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Do You Need An Executive Coach?

Are a deal broker, a sales strategist, a virtuoso negotiator, a financial genius or a technical mastermind? Do you really have what it takes to manage and mingle with other high-level people? Do you have the right circle of relationships and contacts? Were your communication skills an uncomfortable point during your last performance review? Well a leadership coach might just be able to help.

The trend for coaching is being fuelled (in the USA, Canada and Europe) by the existing executive leadership generation who are now nearing retirement. The world as we know it has grown very fast and the education sector has delivered a generation that are awe-inspiring when it comes to technical skills, however many a business school program has failed to address the critical importance of “core skills” such as leadership and communication from a functional perspective. North America is way ahead of Europe when it comes to creating space and budget for executive development, perhaps due to the following reason; – in many European and UK companies there still remains an element of machismo around executive development. Many people have been misled to believe that communication skills and “soft” skills hold a lower priority than “getting the job done”. Some even consider the need for training themselves and their teams as a “soft option”, one that exposes weaknesses. The first conclusion is as self-sabotaging as it is sad, and the second it’s a bit like knowing exactly where the secret treasure is buried; yet never bothering to dig for it.

India and China are expanding way faster than their university business programs can produce management candidates. These tiger economies are developing a gigantic cadre of professional workers, but their executive ranks remain sparse and lack the communication skills, relationships, business intelligence and gravitas to function effectively at C-suite level let alone in sales and middle management.

Big companies like GE have successfully focussed on developing and growing internal leaders, instead of simply recruiting from the outside.
However many others are experiencing a “leadership drain” as skilled people exercise their choice because they are able to move from opportunity to opportunity and are quite easily lured by “new things and ever greater financial rewards. These skilled people know they can look after themselves and don’t need a job for life, because in truth ”the world is their workplace“. This is a particular problem in India and China in the high-tech sector, where holding onto technical talent is difficult as people choose personal benefits over corporate loyalty and chop and change jobs as better opportunities arise.

Part 2
Generation ”X“ or Fickle?

Many executive can’t understand why there is no loyalty anymore; – it’s possibly down to the ”boundary thinking“ that has set in, and the comfort zones of the past are now the straight jackets that put younger talented people off the very idea of hanging around the same place for too long. I have heard many a C-suite exec call the modern generation ”fickle“ and disrespectful. Our research shows something else – these people are in charge of their own world right now on their terms. They are reliant on themselves and their social communities not on authority. Leadership is not about authority anymore it is about learning and growth. The real dilemma with the ”old style“ approach is that irrespective of all the technological advances and industry psycho-ba(b)ble, a simple fact remains: it is people and communities who make businesses successful. Nowadays in a world of plenty, people want gratification and success – it’s a 21st century birthright.Visionary companies are trying hard to retain talent but there is one little issue; the amount of trained and skilled talent out there to replace the people retiring is growing ever scarcer.

In a recent Forbes article Peter Felix, president of the Association of Executive Search Consultants stated that it would take a whole generation before there is enough management talent for our ever-growing management needs in the world. He is quoted as saying that ”It takes a whole generation to train effective, modern management.“

I disagree to a point.

Leadership coaching is not only for executives who are struggling to get to grips with their roles. We have successfully coached middle managers into C–suite positions in under 3 years, because we felt they would be prime candidates. We often work with managers who have been highly successful to date, but then they adopt a ”style“ which can lead to a ”barrier mindset“ – a way of thinking which prevents them from reaching further up into the C-suite. We are often called in when there has been a big change on an executive team, and the senior members need to get to know one another and learn each other’s relationship dynamics.

A good leadership coach can get you into the C-suite in a short period, the secret is for that coaching and grooming to continue in order to ensue that the corporate culture however innovative does not drive the executive into a barrier mindset.

As leadership coaches we can help a new C–suite executive adjust to their position, or give boardroom support during succession planning. The price for such leadership insight varies, but it’s not for executives with low budgets or limited personal bank balances. In Europe costs range from anywhere from €25,000 to €500,000 Euro ($35,000 to $650,000 US) for a coaching engagement, and in the USA budgets are even higher. Phase 1 engagements last eighteen months or more and involve 20 to 100 sessions. Thereafter regular ”grooming“ sessions keep the executive on the right track and most of all on an upward growth path.

Part 3
Big and Tall or Boutique?

The demand for leadership coaching is growing, and it is said that boutique consultancies that now dominate the industry will soon begin to wane when serving the larger companies. Some corporations don’t want a different leadership coach with a different method in every city. Fair enough – in some cases this is appropriate.
There is talk that the industry is ripe for consolidation, even that the large multinational coaching consultancies are open to more acquisitions. Forbes.com columnist Kevin Cashman has stated that the boutiques will soon be unable to serve the multination global companies with quality and reach. Korn/Ferry International the international headhunting giant acquired Cashman’s Leadersource coaching consultancy last year. Clearly barrier thinking has already begun to set in.

I personally feel that there is room for both. Perhaps the giants will standardise and begin to regulate the coaching industry, but then again it is our opinion that the niche boutiques will win business with inspiration and individual innovation that makes the difference ”between those that made it happen, and those that also belong there“. The big coaching giants will probably attempt to regulate the industry to ”raise the barrier“ (and try to enforce the ever consequential boundaries and restrictions) however they have their place when it comes to reach and standardisation. They will in our opinion provide plenty of opportunities for the boutique consultancies. Whether standardisation is a sign of quality, or of a harbinger of impending mediocrity depends on whom you talk to and how well they think they are doing.

In my opinion, it will be the niche boutiques that will bring the true innovation to coaching that will help to incubate a better world. They will develop the talent who are the future and will make the world a better place – one filled with success AND a sense of humanity. The author Dean Koontz summed it up in this way, ”Some people think only intellect counts – knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion and empathy.“ Leadership and for that matter sales skills in the future will be more about exploiting the value of social capital than squeezing more blood from a (budget) stone.

Global warming, volatile emerging markets, health care dilemmas, security, Government and Union interfering: Are you really prepared for the global trends taking place the modern business world? Ready to confront 21st-century challenges? You could pass up the opportunity – or hire a coach!

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