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Executive Coaching as an Effective Targeted HRM Strategy

Posted on September 18, 2010 at 8:38 AM


During crisistimes, senior leaders are probably in the greatest state of flux as they try tohold their teams together and manage their own fears simultaneously. Needlessto state that at these levels, the challenge or dilemma that each leader facesis unique to that individual. It is unlikely that group training would addresstheir particular development needs, much less their concerns. Sparrow (2008)reports that the UKbased Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) finds in itsrecent study, that one-to-one coaching is a more appropriate type of learningsupport than group-based interventions for senior people. Furthermore,executive coaching is critical for leaders managing transitions, which may bebrought about by restructuring of operations or by the exit of another seniormanager. Managing transitions is one of the most critical challenges in asenior manager’s career. Leadership transitions, for example, when a seniorperson is promoted within the organization or when the person is a newcomer tothe role, function, or company, are significant timesbecause the incumbent has not had time to learn the ropes and build relationshipsin the new role. Often, senior people have to deal with transitions aloneleaving them vulnerable to a crisis of confidence as they learn to cope with anew set of responsibilities. Sparrow concludes that coaching during this transitionperiod can help the incumbent settle in and get productive quickly. She reportsthat executive coaches help senior managers think through four key areas duringthis critical phase. The four areas are know how they will add value to thejob, develop their emotional connection with the role, consider what theirsubordinates feel it is like to be led by them, and define what success willlook like. The three case studies in the last section will illustrate how theseprinciples have worked in the recent Indian context.


Discussingsenior leadership development, Lindbom (2007) reminds us that most often strongtechnical employees are promoted to management roles for which they areunprepared. Tasks like setting goals, assessing progress, facilitating improvedperformance are new to most high performing technical employees and they oftenflounder in these areas. The organization ends up losing a great technicalcontributor and ends up with a poor manager because the transition has not beenmanaged correctly. Lindbom did a six-month study in a large telecommunicationscompany and found that most of itsmanagers were spending less than 10% or their time coaching and mentoring theiremployees. Ironically, this same group of managers attributed 70%-80% of theirtime to problem solving, crisis management, and paperwork-all of which theyagreed were not their most critical job responsibilities. While many managersrealize that performance management and coaching are important to their successas team leaders, they do not have the tools or the processes to help themdevelop and implement these responsibilities. At this juncture, an executivecoach can work with the employee and help the person make the transition to aleadership role more effectively than a leadership seminar because the coachunderstands the individual’s particular development needs within the context. Thecoach works with the employee to develop and implement an individualizeddevelopment plan that takes into account the feedback from affectedstakeholders.


Documented Benefits of ExecutiveCoaching


According to McLean (2008) on an average, coaching delivers a returnon investment (ROI) of 5.7 times the original investment made. In another article,Yu (2007) reports thatin a study conducted to evaluate if coaching produced results, they foundsalespeople whose sales managers spend more time coaching them reported realperformance improvements over the period. The study concluded that there was asignificant boost in productivity and performance when the manager used acoaching approach. In fact, 36% of the reported differences in performancecould be linked to coaching among those surveyed. These researchers conclude thatcoaching has this effect because it addresses specific performance gaps as comparedto general-purpose training. According to research by Turner (2006),executives identify five significant benefits of executive coaching as aleadership development strategy. These benefits are continuous one-on-oneattention; expanded thinking through dialogue with a curious outsider;self-awareness, including blind spots; personal accountability for development;and, just-in-time learning. In a research study by Parker-Wilkins (2006),respondents state that coaching assists them in the development of three maincompetencies: leadership behavior (82 percent), building teams (41 percent),and developing staff (36 percent). Furthermore, Gyllensten (2005) reports thather quasi-experimental study clearly shows anxiety and stress decreases in agroup that receives coaching as compared to a control group that does notreceive coaching. Finally, in a study that captures the benefits of executivecoaching, Leedham (2005) reports that the most commonly occurring benefits fromthe perspective of the coachees is increased self-confidence, clarity ofpurpose, focus on goals, improved relationships, self-awareness, and insights. Thecase studies in the following section illuminate how senior leaders in India havebenefited from executive coaching in this difficult year.


A caveat! Beforeone runs out to hire an executive coach, it is important to note that there aremany consultants now who profess to be executive coaches – however, they havenot received coach-specific training, nor are they credentialed by aprofessional international body. Blaylock (2008) in his study of theeffectiveness of coaching interventions (typically lasting between 6 and 17months) found that coaches who were certified had significantly better resultswith their clients. Thus, HR teams would be advised to select their coachescarefully.



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