Executive Coaching guides leaders through both challenges and successes, fostering professional growth & excellence while shining a light on new opportunities.
After starting a dozen companies and coaching many Fortune 500 executives, I get asked all the time – “Does executive coaching really work or is it just a waste of money?” As someone who’s benefited from coaching myself and seen the incredible results it can provide, my answer is a resounding YES!
But I get the skepticism. Paying thousands of dollars to get asked probing questions and given homework sounds weird. Believe me, I’ve been there. When I was first starting out as an entrepreneur, I thought coaching was just for big corporate execs with performance issues. Boy was I wrong.
Once I finally got an executive coach, it completely changed my leadership and career trajectory. Now after coaching executives for the last decade, I’ve seen it transform countless leaders and take their companies to new heights.
Let me walk you through why I’m such a believer in coaching and how to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
How This Former Skeptic Became a Coaching Convert
I’ll admit it – I used to roll my eyes at the idea of executive coaching. After bootstrapping a few startups and capturing VC money for others, I thought I knew it all. I had sold companies to Nestle and created a brand known around the world. I didn’t need some shrink dissecting my personality and telling me how to run my company. No way.
But eventually the stress started piling up. I was struggling to manage my time. I’d get frustrated and lash out at my team over small things. At home, I was irritable and not present with my family.
I was burning out, and my company was suffering. Something had to give.
That’s when a mentor of mine suggested I give coaching a shot. I brushed off the idea at first but was desperate enough to give it a try.
In that first coaching session, as my coach asked me probing questions and reflected back what he heard, it felt like a light bulb went on. I became aware of key leadership blindspots that were hindering my effectiveness.
Over the next 6 months, I set goals, experimented with new approaches, and implemented changes with my coach’s support. I started pausing instead of barking at employees when frustrated. I blocked out time for strategic thinking. I made my health and family a priority again.
The results blew me away. I got our fastest growing startup back on track and had more energy at home. It was like coaching unlocked my potential as a leader and human being. Now I tell all the executives I coach that the experience changed my life.
You’ll Gain More Self-Awareness Than Years of Work Experience
The best leaders have a high level of self-awareness. They understand their own leadership style, personalities, motivations, strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. Coaching will bring you more self-insight than years of work experience ever could.
As a business leader, you’re super focused on driving results. You don’t take much time for self-reflection. There are sales to grow, products to launch, and employees to manage! Who has time for navel gazing?
But having that outside sounding board provides a mirror you don’t get in day-to-day work. I constantly have executives tell me “Wow, I never realized I was doing that!” My coaching prompts them to reflect on behaviors they don’t see.
For instance, one CEO I coached prided himself on being logical and fact-based. But when he took a personality assessment, he scored extremely low on empathy and emotional intelligence. Those around him saw his blunt, impersonal style as hurtful.
That wake-up call allowed him to gain self-awareness and adjust his approach to connect better with employees and get more buy-in. The self-knowledge completely upgraded his leadership.
You’ll Learn More Than Reading a Library of Business Books
A common misconception is that coaching just imparts leadership knowledge – something you could get reading books or taking courses. Not true at all! Sure you’ll learn concepts and training along the way. But the power is in applying that learning through individualized coaching.
For example, early in my first startup, I struggled with time management. I’d read books on productivity but kept falling into the same traps. In coaching, my time challenges were diagnosed, and I was held accountable to very specific action steps each week.
Within two months, I went from constant reactive firefighting to feeling in control of my schedule. That real-world application of time management principles through coaching is what did it. No book could have provided the structure, support, and kick in the pants I needed!
The same is true for the executives I coach today. Coaching takes concepts and immediately puts them into practice relevant for that leader and business. The combined guidance and accountability leads to breakthroughs and change.
You’ll Get an Unbiased Sounding Board and Supporter
As much as I value my mentors, boards, and peers, they ultimately have their own agendas and biases. But a professional coach is 100% dedicated to my growth and success.
They take the time to truly understand me, my role, and my business context. They have no other stake than helping me maximize my potential. That unbiased support system is invaluable.
Over my time launching startups, I’ve relied on my coaches to bounce ideas off of, get encouragement, and receive totally candid feedback. They’ve called me out when I was off track and celebrated wins with me.
Having that objective perspective keeps me centered when decisions or politics get tough. And knowing my coach has my back motivates me to bring my best each day. Every executive needs that neutral supporter and confidant.
You’ll Get a Massive Return on Investment
I realize executive coaching requires a real investment. Top coaches charge several thousand dollars per month. When I suggest coaching to other founders and CEOs, price is often the first objection I hear.
But I always share the ROI data I’ve seen firsthand from my own coaching and programs I’ve led. Study after study shows that effective coaching delivers 500-700% returns from increased productivity, retention, engagement, and profitability.
The monetary return is clear. But the bigger payoff is unlocking your potential as a leader and human being. Priceless!
As just one example, a Director I coached struggled with executive presence and gravitas. Through several months of working on his communication style and personal brand, he gained the confidence that led to a promotion to Senior VP within a year. The coaching unlocked capability he didn’t know he had.
With promotion comes salary increases and equity benefits worth 10X the cost of coaching. And that’s not counting the revenue lift from operating with more vision and influence.
How to Make Executive Coaching Really Pay Off
While I believe wholeheartedly in coaching’s benefits, I’ve also seen it go wrong. Here are a few keys to ensure coaching success and maximize the positive impact:
- Get alignment upfront on goals and metrics.
Coaching should tie directly to business objectives, not just loose personal development. Agree on how you’ll measure progress like engagement scores, productivity, or decision quality.
- Pick the right coach.
Don’t just go with whoever your company has on retainer. Vet several coaches and look for relevant industry and leadership experience. Make sure your personality meshes. Coaching is a very personal relationship.
- Open up and do the work.
Veing vulnerable about weaknesses and implementing suggested changes can be uncomfortable. But you have to lean in to see results. Coaching works when you work the coaching.
- Involve other stakeholders.
Your manager, mentor, or direct reports can provide feedback to inform coaching. Periodically loop them in on progress and remove any roadblocks.
- Stick with it.
Coaching takes at least 6 months to see meaningful change. The process follows a progression of awareness, planning, practice, and integration. Quick fixes never last.
Approached strategically, coaching will be one of the best investments you make in your career. After my firsthand experience and seeing it transform other leaders, I believe executive coaching should be a non-negotiable part of any top executive’s development plan.
Give it a shot with an open mind, stay committed to the process, and get ready to unlock your full leadership potential. I’m confident you’ll look back years later, as I did, and consider it a pivotal moment in your growth as an executive.
Now enough from me! Find a coach, get to work, and go lead your team and company to the next level. You got this!