Tiger Woods is the best in the world at what he does. Why would someone like Tiger need a coach?

It's an unusual day that Woods doesn't speak with his coach or work with him on the nuances of a chip shot, a drive or a putt.

Yet corporate executives often step into positions with little direction, and few goals or strategies for growth and development. And they rarely seek help acquiring leadership skills or identifying hidden strengths.

Why is it that executives are promoted, entrusted with running a company or a division, and are not given the same coaching advantages as athletes or performers? The lack of effective development and coaching in the workplace is a formula for failure -- not just for the individual, but for the organization as well.

Companies must be prepared to help valued executives succeed in a rapidly changing workplace. Business plans and strategies are created, but in many cases similar plans are not developed for the individuals charged with implementing those plans. A road map must be constructed with detailed expectations.
Like Tiger Woods, today's executives need coaching for development more than ever. Cycles that once took years now happen in months. New products are introduced. Expansions and cutbacks are announced on short notice. CEOs must deal with angry shareholders. Corporations must move quickly to remain profitable. Executives at all levels have to be prepared to accept the challenges.

In general, the coaching process helps executives learn, grow and change. These programs can focus on executive development for "stars" companies hope to retain, make sure executives don't plateau, assist executives to redefine roles and set the stage for change.

A recent survey of CEOs indicates that the need for executive-level coaching has never been greater. Thirty-two percent of these executives said their own level of ability to manage or restructure their business could be an impediment to growth in the next year. This is in stark contrast to the mid-1990s, when only 10 percent felt that way.

The bottom line is that this type of coaching can no longer be viewed as a soft cost. Rather, it must be viewed as an expenditure that can impact return on investment in much the same way as sales training.

An executive coach should provide the following:

  • Expertise in facilitating personal discovery
  • Assistance to help the executive work through a specific problem
  • Support for formulation and application of specific strategies
  • Coaching for acquisition of specific competencies.

In developing a coaching program, it is critical to define the coach's role and then to determine a customized plan of action. For example, does the executive need:

  • To learn a new skill?
  • To perform better in the present job?
  • To prepare for a future leadership role?

Other factors include:

• Does the executive understand and acknowledge these needs?
• Is he or she willing to seek and accept coaching?
• Is the executive looking for a confidant?

With these issues determined, the coach and client embark on specific programs that can include:

• Coaching for skills. This focuses on a specific task, such as making a presentation, preparing a business plan, etc.

• Coaching for performance, which focuses on improving on the existing job and might involve developing systems to accurately evaluate employee performance.

• Coaching for development, which concentrates on an individual's future job.

• Coaching on a variety of topics. This program recognizes that executives can be lonely and frequently need insight, perspective and constructive feedback on both personal and business issues. It could also include developing specific leadership skills such as emotional intelligence (EQ).

Presentations, public speaking and media presentations are sometimes uncomfortable situations for executives. Understanding the accepted presentation style within an organization is critical. Coaches are valuable in preparing executives for these situations.

In today's rapidly changing business world, management realizes it has a role in continually helping valued employees to grow within the organization.

Corporations are now of the opinion that the best talent often comes from within. And executive coaches are often the ideal professionals to tap a person's potential and fulfill this important role on behalf of the individual and the corporation.

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