This is a post for skeptics and doubters – those who suspect that executive coaching is at best a passing fad, or at worst, nothing but quackery peddled by a pack of charlatans. This is a post for those who suspect that executive coaches might have their own circle in hell, probably near the infamous “management consultants.”
But before grabbing our pitchforks and torches, let’s first investigate this issue by considering the decisions of a few entities renowned for their zero-bullshit policies, hardheaded scrutiny, analytical intensity, and results oriented cultures: Google, Goldman Sachs, IBM, and GE. According to Forbes, these corporations (along with 25-40 percent of Fortune 500 companies) spent more than $1 billion combined on executive coaching last year. IBM keeps more than 60 certified coaches on their payroll. Goldman Sachs dedicates tens of thousands of hours to executive coaching. These companies attract the best talent, keep it, and develop it by providing mentors and coaches to their workforce. A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the mean ROI for companies investing in coaching was 7 times the initial investment. 25 percent of those surveyed reported ROI of 10 to 50 times. Academic research supports these corporate decisions too. A recent paper by two students at Cornell demonstrated that there is increasingly a shift away from formal education systems towards mentorships (leadership coaching) and that although executive programs such as special job assignments and international job rotations are popular, they aren’t always the most effective ways of developing talent.
Top business universities–the feeder schools for the best corporations–are supporting the executive coaching model as well. Wharton Business School began an Executive Coaching and Feedback Program in 2012, which is available to all incoming MBA students with the intent of closing leadership skill gaps through individualized leadership development coaching processes. The Kellogg School of Management is also designing, implementing, and facilitating coaching experiences centered on personal leadership development to compliment the classroom experience in Kellogg’s Executive Education Program. These institutions long known for their focus on operational and analytical excellence are seeking ways to also boost individuals’ leadership skills.
This being said, in executive coaching as in any industry charlatans do exist. A Harvard Business Review Research Report suggests asking yourself these three questions to make sure your executive coach isn’t one of them:
1. Does your executive coach have experience coaching in a similar setting?
2. Does your executive coach have a clear methodology?
3. Does your executive coach have a quality client list?
4. Is your executive coach certified?