July 30, 2009, Business Report
By Jo Hazelhurst
A few months ago, I discussed the idea of executive leadership coaching of business owners and company leaders with the chief financial officer of one of the local parastatals.
“Actually we only look at coaching for our managers. Our chief executive believes that if you still need development, you shouldn’t be an executive,” was his response.
My jaw dropped wide enough to swallow an elephant.
I became curious as to why leaders may not perceive executive leadership coaching for those in the top echelons as a worthwhile investment. Perhaps the easy entry into coaching means it can lend itself to abuse and is still a misunderstood development tool.
Yet, according to The Global Coaching Client Study released in June by The International Coach Federation (ICF), the average return on investment for coaching people at the top of a firm’s structure is 700 percent. Nineteen percent of people who use executive coaching reported a 5 000 percent return on investment.
But this particular chief executive was not arguing that executive leadership coaching is not a valuable investment – only that executives should not need it.
Then, recently, I was talking to a psychologist associate about some of the challenges my “soft me” has when negotiating financial deals with business leaders. According to her, people who are highly successful in business, especially at a young age, usually have a tendency towards narcissism.
This can take the kind of ambition that will do whatever it takeswithout too much thought about the other person’s needs or long-term consequences.
This person is usually so confident that they begin to believe that they really are superior to others. They come with an ego that doesn’t allow for the vulnerability required to say “I may be really great at what I do, but there is so much more to discover.”
The Harvard Business Review Report 2009 on “The Realities of Coaching” reports that if executives don’t believe they have a need to change or are unwilling to look inside themselves, coaching is unlikely to succeed.
It suggests that leaders who are resistant to coaching may have “behavioural challenges… that include narcissism, deep resentment, a sense of resignation, and very serious self- esteem issues”.
If best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell has any credibility then his assertions in a piece published in the latest edition of The New Yorker, that the financial crisis is more due to big egos than anything else, must be considered.
I do wonder what might have been different if everyone involved were willing and ready to listen and learn something new? Would they still have been motivated to choose short-term gain even in the face of such long-term damage?
In my own experience, businessmen and women have a budding desire to develop themselves. They may sometimes be unsure of the best way to do it. Coaching is only one avenue; leadership programmes, mentoring and therapy are other options available.
To explain coaching, I like to draw from the Kolbe Strengths Learning Model. Coaching can assist you to integrate your emotions, values and beliefs (affective capacity) with your skills, knowledge and experience (cognitive capacity) as well as your strengths (talent and instincts) in the service of a tangible purpose that is in line with your personal values and mission, and that of your organisation.
It also assists executives to increase well-being in all life areas.
According to a 2001 study of Fortune 1000 companies that have used executive coaching, benefits included an enhancement of working relationships with clients, managers and team members, less conflict within the team and a higher performance all round.
For the organisation, figures showed an increase in productivity by 53 percent; bottom line profitability by 22 percent; customer service by 39 percent; retention of senior people by 32 percent; and a reduction of costs by 23 percent.
Jo Hazelhurst coaches executive leadership and facilitates teams development. Send questions to +27 (0)8450022292 or email email@example.com