Behind every elite athlete, Broadway star and first-chair musician is a coach who planned their training or rehearsal schedule, guided them down the road to success, and served as a mentor along the way. C-suite executives are performing at the same elite level as Olympians and Broadway performers, only in the business world. So why is it so common to have a coach in the sports and performing arts worlds, but not in the corporate world?
Nearly two-thirds of CEO’s don’t receive executive coaching or leadership development, nor do half of senior executives, according to a study by Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
At the same time, according to a study at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, increased power tends to make people more self-centered and self-assured, and not in a good way. Researchers found that power makes one “prone to dismiss or, at the very least, misunderstand the viewpoints of those who lack authority.”
A similar study by Canadian researchers found that increased power diminishes the ability to be empathic and compassionate because power appears to affect the “mirror system” of the brain, through which one is ‘wired’ to experience what another person is experiencing. Therefore, even when they have the best intentions, leaders tend to lack the soft skills critical for seeing, understanding, and effectively managing others, such as self-awareness and empathy.
Historically, there has been skepticism as to a coach’s ability to teach these qualities. On top of that, there has been residual stigma around coaching, as if accepting coaching indicates weakness. However, this sentiment may be beginning to change. In an interview with Forbes, Stephen Miles, CEO of Miles Group, said, “We are moving away from coaching being perceived as ‘remedial’ to where it is something that improves performance, similar to how elite athletes use a coach.”
And the elite businessmen of the world are certainly speaking up about their experiences with professional coaching. Bill Gates of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had a coach himself and insists in his April 2013 TED Talk, “Everyone needs a coach.” Similarly, Eric Schmidt asserts, “The best advice I ever got was to have a coach.” Venture capitalist Fred Wilson also advocates coaching, especially for first-time CEO’s.
Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe, co-founders of ZinePak, shared that their business coach has been integral to their team’s success. A business coach helped them “navigate tricky regulation requirements, offer advice on when and how to bring on investors, and…make sure that every new hire is on point.” Their coach also helped with softer issues, like how to manage client issues, employees who don’t respect each other, vendor term changes, etc. Brittany concluded, “Dollar for dollar, I don’t know if there is a better investment entrepreneurs can make.”
Here are five of the most commonly sited ways in which coaching can help you grow your career or business:
- Support for improved self-awareness and development of specific skills (e.g., communication, delegation, persuasion, conflict management, etc.)
- Space to gain perspective and brainstorm
- Increased clarity on your values and what you stand for
- Guidance to achieve concrete results (e.g., increased productivity, quicker promotions, greater profits, etc.)
- The cold hard truth (which others may not tell you)
So, perhaps the real question is not why have a coach, but how could you not?