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Executive coaching has come into its own in a skills-scarce world

Sandra Burmeister

As companies across the globe battle to recruit and retain C-level executives and skilled staff, they are turning to independent coaching companies to fast track developing new leaders.

How competitive and sustainable a business is depends on the quality of leadership at the helm of the enterprise.

The first step is to recruit the right candidates.

However, in a complex, uncertain world, decisions about hiring talent and developing leadership that relies on candidates’ past performance are useful up to a point because past experience doesn’t necessarily equate to competence, particularly in the context of a changing global landscape. We need smart tools to hire the right people and identify high-potential individuals to promote into leadership positions.

Future-oriented tools are essential to identify leadership attributes

Simulation-based tools - such as assessment centres - are emerging at the forefront of talent management because these identify leadership qualities in people, specifically key competencies related to business goals and pinpointing areas for development.

The coaching profession is currently showing more rapid growth in developing markets than in established ones and there is a growing demand for coaching in South Africa. Professional coaches, working to best-practice standards, bring years of business expertise to the organisation while not being tainted by in-house perceptions and political point-scoring. Such outsourced coaching interventions deliver a high return-on-investment for the individual and for the organisation.

Well-structured companies benefit a lot from coaching

There is no doubt companies that have a structured process in place for determining effectiveness and measuring success benefit enormously from coaching programmes:

  • Individual coaching focuses on enhancing the individual’s strategic thinking and interpersonal skills, and cultivates the ability to respond to challenges with integrity and accountability.
  • Executive coaching circles provide a participative, experiential, exploratory experience. These challenge executives’ usual way of operating, helping them to expand their field of vision and extend their leadership abilities. These coaching circles allow organisations to develop individual talent while building a more resilient corporate culture.

Newly-appointed senior executives, such as the CEO, can benefit from an on-boarding programme to help them become integrated and assimilated into the organisation more effectively. The execution of a ‘first 100 days in office’ plan aims to achieve full productivity and ensure the leader starts to contribute to the organisation in the shortest possible time, resulting in a high retention rate.

UK research indicates 97% of organisations believe executive coaching impacts positively on business performance. Close to two-thirds says individual and team performance is the main business benefit.

A prominent survey shows that, in South Africa, executives gain most benefit from coaching in terms of:

  • Improved interpersonal relationships (44%),
  • Personal growth (41%),
  • Work-life balance (33%), and
  • Self-esteem (32%).

The average length of the coaching engagement typically ranged from four to 12 months.

A coaching programme provides objective and independent support in dealing with leadership challenges. It tends to engage and motivate the executive and drives him to succeed within the organisation, overcoming obstacles that have held him back in the past.

Of concern, however, is a recent Stanford University survey that shows a considerable gender imbalance in executive coaching:

  • 81% of participants in executive coaching were men, while
  • 19% were women.

Creating a robust leadership pipeline depends on the ability to identify people – male or female – with the motivation and potential to become future leaders, accelerate the development of these high-potential candidates and prepare them for major change.

Sandra Burmeister Sandra Burmeister is the CEO of Amrop Landelahni. She founded Landelahni in 1996, and the following year the firm was appointed the sole Amrop partner in Africa. Sandra has been responsible for growing Landelahni into a group of companies offering a range of executive search and leadership development solutions, while championing the advancement of women in business.