An Executive Coach May be Key to Your Success

By: Rich Kramarik



Reliable information about executive coaching is scarce. Neither accreditation organizations nor any standards exist. Studies on the subject, its value or effectiveness and who should partake are all but non-existent.

Last year, Anthony M. Grant, who teaches coaching psychology at the University of Sydney, Australia, surveyed research on coaching of all kinds. He located only 131 peer-reviewed studies published since 1937. Of these, just 56 were empirical, and few met standards of reliable methodology. “In general,” Grant said, “the quality of the research is extremely poor.” Although capable scholars are now crowding into the field, years may pass before they can map out authoritative guides for coaching.

Today there is a new view in business of value from improved productivity derived from better alignment of company goals and company senior management. In the 80s and 90s there was a renewed focus on organizational development driven by downsizing and removal of redundancies but without a focus on people and in particular executive development.

No one has yet demonstrated conclusively what makes an executive coach qualified or what makes one approach to executive coaching better than another. Despite this fact, many top executives and their companies have found accelerated success and out paced peers who have not taken advantage of executive coaches. One group, TEC International, has over 10,000 chief executive members worldwide who receive coaching from their TEC Chairs and have attained an annual growth rate that exceeds that of the S&P 500, Fortune 500 and Dow Jones Industrials combined. 1

Leaders in leaner, faster moving companies recognize the need for a new set of competencies: the communication and relationship skills required to influence and energize employees, adaptability to accept and initiate rapid change, and respect for people of diverse backgrounds and abilities. Today, top executives require emotional intelligence 2 but companies find it’s in scarce supply.

Objective assessments and candid feedback are seen as essential to executive development, yet leaders at all levels generally don’t receive nor provide such feedback to subordinates. Why don’t they? Candor generates emotion, and many executives find emotion scary and difficult to deal with. The connection between personal or emotional stability and business success or stability is not often recognized. More important, executives are seldom if ever trained in how to deal with or the importance of personal or emotional issues in business.

When you create a culture of coaching, the results may not be directly measurable in dollars. But where is the company that can’t benefit from more candor, less denial, richer communications, conscious development of talent, and disciplined leaders who show compassion for people.

The old adage “It’s lonely at the top” is more truth than fiction. An informal survey conducted by Paladin and Associates indicates that the typical CEO only has three other CEOs who can be called and used as a sounding board. By contrast many consultants have over 50 confidants – senior executive sounding boards that they can call on for advice.

Enter the Executive Coach…

Do a Google search on “Executive Coaching” 3 and you will get 2,680,000 result sites. That’s a lot of organizations and individuals who profess to be executive coaches. What do these “coaches” do?

An executive coach is part mentor, part challenger, part sounding board, and part cheering section. An executive coach is a third party, business professional who creates a safe place to share business insights and information and to untangle tough company issues. Executive coaching provides specific solutions and counseling on executive development.

A variety of methods are employed to help executives enhance organizational performance, increase personal value to oneself and the organization, deal with difficult people and situations, take effective action, attain greater clarity, improve people management skills, integrate new or more enhanced skill sets, experience higher job satisfaction and increase employee retention.

Executive coaching addresses team building, leadership development, organizational alignment, conflict resolution, task and time management, creating a safe, stable and focused work environment, achieving employee satisfaction and employee accountability. Executive coaching also trains leaders to build trusting relationships, help subordinates find and fulfill their purpose, evoke the best in their people and create an atmosphere where people thrive, are inspired and empowered to become "self directed."

Executive coaching engages with people in customized ways that acknowledge and honor their individuality. It helps people know themselves better, live more consciously, and contribute more richly. The essentially human nature of coaching is what makes it work – and also what makes it nearly impossible to quantify.

Most executive coaching is intellectually indebted to a small number of disciplines, including consulting, management, organizational development, questioning and psychology. At the most basic level, coaches serve as outsourced suppliers of candor, providing individual leaders with the objective feedback needed to nourish their growth.

It is remarkable how many smart, highly motivated, and apparently responsible people rarely pause to contemplate their own behavior. Often more inclined to move on than to reflect deeply, executives may reach the top ranks without addressing their limitations. Coaching gets them to slow down, gain awareness and notice the effects of their words and actions. That enables those being coached to perceive choices rather than simply reacting to events; ultimately, coaching can empower them to assume responsibility for their impact on their businesses and self. Strategic coaching integrates personal development and organizational needs.

Strategic coaching can help leaders adapt to new responsibilities, reduce destructive behaviors, enhance teamwork, align individuals to collective goals, facilitate succession, and support organizational change. The most valuable coaching fosters cultural change for the benefit of the entire organization.

Both the coach and the executive being coached must be prepared to work together, willing to flow with the punches, ready to sacrifice ego, excited to forget the words “that’s the way we have always done it,” in short – prepared to learn from each other.

What is the Point of the Coaching Program? Why Hire a Coach?

Steven Covey in his famous book “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” 4 says that we should “always start with the end in mind.” If you want to do a better job of growing yourself, your business or your personal time, and, if you are open to constructive criticism, initiating change, complete disclosure and new ideas, then you are a candidate for using a coach. The point is that if you fit this description, then you will gain significant growth over your competition by using a coach.

