Benefits of Coaching - Human Resource Executive Magazine
ecause coaching is a confidential
one-on-one experience, many
organizations may be unaware
of its benefits, but coaching can help
employees at all levels successfully
deal with their daily work challenges
and facilitate the accomplishment
of organizational goals.
It’s a shame that more organizations
aren’t aware of the extensive benefits of
having their staff work one-on-one with
an executive coach. Executive coaching
can help anyone accomplish more, get
it done faster and do so even if they feel
stuck in their current circumstances.
Until fairly recently, most coaching was
conducted with C-level executives
and athletes, both at the professional
and amateur levels. Even though most
Fortune 500 companies have been hiring
coaches for their senior staff for years, and
it is estimated that there are some 50,000
coaches worldwide, coaching is still not
well understood, even by HR professionals.
There are two primary reasons for this.
One is that coaching is a private,
confidential discussion between coach
and client and little information is shared
outside the coaching relationship.
Confidentiality is a key facet of coaching
and critical to the client’s development.
The other is that coaching is not
mass-marketed and instead is typically
sold via word-of-mouth referrals. Some
better known coaches have raised
awareness about coaching, but it
still remains a mystery to most.
Marshall Goldsmith, best-selling
author of What Got You Here Won’t
Get You There, is probably the best
known executive coach, and Martha
Beck, Oprah’s coach, shares some
of her life-coaching techniques in
her book, Searching for Starlight.
As for some of the process and
benefits, John Whitmore, in
Coaching for Performance, defines
coaching as “unlocking a person’s
potential to maximize their own
performance. It is helping them to
learn rather than teaching them.”
Coaching, according to the International
Coach Federation, offers individuals
the chance to “experience fresh
perspectives on personal challenges
and opportunities, enhanced thinking
and decision-making skills, enhanced
interpersonal effectiveness, and
increased confidence in carrying out
their chosen work and life roles.”
Those enhancements will result
in “appreciable results in the
areas of productivity, personal
satisfaction with life and work, and
the achievement of personally
relevant goals,” according to ICF.
So how do the companies that
provide coaching for their employees
utilize executive coaches and how
does the coaching process work?
The question varies, depending on
the organization and its goals.
Robert W. Baird & Co., a top financial
services firm, which was recognized as
one of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best
Companies to Work For” -- as are all
of the companies I spoke with -- uses
external and internal coaches.
External coaches are primarily used
with senior staff, and the focus is on
developing leadership skills, presentation
skills and personal branding, says Lori
Lorenz, Baird’s director of human
capital. Internal coaches focus more
on team and group effectiveness.
Lorenz says Baird “take[s] very seriously
who we partner with when selecting
external executive coaches,” and
plans to hold a coaching summit
later this year to ensure external
coaches clearly understand the work
environment and company culture.
The MITRE Corp., a nonprofit research
center, uses coaches as both an
integral component of their year-long
for mid-level leaders and for one-on-
one coaching with senior leaders.
Some of the common development
issues that coaches focus on for
mid-level leaders include strategic
thinking, leadership presence,
balancing technical and managerial
responsibilities, and delegating.
Feedback about common development
issues with which coaches help
senior leaders is kept confidential
between the coach and client.
MITRE’s project manager for coaching
determines who will be coached
after interviewing senior leaders and
ascertaining the desired coaching
goals. Then two or three coaches are
suggested, and the client (coachee)
interviews the coaches (both internal
and external) to make a selection.
One of the challenges associated with
internal coaching is that they all “have
full-time human resource jobs and
don’t have the bandwidth to take on
too many clients,” says Stacey Zlotnick,
director of the MITRE Institute. “The
other challenge is to make sure that the
internal coach and client are not from
the same part of the corporation.”
At Baker Donelson, the 123-year-old
law firm uses executive coaching
primarily for business development
and time management.
Tea Hoffman, the firm’s chief business
development officer, decides who will
be coached by external coaches,
using her knowledge of the lawyers
and their skill levels as well as input
from the department heads.
