Why executive coaching is a critical part of the CEO Journey

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Katie Belding a partner in marketing and portfolio services at Norwest Venture Partners shares this very interesting piece on the importance of executive coaching in every CEO’s journey to success.

She says “Not all CEOs come to the table with the full set of skills they need to build their companies to last for the next decade.” Katie points out that working in venture and growth equity investment firms takes more than just financing the projects.

In fact, investors and portfolio services teams support the CEOs they work with in a variety of ways. They help connect them with great people, offer a network of strategic resources and provide input on key areas including marketing, human resources, operations, business development, legal and finance.

Katie points out that, in doing so, one of the biggest challenges (and joys) within the world of venture capital and growth equity is guiding CEOs through their journey. She adds that, by instilling the importance of executive coaching early on, both board members and portfolio services teams ensure the CEO-investor relationship extends far beyond just the funding.

CEOs can benefit from coaching

Research has shown how fast it takes to make a good or bad first impression. For entrepreneurs pitching ideas to VCs, in addition to a business plan and product or service concept, there is the all-important impression and connection that the individual makes. Once a company is launched, the personality and mannerisms of a founder and CEO can set the tone for the entire workplace culture. Indeed, some of the largest companies have been known to take on certain personality characteristics and attitudes — both good and bad — that can be traced up the ladder to the executive suite.

Can the benefits of coaching be quantified?

According to the American Management Association, organisations that use coaching reported stronger market performance. A global survey of coaching clients by Price Waterhouse Coopers and the Association Resource Centre concluded that the mean return on investment (ROI) for companies investing in coaching was seven times that of the initial investment. A quarter of the companies in the survey reported an ROI of 10 to 49 times investment.

In addition, a report by the International Coach Federation found that the relative effectiveness of executive coaching can be assessed by certain external and internal measures. External measures include coaching goals established at the start of the coaching relationship such as increased income or company revenue, obtaining a promotion and/or improving performance feedback. Internal measures may include self-scoring assessments; behavioural changes resulting from better self-awareness and awareness of others; and changes in the individual’s emotional state that lead to positive changes on the job.

How to focus your coaching

Katie also shares her colleague Laurie Tennant’s strong belief about executive coaching. Laurie says “Many leaders become so focussed on growing their businesses that they become disconnected from the people around them and what it takes to lead those people through change.” She adds “A good executive coach can help a CEO see the impact of this type of behaviour, and make a huge difference in a company’s success.”

She believes it is important to be clear about your objectives and expectations at the outset of a coaching relationship and offers these tips:

Find a coach who you respect as a mentor; someone from whom you can learn; who has a good grasp of best practices related to your job or industry; who can provide an objective, unbiased perspective on the decisions you make and your interactions with others.

Take the time to debrief specific actions, conversations, presentations and beyond with your coach. “A debrief is easy to shortcut in a startup because they’re moving so fast. Having a coach forces you to reflect, regroup and learn from your successes, as well as your mistakes.”

Katie Belding further adds that, the best executive coaching relationships resemble the relationship between a conductor and their train. The conductor (coach) can help keep the train (the executive) on the tracks during all the challenges and distractions of a startup. This requires openness from the executive — a willingness to look honestly at behavioural traits and blind spots that are obstacles to growth and to make sincere and consistent efforts to change.

Establishing feedback loops

Katie concludes that, “In a highly competitive and fast-moving global marketplace, we believe in the value of ongoing relationships.

Human beings are complex creatures, and relationships take work. We are all learning and growing continuously.
Open, honest feedback from coaches and insights from trainings and surveys help us to do better when it comes to understanding the CEO journey.

Robert Mandeya is a an executive coach in human capital development and corporate education, a certified life coach in leadership and professional development at the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. You can contact him on lead.inst.dev@gmail.com, mandeyarobert@gmail.com.

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