I believe it’s worth both the time and the investment.