Are you feeling stuck in life and need a helping hand? A life coach can be the answer to your problems. From Monday morning blues to finding the love of your life, a life coach can help you overcome any obstacle. But what exactly do they do to deserve that money? To understand this, HBR conducted a survey of 140 leading coaches and invited five experts to comment on the findings. In this article, we'll explore what problems coaching solves, how to make the most of it, and what credentials a company should use to select a coach.
We'll also discuss the survey results and the opinions of commentators on where the field is going and should go. So let's dive in!Ten years ago, most companies hired a coach to help correct toxic behavior at the top. Nowadays, most training consists of developing the skills of artists with high potential. As a result of this broader mission, there is much more confusion around issues such as how coaches define the scope of commitments, how they measure and report on progress, and what credentials a company should use to select a coach.Companies wanted to demonstrate their commitment to the development of their high-potential executives, so they hired coaches.
At the same time, entrepreneurs needed to develop not only quantitative capabilities, but also people-oriented skills, and many coaches are useful for this. As coaching has become more common, any stigma associated with receiving it at the individual level has disappeared.Now, it is often considered a badge of honor. The coaching industry will remain fragmented until a few partnerships build a brand, bring together stellar people, eliminate the not-so-good ones, and create a reputation for outstanding work. Some coaching groups are evolving in this direction, but most are still boutique firms that specialize in administering and interpreting 360 degree assessments.To exceed this level, the industry urgently needs a leader who can define the profession and create a serious company like Marvin Bower did when he invented modern professional management consulting in the form of McKinsey & Company.A big problem that tomorrow's professional coaching company must solve is the difficulty of measuring performance, as the coaches themselves point out in the survey.
I am not aware of any research that has followed trained executives for long periods; most evidence on effectiveness remains anecdotal. My opinion is that positive stories outnumber negative ones, but as the industry matures, coaching companies will need to be able to demonstrate how they bring about change, as well as offer a clear methodology for measuring results.Despite the recession, I agree with most respondents that demand for coaching will not contract in the long run. The big developing economies Brazil, China, India and Russia are going to have a huge appetite for it because the administration there is very young.College graduates start working at age 23 and discover that their bosses are all 25 years old, with the right experience. Forty years ago, nobody talked about executive coaching.
Twenty years ago, the training was mainly aimed at talented but abrasive executives who would likely be fired if something didn't change.Today, coaching is a popular and powerful solution to ensure maximum performance for an organization's most important talent. Nearly half of the coaches surveyed in this study reported that they are hired primarily to work with executives on the positive side of coaching, develop high-potential talent, and facilitate an upward or upward transition. Another 26% said that they are more often called to act as a sounding board on organizational dynamics or strategic issues. Relatively few coaches said organizations hire them more often to address derailed behavior.The problem is when organizations ask for one thing and get another.
Often, companies have no idea what coaches actually do. All coaches recognize that they should make you more competent and self-sufficient. If the coaching relationship isn't doing that, chances are you're becoming too dependent.Dependency is not always bad; friends lean on each other for example; it's a good thing. But we all know people who can't make a decision without talking to their psychotherapists first, and some executives hold on to their coaches the same way.
Data from this survey shows that more than half of respondents think their customers aren't too dependent on them.Coaches have an economic incentive to ignore the problem of dependency which creates a potential conflict of interest. It's natural that they want to expand their business but the best coaches like the best therapists put their clients' interests first.Harry Levinson; father of coaching; worked with top executives of his time; he said that if a coach was not aware of dynamics of dependency then he had no right to be a coach.What this means to you is that before you hire a coach you need to ask him how he handles dependency in relationships. However two particular types of change of focus are dangerous and should be avoided; one is when behavioral coach (my term for someone who monitors your behavior) seduces you into form of psychotherapy without making that explicit.