The Benefits of Coaching
By Michael Slade
2. Their internal coaches utilize an
application process to make the
determination who gets coached,
and the program is geared to helping
individuals assess their strengths and
weaknesses, help set goals and
guide participants to integrate and
sustain change. The major challenges
of using internal coaches seem
to be confidentiality and time.
But one of the major benefits for
an organization that uses internal
coaches is engaging in transition
coaching -- helping managers who
are being promoted to be successful
in their new roles, according to Tony
Latimer, a master certified coach.
I agree. At Eric Mower and Associates,
I’m just starting to work with two of
our marketing executives to help
them successful launch a new
business unit that will provide a
new service for EMA’s clients. The
first step in the coaching process is
meeting with the executives and
their manager to discuss the desired
outcomes from the coaching.
While it is difficult to share specific
coaching examples for reasons
of confidentiality, it is fairly easy to
share some of the areas covered
in coaching. Here are 10 of the
best insights you or your staff will
likely get from good coaching.
1. Coaching is a diﬀerent kind of
conversation: It’s not like a chat you’d
have with your boss, a trusted friend
or even a seasoned mentor. Probably
the closest example is the conversation
someone might have with a therapist.
A coaching discussion is about you and
the possibility and potential that might
come from the coaching process.
Coaches build trust early on, so a client
is comfortable opening up and can
honestly evaluate the necessary action
to move them forward toward their
desired goals. One powerful example
of the type of connection a coach
establishes early on with the client
is the bench scene from the Oscar
winning movie, Good Will Hunting.
In the scene, the psychologist
(Robin Williams) connects deeply
with troubled Will (Matt Damon) by
sharing personal details of his own life
through provocative story-telling.
2. People may be lying to you:
You have blind spots that you are
unaware of -- everyone does. A blind
spot is defined as information that is
known to others about you, but not
known to yourself (see chart below).
Others can see our shortcomings
that are not as obvious to ourselves
but will rarely point them out to us.
Through various feedback methods,
such as one-one-one interviews with
peers or 360-degree performance
assessments, coaches uncover
the hidden truth. This helpful
feedback can assist in identifying
an individual’s coaching goals.
Goldsmith, who charges up to
$200,000 per coaching engagement
and only gets paid if the results are
accomplished, sums this point up
nicely when he says, “Almost everyone
I meet is successful because of doing
a lot right, and almost everyone I meet
is successful in spite of some behavior
that doesn’t make any sense.”
Goldsmith will only work with executives
who are willing to examine their
behaviors and are open to change.
3. Coaches help you see your
real potential clearly: If you’re like
most people, you probably secretly
believe you are capable of achieving
much more that you currently are.
Coaches help you examine your
thinking to see where it’s ﬂawed
and where there is an opportunity to
advance in the direction of your dreams.
Sometimes, all a coach needs to
do is ask the right question. In fact,
coaching really is all about asking
questions that perpetuate learning and
exploring what’s possible for the client.
When Herb Brooks, coach of the
1980 United States hockey team,
wanted the players to examine the
possibility of beating the Russians,
he mentioned over and over again,
“Someone’s going to beat those guys.”
4. Life is just a story we tell ourselves:
People look at life through a lens
that artificially distorts reality.
In their excellent book entitled The
Art of Possibility, Ben and Roz Zander
say it beautifully: “Many of the
circumstances that seem to block
us in our daily lives may only appear
to do so based on a framework of
assumptions we carry with us. Draw a
different frame around the same set
of circumstances and new pathways
come to view. Find the right framework
and extraordinary accomplishment
becomes everyday experience.”
Coaches can examine your story
and help you write a new one.
5. Your behavior may be insane:
Insanity has been called doing the
same thing over and over again
and expecting different results.
Psychologists say that 90 percent
of the thoughts you have today will
be the same as yesterday. Life is
about habits and coaches can help
you examine what actions you can
take tomorrow that will produce
very different results than today.
