Once upon a time executive coaches were like great parking spots in the office garage. A perk that came with success. A trusted confidant. A Yoda, a guide, your personal guru.
No more. And despite what we all say about coaching high potentials, companies often plunk down large sums in last ditch efforts to save “problem” high performers. These include abrasive executives who are key rain makers; dismissive leaders who run efficient projects; arrogant stars who manage up but are feared by their teams and loathed by their colleagues
How effective is coaching in these circumstances? It depends. Sometimes very. Sometimes a little. But most of the time, not much.
Here’s the right way to hire a coach:
- The candidate has already received the feedback from their manager. Don’t make the coach do it – it makes you look like a coward and excuses the manger from doing their job: managing.
- The candidate has an incentive. The best one is ambition – they won’t get promoted unless they do something differently. Fear works too, but without an incentive or it’s flip side, a consequence, don’t expect the candidate to buy in or for your investment to pay off.
- The candidate is self-evaluative without being self loathing. Do not invest in coaching a narcissist. You will see no changes. If someone is a negative narcissist (they beat themselves up) then you’re spending your organization’s money on therapy sessions, not on coaching.
- When you can clearly articulate specific objectives AND success metrics. Make those goals concrete, and specify how you know that candidate has achieved them. Set them up in the beginning of the engagement.
Of course I want you to hire a coach. Actually, I want you to hire me. But I also want to be a good steward of your development budget. If coaching isn’t right, explore other options including…dare I say it?…getting that person’s manager a coach.