By: Ber Leary on January 29th, 2021

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When is it Time to Hire an Executive Coach?

Business Management & Strategy

2020 saw something of a boom in executive coaching. CEOs and senior management found themselves trying to navigate a turbulent, pandemic-struck world, with no one to turn to for guidance. Coaches offered calm, objective support and helped leaders to develop survival strategies on the fly.

Of course, executive coaching is not just for crisis situations. When used correctly, a coach can be an ongoing part of your high-level professional development plans.

How can an executive coach help?

Executive coaches are part consultant and part therapist, offering both business acumen and psychological insight. Typically, a coach will form a close one-to-one relationship with the individual executive and use dialog to help unlock their potential.

Coaching usually starts with clear business objectives, but the conversation can go wherever it needs to go. The relationship can often get quite personal, which is why both coach and executive have to share a deep sense of trust.

Ultimately, the goal is to help the executive achieve their goal. If you were working with an executive coach at Helios HR, they would help you to do things like:

  • Rethink your skills. The skills that got you to the top are not necessarily the skills that will make you a great leader. For instance, productivity and attention to detail are great assets for a middle manager. But executives need skills like communication, delegation, and strategic thinking.
  • Change the way you connect. Executives have to build a team that can deliver strategic goals. This means forming strong personal connections and understanding how to get the best from people. It’s a major challenge, and it’s not made easier by unexpected obstacles, such as the recent mass shift to remote working.
  • Gain a new perspective. Coaches can act as a sounding board, helping executives to view problems from multiple angles. This allows you to see things in a new light, helping you to see the opportunities hidden in every crisis.
  • Understand yourself. We all struggle to honestly appraise ourselves. An executive coach can help you see your strengths and weakness, your unique abilities, and the areas where you need support.
  • Avoid derailing behaviors. People sometimes struggle with the intense pressure of the C-Suite. This can manifest as a consistent failure to deliver, or even in the form of toxic behaviors. Executive coaches can help people identify the ways that they’re sabotaging themselves, allowing them to get back on track to success.

For organizations, there are clear benefits of executive coaching. With the right coach in place, you know that your leadership team is constantly growing and improving.

When is it time to bring in an Executive Coach?

A study by Harvard Business Review shows that around 30% of executive coaching relationships are initiated by HR. So, when should you bring in an elite coach?

1) When a new executive joins the board

In some organizations, executive coaching is a standard part of the leadership onboarding process. This can help create consistency in the boardroom, as you know that every senior leader has access to the same coaching resources.

However, if you’re relying on the same coaches to work with each exec, you may not see consistent benefits. The program's success always depends on the chemistry between coach and coachee, which is why it’s worth trying to find a good match before initiating this kind of relationship.

2) When the succession plan needs a boost

Succession plans take years, with lots of investment in potential candidates. To get a return on this investment, companies have to take steps to ensure that candidates have the best chance of adapting to the demands of senior leadership. An executive coach can help make sure this happens.

Executive coaching can fit neatly into a long-term development plan. When succession candidates finish their mentoring programs, they move into a new coaching relationship. This strategy works best if the coach understands the challenges of stepping up to the senior management level.

3) When the company is going through a challenging time

Executive coaches demonstrated their value during the Covid crisis when leaders had to think fast and stay agile. Even when the world is not in crisis, executives still have to deal with fresh challenges, from economic pressures to digital transformation.

An executive coach can sometimes help by acting as a sounding board for new ideas. They help the leader to refine and adapt strategy, and they work with them on their communication strategy. The coach can also help the executive deal with difficult personal questions, like whether they are up to a changing world's challenges.

4) When an executive has a specific issue

Sometimes, an executive may approach HR to seek development assistance for a particular issue. HR's job is to decide whether executive coaching is the right option or if they might be better with another form of training, mentoring, or advice.

When deciding the best course, bear in mind that executive coaches don’t seek to teach any new skills. They also don’t try to directly influence decisions. Like therapists, executive coaches help people to explore the issues before them and to identify the obstacles in their way.

5) When employee engagement is low

Executives are supposed to motivate and inspire their teams. They do this through communication, the way they prioritize goals, and the way they live their values. If employees aren’t connecting with the company’s strategic vision, it might suggest a leadership issue.

This is one of the areas where executive coaching can really help. A coach can work with leaders to talk about the fundamentals: their communication style, how they set targets, whether they’re genuinely passionate about their values. A good coach can help your C-Suite reconnect with every other department in the building.

Final word on executive coaching

Executive coaching is not a one-size-fits-all solution to leadership issues. Some people thrive in a coaching environment. Some do not. Others need a very specific type of coaching or type of personality. At Helios, we fortunate to have certified executive coaches on our team who have helped leaders unlock their potential, align their teams, and achieve substantial growth. 

Think about how a coach might help improve your organization. Work with your executives to see how coaching might benefit them, then examine the market to find a coach that fits their needs. If you'd like to explore a conversation with one of our executive coaches, reach out to us to schedule a call!