When to invest in executive coaching and how to select high potential talent?

Although business structure varies, it is likely that you will have a number of key leaders within your business and particularly looking more closely to the position of CEO,  there will be an executive team that has an unfaltering and direct impact on a number of business areas. Having the right people in place is essential to drive your businesses success.

You may be at a critical point within your company's journey and seeking to ensure that your executive team is ready for the challenge, or looking at your succession planning options and inwardly evaluating the promotion and retention of key hires.  A study by Deloitte showed that 86% of leaders believe leadership succession planning is an ‘urgent’ or ‘important’ priority but only 14% believe they do it well.

In discussions to ensure that employees are supported and in the right place, coaching may be an avenue you are open to exploring. The question arises, should you look at executive coaching for a number of employees or seek to bring in a business coach?

Executive Coaching or Business Coaching?

Investing in Executive Coaching

Executive coaching works with your employees and can be utilised for a number of reasons; not limited to getting past an impasse, removing a stumbling block or drawing out and building on strengths. Executive coaching will also cover leadership coaching as part of the overall coaching process and can, therefore, be useful for senior leaders as well as an executive.

Executive coaching can be approached on a one-to-one basis or a group setting and for this reason, an executive coach can be hired by both an individual or a company.  However, if the organisation, executive and the executive coach work in partnership, this will help achieve maximum impact.

Investing in Business Coaching

Business coaching is best suited to working with the Managing Director, Owner or Senior Executive in order to better-set goals, improve decision making, reach goals faster and enhance relationships - it will also incorporate leadership coaching for marked management progression.

Both executive coaching and business coaching can have a positive impact on your company. When looking to invest in executive coaching it is important to take a step back, identify what your true needs are in order to get the most out of the experience and choose the right type of coaching for your company. It is essential to define the process and key goals throughout as this will enable both the organisation and coaches to evaluate the outcomes and adjust accordingly. Studies have shown that executive coaching can be effective at reducing procrastination and facilitating goal attainment -overall, coaching will help a number of areas across the organisation.

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Gaps at C-Suite

As more companies have a flatter structural hierarchy there is a larger leap to C-Suite or other executive positions, meaning that those stepping into those leadership roles are doing so earlier than their predecessors and with less experience. Consequently, leaders with the required capability, mindset and experience are in limited supply. It is therefore pertinent that those stepping into such positions are supported to deliver personal and company success.

To develop the next generation of leaders it is important to support the individual's transitional process into an effective leader from their current position. It has been found that if an individual has a sense of optimism and can monitor and manage their outlook and self-awareness this transition will be smoother. Executive coaching can provide leaders with the tools to manage this effectively and often even senior and experienced individuals experience difficulties and unrest in their roles, therefore helping everyone to learn and benefit.

From a broader organisational perspective, executive coaching can help to retain staff as those that receive coaching are far more likely to be promoted or accelerated within their chosen career than those who have not received one-to-one coaching. With this said, do bear in mind that coaching affects each individual differently and sometimes people can choose to seek different career opportunities or professional pursuits.

How to identify and retain top talent?

High potentials and high performers are often confused; 'high performers' produce excellent work but they can lack the desire and sometimes the ability to hold a leadership position. Whereas 'high potential' individuals have the aptitude, ability and desire for successive leadership within a company - these individuals will likely have the ability to lead and build teams that can outperform competitors.

Whatever size your company, it is important to have a good understanding of the type of leaders you want and need both today and in the future. 

Our top tips:

  • You should create profiles to identify what success looks like for each role, ideally, these will cover the level of experience required and any desired leadership competencies. 
  • You should then look internally to identify potential successors for all role profiles and assess each potential individual against the criteria to understand where they are on their journey and to identify whether to invest in the executive. These role outlines will be useful if working with an executive coach as they can help to fill any skill gaps. 
  • This will build a sustainable succession plan providing the business with clear insight into the potential talent within the company.

What are the financial benefits of coaching?

The Institute of Coaching has said that over 70% of those that receive coaching showed an improved work performance and better communication skills, with 86% of companies stating that they feel they gained their investment back and more. As a more general view, studies have shown that when measured at the firm level, leadership development seems to pay off which is consistent with longstanding research.

What is the best way to analyse the financial benefit?

The money spent on developing leaders is less influential than the time invested. A study has shown that the hours invested in development have a greater relationship to business and financial outcomes. When it comes to people-orientated investments most will look to understand if the return on investment (ROI) is worth it and many have questioned whether it is sensible to use ROI to evaluate the impact of a coach.

ROI can be impacted by a number of factors outside of the coachee's control, which can make it hard to identify the exact impact of coaching. As ROI is calculated retrospectively and is subjective there will likely be a variance in results that will also be subject to cognitive bias.

On an individual basis, an unbiased method is to examine the degree to which the coaching objective was achieved. To find this bottom line, you can evaluate a number of indicators, such as the coachee practising with the tools taught and them identifying their own progress.  It is also advisable to conduct 360 reviews showing sustained behavioural changes, this will give excellent insights into changes surrounding communication and will highlight whether any additional sessions could be of use. 

When investing in executive coaching, it is essential that the individual invests time into the process; if this is a resource provided by the company, any help to fit this around the individual's work will make the process easier and will also allow them to make the most of the time and resources that are given by the coach. For example, often a coach will give the coachee homework so it is important to factor this in to ensure full engagement with the coaching sessions and for you to get the best return on investment.

By ensuring you have the right coach and are lined up on the goals you’re working to achieve you will feel the impact and gain more than you invested initially.

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