Have you ever been in a meeting and wondered how your colleague acquired a surge of creative, out-of-the-box ideas on possible solutions to an organizational problem? Have you noticed individuals who seem to have a special ability for improving the communication and effectiveness of other people around them? Were they born leaders with unique talents? Probably not. Most likely these individuals have had the benefit of professional executive coaching to help them see old problems in a new light.
One of the fastest growing areas in the consulting field, executive coaching has exploded in popularity, just behind management consulting. Today, there are an estimated 10,000 full- and part-time coaches, and the number of coaches entering the field has doubled in size every year for the past three years, according to the International Coach Federation. Why all the sudden popularity?
Most people work with an executive coach for the same reasons they might seek a personal fitness trainer: they want to improve their performance and image. A coach can help you develop an agenda that focuses on building on your strengths and sharpening your skills to shore up areas that need improvement. Business and career coaching is an individualized but collaborative process that has time limits and focused goals. It’s designed to help you solve problems, increase your strategic thinking, improve your communication skills, create a politically savvy, positive self-image and develop ongoing career goals. Like its sports metaphor, business coaching is results oriented; there are systems of accountability incorporated into the process to move you forward or deepen your insights.
While the idea of training to improve your business skills is not new, what experts realized was that there was no follow-up. “Busy executives need help to make the necessary changes in real time on their jobs,” say Douglas Hall, Karen Otazo and George Hollenbeck in “Behind Closed Doors: What Really Happens in Executive Coaching,” Organizational Dynamics (Winter 1999). “Just knowing what’s wrong isn’t enough to make the changes. When coaches work well with executives, the results tell the story,” they add.
Even entrepreneurs are consulting with coaches when analyzing their organizations and/or themselves. Some, like be 100s CEO David R. Duerson of Fair Oaks Farms in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, have consulted coaches like A. Ray Charles of Chicago to help them evaluate their performance. “As an entrepreneur, working with a coach gives you a confidante with whom you can share your experiences and get a second or third opinion,” says Duerson. “Charles gives me the spiritual side of being a CEO, and gets back to me with what is the biblical perspective on my business. There’s something about having that verifier that gives you confidence,” he adds. That reassurance can be a vital element for entrepreneurs, since there may not be the benefit of a formalized corporate structure or that experience in a CEO’s background.
Says Charles: “Entrepreneurs who seek our service have a desire to do what’s right in God’s eye in their business and personal relationships. My role as a coach