Executive Development: Coaches, mentors and you — Behind the boom in executive development

Maybe it’s millennium angst, today’s daunting surfeit of choice, more demanding work environments, or perhaps post-September 11 values check – but there’s whole new hunt for direction and meaning going on.

Mix this self-development fervour with organisational recognition that building people is good way to grow business and one outcome is an explosion of coaching and mentoring.

Executive coaching is now the fastest growing area of consultancy in the United States and that trend is reflected in New Zealand. In the past year, membership of the International Coaching Federation’s Auckland chapter leapt from 15 to 60 – and that’s only part of the picture as not all coaches belong to ICF or subscribe to its credos.

Growth in the number of people wanting to push self-imposed limits, plumb untapped potential or gain greater satisfaction from life and work is being met by rash of new service suppliers.

There are personal or business mentors, life or corporate coaches, as well as executive, relationship, financial or spiritual coaches. Their professional backgrounds range from sports to psychology; they may possess specific coaching qualifications, have allied skills, or heap of relevant business/life experience.

So just what can they do for you or your company? And why do so many people now need this kind of one-on-one self-realisation support service?

Realising the dream
One of the main premises (and promises) of coaching is that we could all do bit better than we’re doing – if we could just figure out exactly what it is we want to do and bowl those (often self-imposed) barriers to actually getting on with it.

That’s right – we have within us the ingredients for performing bigger or better, with lighter heart or stronger purpose. Problem is, we’ve lost the recipe or the hunger, can’t focus on the full menu and are quite possibly sitting at the wrong table.

Enter the coach, whose job is to help people clarify where they want to be, establish framework for getting there, and keep them purposefully headed that way.

That this process is as relevant to business as to life in general relates to the growing realisation that employees at every level bring more into their workplace than their relevant work skills. They have bundle of ambitions and inhibitions, strengths and needs, values and beliefs – all of which have bearing on how they perform in range of work roles.

And there’s now wealth of evidence for the efficacy of engaging this total person rather than just employing their more obvious professional, technical, or business nous. challenged, cheerful, fulfilled employee is also productive one who’s likely to stick around lot longer and contribute more to organisational objectives. It’s all about that oft-expressed phrase – employee empowerment.

There’s strong element of mutual accountability in the coach/coachee relationship – kind of ‘can-do’ partnership that prompts people to be more clearly focused, more accountable for setting their own life direction and more serious about their own abilities and ambitions. Like the organisations they work in, employees need development plan and strategy for growth. If the two are in sync, all the better.

Recent rapid growth in areas such as coaching and mentoring are symptomatic of change in the way we work, says chief executive of the Auckland Regional Council Jo Brosnahan. “It’s not about jobs any more, it’s about individ-uals. If you want to develop leading organisation then you have to grow your people. You need to give them the tools that will enable them to achieve within this new work environment – that is about personal growth and people need support around that.”

Old command-and-control style management has given way to delegate-and-foster style leadership. The performance of the whole involves playing to the strengths of the parts.

“Personally, I think there’s recognition that if you want to achieve things you actually have to develop clear ideas of what you want to achieve and the direction you need to take,” says Brosnahan. “You could describe it as more strategic approach to delivering outcomes rather than the transactional or hierarchical approach of the past.

“Because people are expected to get there themselves as opposed to being directed and then carrying out the transactions, you have to help them gain the ability to do it. It’s very different way of working compared with organisations of the past and requires different set of skills and support.”

This way of working requires the more intuitive inspirational leadership style rather than unquestioning line management. The importance of having capable and inspiring leaders means companies are lot less inclined to leave their emergence to either chance, natural selection or seniority-based succession.

Better to pick out the willing and able, then work on plugging any gaps in their leadership abilities or attributes. Brosnahan utilises both coaching and mentoring in her organisation’s “emerging leaders” programme and sees them as “necessary tools for developing good leadership and capability within an organisation”.

Coping with challenge
Today’s work environment demands high levels of commitment and energy. Most people are trying to do more and do it better, with fewer resources.

That can be recipe for burnout – reality now recognised by employment legislation. The corollary of that is stronger focus on minimising workplace stress – and another driver for the growth of coaching and mentoring.

Corporate coaching increasingly includes not just career development but how to achieve satisfactory balance between work and other life domains such as family, sporting, or community interests.

Business people are under more pressure because they have to achieve more in tighter timeframe, says director of McMahon Coaching International Kevin McMahon. “Whereas coaching was, early on, driven mainly by the individuals within organisations, it’s more recently been linked with the whole issue of resilience and wellbeing.

“Organisations are saying that if we’re asking this much of our people, then we also have to give back – provide them with the support that enables them to deliver.”

To some extent that is prompting trend toward companies developing coaching strength in-house among internal leaders or managers rather than outsourcing it, says McMahon.

“There are invariably people within organisations to whom that role appeals and there are range of techniques and processes to help them develop an in-house coaching culture.”

It also makes sense for management to know bit more about employees’ values, hopes and aspirations so they can be placed in roles that best suit their needs.

Whether delivered externally or internally, there’s increasing evidence that an investment in coaching pays dividends.

One US study examined the return on investment from executive coaching for Fortune 500 firm that had initiated programme designed to develop the next generation of company leaders. Coaching was seen as key enabler.

When participants in the programme were interviewed, some 75 percent indicated coaching had ‘significant’ or ‘very significant’ impact on at least one of nine business measures and 60 percent could identify specific financial benefits that resulted from their coaching. Work output and quality also rose.

The overall ROI was estimated at around 529 percent plus significant intangible benefits.

It’s lonely at the top
The more senior person’s position, the more pressing their need for some kind of sounding board. It can be lonely at the top and the old adage that ‘two heads are better than one’ makes lot of sense.

There’s bit of the pioneering mentality in New Zealand CEOs, suggests director of the Leadership Institute and chief executive of Bartercard NZ Denis Orme.

“Men in particular are expected not to show weakness in front of their families; it’s e

Visited 5 times, 1 visit(s) today

New NZ CEO and COO at FNZ

Global wealth management platform, FNZ, has appointed Jeremy Graham as Chief Executive Officer of New Zealand, and Aroha Steele as the country’s Chief Operating Officer.  The company says in a

Read More »
Close Search Window