Executive coaching can be a valuable talent management tool

By Kathy Gurchiek   

Executive coaching can be a tool for recruiting, developing and retaining an organisation’s leaders, but it’s important to understand what it is—and what it is not, according to coaching expert Jeff Nally, SHRM-SCP.

It’s not counselling, mentoring or consulting, according to Nally, who holds professional certification from the International Coach Federation and has 23 years of experience in HR, executive coaching and leadership development.

Executive coaching, Nally said, is a confidential ‘one-to-one development of an organisational leader.’ Its purpose is to help leaders uncover or implement their own solutions in sparking innovation, leading teams and developing others. By comparison, counselling aims to help leaders with emotional issues, mentoring’s purpose is to help leaders learn from one another, and consulting is used to provide solutions and technical expertise to remedy specific business problems, he said.

Nally spoke about executive coaching recently at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2016 Talent Management Conference & Exposition. He teaches courses in human resources at Spalding University’s School of Business in Louisville, Ky., and is president of Nally Group Inc., an organisation in Louisville that handles executive coaching and organisational development. He is also an account service manager for CoachSource, a leadership coaching company based in Franklin Lakes, N.J.

‘Executive coaching is a process based on the art and science of coaching that transforms the leader’s thinking, sparks motivation, generates changed behaviours and accelerates results,’ he said. ‘It motivates people to try something they’ve never done before. It’s a question-based approach’ that focuses on individual and organisational performance and results.

Executive coaching is a $2 billion a year industry that shows no signs of slowing down, with 77 percent of organisations planning to increase their use of executive coaching, according to Nally, who cited statistics from Executive Coaching for Results (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007).

In a survey conducted in February and March 2013, nearly two-thirds of 203 CEOs, board directors and senior executives said they do not receive outside leadership advice, but nearly all said they wanted it. That’s according to findings from the 2013 Executive Coaching Survey by Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance, the Center for Leadership Development and Research at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and The Miles Group.
‘Given how vitally important it is for the CEO to be getting the best possible counsel, independent of their board, in order to maintain the health of the corporation, it’s concerning that so many of them are ‘going it alone,’ ‘ said Stephen Miles, CEO of The Miles Group, in the executive summary of the survey. ‘Even the best-of-the-best CEOs have their blind spots and can dramatically improve their performance with an outside perspective weighing in.’

Sharing leadership and delegating, conflict management, team building, and mentoring were the top areas where CEOs used coaching, the survey found.

Transitioning and onboarding coaching
Typically, about three-fourths of a talent manager’s role in the executive coaching process is identifying that the coaching is appropriate for the person and for the organisation’s needs.

Transition coaching, for example, is used to accelerate a person’s move into a new internal role. It is usually for key leaders in the top four levels of the organisation, leaders in revenue-generating roles, and leaders in roles that drive operating profit and efficiencies, such as in call centres. Transition coaching helps these leaders define success in the first few months of their role, Nally explained.
Onboarding coaching is used with new employees from outside the organisation. It’s designed to support and guide them through the organisational culture, and to identify key stakeholders and peer networks.
Nally advised human resource professionals to consider using executive coaching in the following scenarios as a strategy to retain top performers:

  • An employee’s first international assignment.
  • An expat repatriation.
  • After an employee’s promotion.
  • Following a merger or acquisition.
  • After an employee’s role has changed significantly in scope or scale.
  • After an employee is assigned to a task force or key initiative.
  • To accelerate a high-potential employee’s development.
  • As part of executive leadership development programs.
  • As part of succession development and/or development of the organisation’s leadership pipeline.

This article first appeared at the Society for Human Resource Management‘s website.