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Is an Executive Coach Worth the Time and Cost?

Strategic Planning Expert

By M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant

As a C-level Executive, life in the office can be a lonely experience.  Each executive has few peers, and each of their peers has different responsibilities, different skills, different work atmospheres and different personalities.  While each C-level executive shares some of the same inputs and motivations, each one has his or her own challenges and opportunities.  Each one has different staff personnel with different responsibilities and tasks.  When it comes down to it, especially for Chief Executive Officers, life at the top can be lonely.  Especially in highly competitive situations within the company, there are few resources where the CEO can turn to have a private, personal relationship with someone who is experienced in the problems of senior management, the challenges of managing and leading a company and in whom the CEO has trust.

There are a number of key characteristics an executive coach must have in order to be effective as a coach.  How does a coach develop the relationship with an executive to the point where there can be an effective relationship between the two?  In my opinion, there are a number of elements which add up to the building of confidence to a necessary level in order to make it worthwhile for the executive to pursue.  The coach should likely have considerable business experience in upper management.  The knowledge and skills of the coach should complement those of the executive.  Their personalities should be highly compatible.  This whole package should result in a high level of compatibility between the two.

But is it enough?  It is necessary, but may not be sufficient to make the relationship between the two individuals work effectively.  When all is said and done, the most significant part of this relationship is the level of trust that the two have with each other.  Without this high level of trust between the two, the results will not be as effective as they could be.

How does one develop the needed level of trust between two experienced executives such that they will communicate effectively, provide and receive effective counsel and establish a working relationship which will help the CEO (or other C-level executive) perform better in his or her job?  While each relationship is unique to the two individuals involved, there are some basics which likely will determine whether the relationship will work.

Each of the two should have a sufficient understanding of the skills necessary to be an effective executive.  These should include the skills necessary to accomplish the elements of the job, the so-called hard skills: ability to understand and analyze data, define and prioritize goals and objectives, the ability to make informed decisions in a timely manner, and the perception to visualize situations from a wide, organizational perspective.

Also, they should include the soft skills of collaboration, relationship building, and skill in working with and for others, the ability and willingness to hold others to their commitments and responsibilities, and the ability to effectively lead others.

Leadership is about other people.  One does not have the freedom to consider only one’s own behavior, but must constantly consider the impact of their actions – and inactions- on those they are leading.  By having someone who has had similar levels of responsibilities and experiences, a coach, with whom they have built high levels of confidence and trust, the job of the executive can be made a little easier and more effective.  Where one can build such a relationship, the time, effort and cost should be worth the investment.

Another article by Dana Baldwin discusses the importance of succession planning; to read please click on succession planning.

M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. and can be reached at baldwin@cssp.com.

© Copyright 2012 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.