The notion of executive coaching in the business world has often been written off too soon as just another corporate fad. But thanks to a growing body of research, executive coaching is being seen as a serious business tool.
Anne Whyte, director of the Centre for Coaching at Melbourne Business School said executive coaching has shaken off its bad image as an industry of unqualified people claiming they could do all kinds of things for amazing fees. After extensive research, and looking at global trends, coaching is now seen as an integral ingredient in business success. More than 50% of Australian managers and leaders now engage executive coaches, and in the US and Western Europe the figure is much higher – up to 80%.
While executive coaches used to be brought in to address problematic behaviours, coaching is now used for high-potential people and high-potential teams. If they can behave more skilfully, better understand their impact on others, they are able to perform to higher levels. “[High-performers] find whatever targets they set, if they get coached, they tend to be able to do better. And there’s an analogy to sport.. You hardly would try to be winning the gold medal without a coach.”
In the global top 100 companies for instance, 93% of all senior manager use coaching. “You have a very strong demand coming from the people who actually use it, so we looked at why was it so useful to them, and from the research we were able to [determine] that demand has been driven by busy senior executives in tough jobs – the old saying that it’s lonely at the top is actually quite true,” Whyte said. There are often issues that need to be reflected on with another person, and with sensitive business issues, sharing this discussion with others in the same organisation can have disastrous consequences. “There’s only so much personal reflection you can do. You actually need another person in the dialogue,” Whyte added.
Colonial First State CEO Brian Bissaker regularly seeks advice and guidance from mentor and general manager of HR, Kate Rimer. “It’s lonely at the top. CEOs have got to make a lot of hard decisions and a lot of decisions that may not be popular, but if you try to be popular all the time you end up not getting anywhere. You’ve got to be prepared to make those decisions, and you’ve got to be able to bounce decisions off others, because you don’t want to be out of line and unreasonable – you want to be hard and fair. So I’ve said to Kate, what do you think, what’s your view? I want your feedback, you’re in there, tell me.”