Coaches foster independence. Great coaches sniff out hidden truths. They tend to be curious and ask penetrating questions. They have the ability to turn over rocks and discover what lies beneath is critical because business conversations – including briefings to coaches – often omit essential issues or information. For example: A CEO was having trouble because her team was not getting done what she wanted them to accomplish. Through deep discussion with her coach she discovered that her team may not be hearing what she is saying. She didn’t know how to find out, so her coach suggested that she simply ask them. At the next management staff meeting she and her team discussed it and she discovered that the team did not know what she wanted done in many cases. They discovered that information flow was the issue. By simply opening communication lines to her team, her effectiveness has now gone up an order of magnitude.

The most important traits of the coach are character and insight, distilled as much from the coach’s personal experience as from formal training. Coaching remains as much art as science, best practiced by individuals who have solid business experience and acute perception skills, demonstrate diplomacy, possess sound judgment and have the ability to navigate conflicts with integrity.

A masters or doctorate or prior experience as a CEO or a degree in psychology don’t make a coach. All of these are great backgrounds, but they don’t necessarily show the type of business wisdom required by the great coach. It takes the integration of business experience, leadership and management capabilities, strong problem management skills, effective communications, insatiable inquisitiveness and the ability to work effectively with people.

Take Action Now

Some individuals can’t overcome their discomfort with personal inquiry, just as some organizations can’t find the necessary respect for people. But for those who recognize the value of bringing individuals and organizations into alignment, the considerable difficulties and uncertainties of executive coaching are outweighed by the benefits of creating a new kind of enterprise that knows how to capitalize on the human qualities of its employees and get the huge advantages of having a team that can conquer anything.

End Notes

1 This statement uses Dun & Bradstreet data and measures growth in sales revenue. It compares the 3 year trend and the 5 year trend of compound annual growth for the Fortune 500, S&P 500 and the aggregate of all TEC member companies. TEC companies are growing faster than these major indices on both a 3 year and a 5 year basis.

2 What is emotional intelligence? In the early 1990s, Dr. John Mayer, Ph.D., and Dr. Peter Salovey, Ph.D., introduced the term "emotional intelligence" in the Journal of Personality Assessment. They used this term to describe a person's ability to understand his or her own emotions and the emotions of others and to act appropriately based on this understanding. Then in 1995, psychologist Daniel Goleman popularized this term with his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

3, find “executive coaching.”

4 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen R. Covey, Simon & Schuster (September 1, 1989)



An Executive Coach May be Key to Your Success
 Case Study

By: Rich Kramarik


A coach met with the owner and CEO of a one year old business. This was more a successful series of projects than a true business. The CEO would go out and sell a project, the company would deliver and collect their fees and then the CEO would go out and start selling the next project.

The company was doing no marketing, finances were run by the “seat of the pants,” human resources were scarce, and there was no business plan. The CEO was a producer/developer and had little experience in business or personnel management.

The coach suggested that the CEO find someone else to run the business, but CEO wanted to learn what he didn’t know, get help in leading his company and build himself and his business into a great success.

The coach and the CEO set out on the path to converting from successful projects to successful business. The approach in this case was for the two to meet on a regular basis to jointly work on building a business plan. As the two worked jointly on the plan there were countless opportunities for the CEO to admit where he didn’t know how to proceed and for the coach to provide coaching by asking questions of the CEO on how he thought they should proceed. In time the CEO learned that the questions the coach was asking allowed the coach to guide the CEO without the coach ever having to tell the CEO what to do. The CEO learned the new skills and gained confidence through the coach’s skill at leading by asking questions.

Over an eight month time span the CEO was more knowledgeable in all aspects of his business, managing the business, and he had a business plan to guide future growth. In a year, the CEO’s business has tripled and now is moving into new levels of organizational development to manage his rapidly growing business.

A Coaching Failure

The CEO of a mid-sized computer software business was struggling with poor sales. He had more technical than business experience in his background. He was a self proclaimed expert in his technology, the product market, product sales, product marketing and the competition.

With all this expertise, he was baffled as to why no one was buying his product. Through several coaching sessions, the coach was able to determine that he was telling his prospects what they needed. He was telling prospects that his technology solution was better than the prospect’s manual processes. He was selling the benefits of technology in an industry that is traditionally technology averse. He believed that if he set the product price low enough the prospects would buy. The bottom line – he acted like he knew more than his prospects on a wide array of topics and failed to listen to their definition of the problem and its impact. Therefore, he was unable to convey the real value of his solution, in their terms.

Through careful questioning, the coach was able to get the CEO to realize the errors in his approach. But, the CEO could never put the realized modifications into practice. The result was no change and continued insignificant sales.

Not all executives are able to take advantage of a coach. There are qualifications for the executive to be coached: Is the executive motivated? Can an important developmental need be identified? Is the executive coachable? Does the executive have support? Is the executive valuable enough to justify the cost of coaching? Is the executive willing to and capable of changing? Can the executive listen, learn and then modify existing behavior?

The more explicit the conversations, the better the results. Successful coaches encourage vigorous, candid debate, clear boundaries of confidentiality, and defined accountabilities for each participant.

A Story About a Coach

Who in their life hasn’t planted a peach pit just hoping that somehow a seedling would grow? And then they move on to some other adventure, and if it comes up – well, they don’t even know if the peach tree is blooming. That’s one way of picturing a coach’s style of living. He’s planted ideas and dreams unaware of the exact results that will be achieved. He’s noticed somebody whose business needs attention and planted a positive feeling in their day-to-day working habits. It’s part of his nature. He may not remember the kind and encouraging things that he’s done, but everywhere, “peach pits” are growing like crazy, and people and businesses are blooming. I know it – I’m one of them. “The Coached”


Brought to you by:                                                         [BACK]

            Bob De Contreras                                                  
            Rich Kramarik                                                     


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