Is executive coaching making a comeback? According to one study by New York-based DBM, human resources consultants, many companies are using it as a tool to help prepare and retain future leaders. DBM, part of The Thomson Corp., says 61% of recently interviewed human resources professionals are turning to executive coaching to prepare for a mass exodus of baby-boom-era retirees. The survey of 220 human resource professionals was conducted in August and September. The survey also found that the biggest challenge for companies in implementing executive coaching programs is the lack of time to focus on anything but managing current business demands. Nearly 60% of those polled cited lack of time and budget as reasons for delaying leadership development opportunities in their companies. However, says DBM, as the economy recovers, companies will have to hire and groom younger workers to replace retirees. If using executive coaches as a strategy, DBM recommends a mix of real-world business experience and personal characteristics when selecting a coach, including:
- High-level business experience: He/she should have worked in the corporate world in a senior-level capacity.
- Interpersonal skills: The coach must be adept at handling many complex interpersonal dynamics, at sizing up a situation quickly and dealing with a panoply of personalities.
- Integrity: Executive coaching often involves discussing sensitive issues and high-level, strategic, confidential information. Honesty and the ability not to betray confidence are essential.
- Political savvy: Executives must be able to navigate the political waters of their organization. A competent coach needs to be aware and have the capacity to help him/her in these situations.
- Flexibility and creativity: The ability to discard ideas when they seem ineffective and come up with new ones quickly is an important coaching skill. At the same time, the coach should be comfortable with ambiguity, fast change and lots of uncertainty.
- Organizational insight: The goal of executive coaching is to strengthen a person's performance as it relates to real corporate objectives. That requires an understanding of both the executive and company's needs, and how to make them work together to achieve clearly defined goals and expectations.