Having been on both ends of executive coaching, I get this question all the time: What are the benefits of coaching?
Or as my friend Megan puts it, What is a coach and why does it sound so ridiculous?
Coaching comes in a variety of flavors, but the overarching goal is to help you be the very best version of yourself as a leader, executive, and whole person. The experience feels like a blend of therapy, board discussion, and Olympic cross-training. The focus is on your advancement as you define it, a definition that usually evolves. A coach doesn’t have to have been a “quarterback” to be helpful (just ask Pete Carroll – he was never a stand-out football player), but familiarity with your world never hurts.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt says the best advice he ever got was to get a coach. Bill Gates emphatically says everyone should have a coach. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson advocates coaching too, especially for first-time CEOs.
I envision a future in which all CEOs and professionals work with a coach just as serious athletes do today. And companies budget for coaching the way they do for Internet access and collaboration software — as foundational to growth. The more talent-dependent a company, the greater the marginal returns.
Forgive my boosterism here. I’m passionate because I’ve experienced the benefits of a positive coaching partnership on both sides.
When we were building my first company, I realized that the biggest limitation to my company’s growth was my own growth as the founder & ceo. So I hired a coach. In a matter of months, my then-coach guided me to put in place a strategic growth plan, bring to life our company values, work through stressful interpersonal situations, and be a lot more decisive and concrete in my style. It was invaluable.
If you’re considering coaching, here are 12 ways you might benefit:
- Hard results – greater productivity, faster promotions, bigger profits
- Deeper learnings – about yourself, how you’re perceived, where you can improve
- Faster action – advancing things faster and with greater precision
- Space to hear your own voice – to talk something through and gain perspective
- Awareness of perspectives, beliefs, and attitudes that may be holding you back
- Support and confidence to “lean in” and make bold moves
- Clarity on your values and what you stand for, which leads to greater conviction
- Ideas for ways to improve that you may not see – awareness of blind spots
- Emotional support, empathy, and encouragement – feels less lonely
- The cold truth others won’t tell you
- Third-party moderation for 360-reviews, strategic planning, and conflict resolution
- Support for improving specific skills – communication, delegation, conflict management, team building, persuasion, etc.
In my eyes, these are incredible leverage points for growth. But don’t get me wrong, coaching isn’t a panacea. It won’t work for someone who doesn’t have a desire to learn and grow. In some situations, consulting or therapy may be more appropriate (see chart below). And let’s face it: not all coaches will fit. It’s a profession with low barriers to entry that’s still maturing. There’s an element of chemistry that needs to be right.
With that said, if you’re the type of person who wants to grow and improve, and is willing to trust someone to support you, I highly recommend working with a coach.
The experience may feel non-linear, but you might be surprised by the ways you benefit.
Feb 5, 2014