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When You Need a Coach: Blind Spots Are less Obvious When Things Are Going Well

Coaching may not be for everybody. And much depends on getting the right one. Many swear that having one has made all the difference in knocking off rough edges and being able to connect better with colleagues and employees.

David Krantz, CEO of YP (AT&T’s former local search and advertising business), the $3.3 billion spin-off of two AT&T businesses, has had an executive coach for at least 10 years taking him along from job to job throughout his career. “He’s helped me transition from MBA manager/strategy consultant to helping me to understand and lead people,” says the veteran leader who started with P&G and led several start-ups before his current position.

Coaching is drawing greater interest by boards and c-suite executives, particularly where performance goals aren’t being met. Yet there is still a contradiction between what is expected of c-suite executives from their boards, customers, clients, their employees, even themselves and their willingness to commit to a coaching process which can equip them with the tools to achieve expectations. Recent research by Stanford University and The Miles Group cite the massive gap between CEOs being receptive to coaching (95%) and the percentage who actually receive coaching (less than 33%). More often than not, this is due to the “stigma” that is still attached to coaching by both boards and CEOs, that it is “remedial” in nature rather than “performance enhancing”.

The 2014 Trends in Talent Management and Executive Developmentglobal research study (to be published in January 2014) which surveyed over 150 CEO’s and VP’s of HR reveals that of the 35% of organizations using executive coaching, only 48% of those use coaching for executives at the vice president level and above (not including the c-suite). Similar to the Stanford/Miles Group Study, only 30% of CEO’s received outside coaching. Surprisingly, 52% of the organizations surveyed did not cite executive coaching as an important developmental strategy for their VP and above executives. Given the proven benefits of coaching, the statistic that more than 66% of CEOs do not receive any outside coaching is both surprising and alarming.

CEOs often find “it’s lonely at the top.” Partnering with an executive coach where they can confidentially explore their strengths and vulnerabilities can give CEOs a valuable ally and a resource for professional growth. For example, the CEO of a billion-dollar line of business within a multi-billion dollar corporation unexpectedly resigned and the new CEO was given a challenge by the board to turn the company around within six months. The new CEO recognized the need for objective feedback and advice and turned to an executive coach to help him achieve his objectives: obtaining support from senior executives and communicating a clear vision to the rest of the company. With the help of expert coaching, the CEO achieved his goals and increased revenues, reduced costs, and re-established profitability to the line of business within six months.

Just as top athletes rely on the best coaches to push their performance to new heights, CEOs should consider executive coaches as vital to “performance enhancement.” Heinz CEO Bill Johnson, himself the son of a former NFL coach [Cincinnati Bengals] employs one for himself. “Why not?” says Johnson. “Tiger Woods has a coach.” When boards and other stakeholders recognize the value of executive coaching for their c-suite executives, the result can be the difference between having a good organization, with good people and having a great organization, with people who come together every day to create real, sustained value.

Orlando, FL-based John Mattone is the president of JohnMattonePartners, [email protected], a global leadership consulting firm and has authored seven books. He was recently nominated for the prestigious 2013 Thinkers50 Leadership Award and teaches in the executive MBA program at Florida Atlantic University.




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