When a coach asks you in the first
five seconds of the conversation,
“What would be the ideal outcome
from this session?” you realize
immediately that you are going to
walk away with a plan and resulting
behaviors that are different than you
could come up with on your own.
6. Success in life is all about
relationships: Successful people
understand that, whether you work
for someone or not, you’ll only be as
successful as the relationships you build.
This is not new to anyone, but I think
many of us don’t give enough thought
to identifying the key stakeholders who
may help or hinder our success. If there
are key relationships that are causing
3. you frustration, even if it’s your boss, a
ways to address this challenge.
Coaches can help clients improve
relationships by examining critical
past conversations they’ve had
using tools such as the Ladder of
Inference (see chart below) or
Left Hand Exercise (Peter Senge,
The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook).
These tools can help clients identify
false assumptions by making some
of their thinking visible, which can
then be examined. The longer we
work with people, the more we
tend to distort reality by seeing
them only based on our beliefs
(i.e., jumping rungs on the ladder).
Coaches help individuals look at
situations more objectively.
7. A slight shift in your perspective
Wayne Dyer, a best-selling author in
“Change the way you look at things,
and the things you look at change.”
Sometimes the way we approach
a discussion, with our intention and
opinions established beforehand,
will dictate the potential outcome.
Even in business the way you measure
Jack Welch changed GE’s famous
vision of being No.1 or No. 2 in each
of the business units once an outsider
that way would limit growth. He later
challenged his business-unit leaders
goals in such a way that GE’s business
would ever be comprised of more
than 10 percent of the total market.
8. You may have limiting beliefs
holding you back: Many people
place a limit on what’s possible for
them based on past experience
and beliefs that were developed
years ago during childhood. Most of
all point out this phenomenon.
In Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, T.
Harv Ecker calls this the “process of
manifestation.” His “results formula”
states that your programming (P
-- experiences and limiting beliefs),
lead to your thoughts (T), which
lead to your feelings (F), which
lead to your actions (A), and your
actions lead to your results (R).
9. You may be a crap magnet:
The law of attraction, which has been
talked about extensively for the last
few years because of books such as
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, describes
this belief. It basically says that like
attracts like, and you are capable of
being, doing and having anything you
desire, if you focus your attention the
right way on your desired outcome.
However you refer to this, it is hard
to ignore the overwhelming use of
this process, especially in sports,
where visioning the desired outcome
has been used successfully with
Olympic (think gold medalist skier
Lindsey Vonn at recent Winter
Games) and professional athletes
The opposite is also true: If you focus
on a negative outcome, many times
you will get what you’re focused on.
that people refer to.
10. Coaches can provide insight:
A coach can see things that you
don’t. Here’s an example not from a
coaching exchange, but between a
Hollywood movie director and actor.
Man” to James Lipton on Inside the
Actors Studio. Apparently, Dustin
connecting to the autistic character
happy with his performance at all.
He described how each time he
and fellow actor Tom Cruise would
At one point, feeling frustrated, he
just said a long drawn out “Yeah”
in response to Tom’s exchange.
Dustin did not even realize it until
the director pulled him behind the
camera and said, “Do that.”
It was like someone turned on a switch,
found that one insight. If you’ve seen
the movie, you know that he used that
won an Oscar for his performance.
HR leaders looking for ways to
accomplish organizational goals
faster or seeking resources for
employees to deal with the
inevitable work challenges that arise
on a daily basis should consider
adding a coaching program.
Michael Slade is a partner/human
resource director and internal
executive coach at Eric Mower
and Associates, one of the top U.S.
independent integrated marketing
communications agencies with
and Albany, N.Y.; Charlotte, N.C.;
Atlanta; and Los Angeles. EMA is
a member of thenetworkone, the
American Association of Advertising
Agencies and IPREX. He’s currently
chair of the American Association of
Advertising Agencies (4As) Human
Resources Committee and creator
of the executive coaching website
24hourcoach.com. Slade has a
master’s degree in Human Resource
Management from Chapman
University and received his executive-
College of Executive Coaching.