Do You Need A Business Coach? (Part 1)

By December 19, 2011 Leadership No Comments

by Paul Michelman

Do you need an business coach? Do your managers? Here is a useful framework for thinking about the role of business coaching, adapted from Harvard Management Update.

Is business coaching was destined to play a role occupied by psychoanalysis in some Neil Simon version of Hollywood: a virtual prerequisite for anyone who aspires to be anyone? It might seem that way at some organizations, at least to the untrained eye. IBM has more than sixty certified business coaches among its ranks. Scores of other major companies have made business coaching a core part of executive development. The belief is that, under the right circumstances, one-on-one interaction with an objective third party can provide a focus that other forms of organizational support simply cannot.

And whereas executive coaching was once viewed by many as a tool to help correct underperformance, today it is becoming much more widely used in supporting top producers. In fact, in a 2004 survey by Right Management Consultants (Philadelphia), 86 percent of companies said they used executive coaching to sharpen the skills of individuals who have been identified as future organizational leaders.

“Executive coaching has evolved into the mainstream fast”, says Michael Goldberg, president of Building Blocks Consulting (Manalapan, New Jersey), whose clients include New York Life and MetLife. “This is because there is a great demand in the workplace for immediate results, and business coaching can help provide that”. How? By providing feedback and guidance in real time, says Brian Underhill, a senior consultant at the Alliance for Strategic Leadership (Morgan Hill, California). “Business coaching develops leaders in the context of their current jobs, without removing them from their day-to-day responsibilities.”

At an even more basic level, many executives simply benefit from receiving any feedback at all. “As individuals advance to the executive level, development feedback becomes increasingly important, more infrequent, and more unreliable,” notes Anna Maravelas, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based business coaching professional and founder of TheraRising. As a result, she says, “Many executives plateau in critical interpersonal and leadership skills.” So, should you have a coach? And which managers in your sphere of responsibility might benefit from working with an outsider to help sharpen skills and overcome hurdles to better performance?

The right approach to answering these questions still varies a great deal depending on whom you ask, but input from several dozen business coaches, and executives who have undergone business coaching, does provide a useful framework for how to think about the role of coaching.

The Road to Business Coaching

Although both the organization and the executive must be committed to corporate coaching for it to be successful, the idea to engage a business coach can originate from either HR and leadership development professionals or from executives themselves. In the past, it has more often sprung from the organizational side. But given the growing track record of corporate coaching as a tool for fast movers, “We see more executives choosing executive coaching as a proactive component of their professional life,” says Cheryl Leitschuh, a leadership development consultant with RSM McGladrey (Bloomington, Minnesota).

Business Coaching is not an end in itself

In spite of its apparently robust potential, the very act of taking on an executive coach will not help advance your career. In other words, don’t seek corporate coaching just because other fast movers in the firm seem to be benefiting from it.

From: Harvard Management Update, Vol. 9, No. 12, December 2004.

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