Contemporary American author, Sue Grafton, said, “Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.”
Execution of a long-term business strategy requires diligence and commitment. The demands of day-to-day work and client or customer obligations, however, can easily distract a leader. Leaders can also lose sight of the importance of addressing employee performance or behavior issues, viewing time spent handling those situations as yet another distraction. A good coach can make all the difference. A coach helps the leader stay focused on long-term goals while overcoming daily challenges.
Some say a coach is an unnecessary expense. Leaders get where they are in an organization because they know what they’re doing, and they do it well. Some people feel there’s a stigma attached to coaching, meaning only those who are broken need a coach to fix them. Others focus on the cost. Coaching is not inexpensive, with a coach’s hourly fee ranging from $300 or more, depending on the level of the individual in the organization receiving the coaching. Still others find it too difficult to commit to the time spent in coaching sessions or doing the work outside of coaching sessions. The time, they believe, is better spent doing the work than talking to someone about doing the work.
The excuses for avoiding coaching, however, are based on miscalculations of the value derived from the coaching relationship. Alexandra Phillips explored this question in a 2016 blog post, “How to Know if a Business Success Coach is Right for You,” published by The Conference Board. To paraphrase Phillips, if a team wants to win a championship, the team needs a coach. If an athlete wants to complete in a triathlon, the athlete needs a coach. Venus and Serena Williams have coaches. Sergio Garcia has a coach. The U.S. Olympic teams have coaches, even though each athlete is highly capable and has a demonstrated history of high performance.
Business is no different. Leaders need coaches if they want to effectuate change and build high-performing organizations. As William Arruda keenly noted in a Forbes magazine article, “Why You Need To Hire A Coach in 2015,” “Organizations with strong coaching cultures report their revenue to be above average, compared to their peer group.” Sixty-five percent of employees “from strong coaching cultures rated themselves as highly engaged,” compared to 13 percent of employees worldwide.
According to a 2013 study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, almost 100 percent of leaders who utilized a coach found the coaching process extremely valuable and would recommend coaching to other leaders. Coaching is not an expense. It’s an investment in both the individual and the business. The Stanford study demonstrates that CEOs really are “lonely at the top.” Almost two-thirds of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from external consultants, and almost half of senior leaders are in the same boat. Of the CEOs who receive coaching, 80 percent reported that getting a coach was their own idea.
Needing or wanting a coach is not a sign of weakness. Everyone has blind spots. Most often the leader’s blind spots involve less-tangible skills, such as the ability to motivate, inspire and mentor the future leaders of the business. There are perhaps few skills more important than these to ensuring long-term business continuity and success and few more critical for engaging a coach’s support.
Organizations like Google have internal coaching staff and programs geared to the purposes identified above. Many organizations, however, need to look externally to find a coach. Coaching is an art. It’s personalized and unique to the leader, and it’s an essential element of continuous improvement. Take time to find the right coach. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all relationship. It’s as personal and unique as the leader. Finding the right coach and building a solid relationship can and does improve the bottom line.