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Pros and Cons of Executive Coaching
25-Feb-05 [ by Larry Chao ] 15071 Read and 11 Comment

As with any fast rising management fad‚ executive coaching has spawned a cottage industry of eager consultants‚ whose claim to fame seems to promise more than it can deliver‚ writes Larry Chao.

Executive coaching has emerged as the latest trend to improve management skills. But without experience both in line management and counseling‚ executive coaches lack the perspective and insights needed to help managers make lasting improvements in on the job performance.

"In certain cases‚ the emergence of executive coaching as a profession has actually hurt the reputation of real coaching‚" says Cliff Davis executive vice president of human resources for Limited Brands Far East operations. "There is only so far and so fast you can institutionalize the process without diluting its effectiveness."

What concerns clients such as Davis is the inability of mass-produced coaches to provide proper counseling and guide individuals through personal change. In most cases‚ inexperienced coaches can help individuals reflect on their behaviors‚ but they lack the skills to surface deep-rooted problems and motivate people to change.

According to Davis‚ effective coaches must understand human nature as it relates to the workplace. Each situation poses a unique set of problems‚ players and possible solutions he says.

While most clients would agree with Davis‚ the economic model that seems to make sense for clients and coaches is a high volume approach. Fees are often based on the number of coaching sessions provided - more sessions equal more fees. In some cases‚ coaches offer per diem rates. This allows clients to squeeze as many sessions in per day as possible.

Coaching consultancies naturally try and maximize revenues by subcontracting coaches so they can handle more individuals per day without incurring fixed expenses. Yet this does not guarantee quality. Many of these subcontracted coaches have left corporate life and are looking for part-time work - an acceptable proposition only if the coach has the proper skills.

"It is interesting to observe the number of executive coaches that have suddenly sprung up. We are concerned these individuals could not perform their jobs as line managers or are in it simply for the money. I am not sure these are the types of people who make the best coaches‚" says Davis.

If you are thinking about using an executive coach‚ here are four suggestions to help make sure you benefit the most from your experience:

  1. Look for a track record of success - Good coaching cannot be mastered overnight. Beware of so-called coaching certificates that can be obtained from a crash course on coaching. It is absurd to imagine these coaches can then charge clients $200-$300 per hour for executive coaching. True executive coaches are professionals with years of experience. They have a track record of success.

  2. Coach selectively‚ not in mass - avoid the temptation to coach as many people as possible in the shortest period of time. Understanding an individual's emotional state and motivating him or her to perform more effectively on the job takes time and effort. Each individual represents a unique challenge that cannot be treated with off-the-shelf solutions. Keep this in mind when planning the duration and pace of coaching programs.

  3. Follow-up persistently - skill development and behavior change happen over time. Individuals need to practice new behaviors‚ reflect and learn. If they do not recognize the value of desired new behaviors‚ it is unlikely they will change. A good coach prescribes a battery of interventions‚ especially persistent follow-up. This helps create a compelling case for change.

  4. personal level. Building coaching capability in-house can ensure that talent is continuously nourished and developed on a more cost-effective long-term basis.
Executive coaching is a useful management tool when the coach and program are qualified and well defined. A good executive coach has a deep appreciation of human nature and the vagaries of working in a competitive business environment. When used selectively and consistently over time‚ executive coaching can help individuals break barriers and improve their own performance and the performance of others.

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