Coaching at the executive level is shifting to meet current market demands by placing more emphasis on individual development, readiness for future needs, and using the latest technologies to make change happen.
— By Ingrid Johnson
Executive coaching is evolving. It is not that the best practices of yesterday are being thrown out en masse, but there has been a need for change to ensure tomorrow’s leaders can handle a world of shifting boundaries, non-stop connectivity, and increasingly complex challenges.
Investment in executive coaching increases – some 77 percent of organizations have upped its spend in this area in the last year, according to Forbes – and here’s how the latest evolutions are playing out.
Making Leaders Future-Ready
At times, executive coaching has been viewed as a strictly remedial measure for executives who were not measuring up on the job. Now, it is taking a turn toward being more proactive. Rather than guiding executives to perform in today’s markets, many executive coaching programs are aimed at getting leaders ready to function in future market situations.
This forward focus is particularly important as the current group of baby boomer–era executives retires. Mid-level staff and emerging leaders are being treated to higher-touch coaching programs designed to help them be ready to take control of their division or manage expanded global responsibilities. And, rather than using a one-size-fits-all set of programming, many organizations are opting for customized sessions tailored to their unique needs.
Cutting-edge Practices Becoming Widespread
Along with a preference for future-focused coaching, organizations are increasingly opting for coaching delivered using the latest technologies and cutting-edge best practices. In many cases, this means that in-person retreats and face-to-face sessions are being supplemented (or replaced) by online coaching systems and virtual coaching, with artificial intelligence even playing a role, according to the latest research from the Conference Board.
One benefit of using these leading-edge technologies on a broader scale is that companies can give more personalized experiences to staff. This helps accelerate individual development without making employees feel “singled out” for certain types of coaching. It also grants employees added flexibility to participate in online coaching sessions or complete virtual coaching activities by reducing the need for travel and making coaching available from remote locations outside of traditional working hours.
Rather than guiding executives to perform in today’s markets, many executive coaching programs are aimed at getting leaders ready to function in future market situations.
Another benefit to incorporating new technologies in the executive coaching space is cost. While investments in executive coaching can have dramatic ROI for organizations – a study by the International Coach Federation showed a median ROI of 344 percent for individuals and 5,000 percent for organizations – organizations still need to find the up-front dollars in their budgets for quality coaching. Increased cost efficiency means it is easier than ever to get new coaching initiatives in place and allows coaching opportunities to be offered to executives further down in the organization.
Scaling Coaching Culture: It’s Possible and Happening Now
One additional twist in the ongoing evolution of executive coaching has been scalability. In the past, where executive coaching might have been viewed as an individualized remediation program, there were few opportunities to scale coaching between individuals or even across teams. Developing a coaching culture in this environment was challenging. However, now that executive coaching is shifting toward a more proactive, future-focused approach and using the latest technologies, scaling coaching and coaching culture throughout the organization is not just a possibility – it is something that is actively happening right now.
A top example of this is the rising popularity of team coaching at the executive level, a trend identified by Forbes, the American Management Association and others. Executive coaching has often been considered a strictly one-to-one experience. But, that does not match up to the realities of expectations at the executive level, where leaders are expected to deliver results with their team as well as being a strong individual performer.
To improve functionality of the whole executive unit, the entire group participates in a coaching program together, either at the same time in the same place (live coaching) or online but within a designated timeframe. Along with getting all members of the team to focus on the same issues at the same time – for example, communication flow, feedback systems or vendor management – executive team coaching also allows organizations to provide a safe space to improve team dynamics.
By uniting the executive leadership in a coaching system rather than limiting it to a few individuals, companies can see faster results in spreading the coaching culture throughout the entire organization. And, where particular divisions may be struggling to meet emerging challenges, executive team coaching is a targeted way to change team culture and shift everyone in the unit toward the desired cultural, organizational, or task performance standards.
Top Best Practices to Implement in Your Own Organization
In considering all of these evolutions, what can you take to your own organization? There are a few top best practices to consider implementing now, including how coaching is delivered, who is being coached, and what outcomes are being sought.
First, carefully consider what outcomes any executive coaching program currently in place is seeking. Is the program reactive and remedial, fixing yesterday’s problems, or is it designed to address tomorrow’s challenges and prepare talent for future executive demands? Reframing the goals of executive coaching could dramatically shift how it is perceived and how it impacts bottom-line results.
Next, look at who is being coached. Are individuals receiving coaching in isolation, or are team programs in place? With the potential to alter group performance in a meaningful way, it may be useful to reconsider how executive coaching is being distributed across key talent populations.
Finally, evaluate the format of the coaching. Are face-to-face sessions requiring time away from operational tasks, or is travel to an offsite location the only option for executives? What online systems or virtual delivery frameworks could lower the cost, boost the efficiency, and spread the impact of your coaching initiatives?
By considering these evolution points, your organization could create a more substantial impact from its coaching practices. And, as executive coaching continues to evolve, being aware of the latest changes ensures your firm can be well-positioned to use them to its advantage.