Executive Coaching: Is it the only Coaching?

By T. V. Rao
Chairman, TVRLS

“Several studies on executive coaching have demonstrated that a well executed coaching program can achieve between 500 and 700% return on investment” (Steve Mitten www.principaleevolutions.com ). Coaching has now become a part of the standard leadership development training for the select executives and talented managers identified as highfliers or potential future business heads. Is coaching meant for some and not for others? Is it only meant for leadership development and for elite executives and high fliers? Or is it needed more for not so high fliers and average or even below average performers? Can every one entitled to have a coach? Is it necessary?

It is argued here that executive coaching is only one form of coaching and organizational life requires many occasions when coaching assistance is needed. Though normally the boss or the boss’s boss is expected to be the best coach power-distance realties in Indian culture pull down the possibility of the reporting or reviewing managers or higher level executives from the same organization being accepted as coaches. Their effectiveness beyond performance coaching is debatable. It is precisely the power distance in Indian culture that ahs become a stumbling block in the effective implementation of performance coaching and feedback necessitating the introduction of 360 degree feedback, development centers etc.  Supplemented by external coaching sessions.

Coaching is not a new concept or invention. It has acquired in recent times a new meaning and opened new opportunities to think conceptualize and to act. In mid seventies when Larsen & Toubro introduced an open system of performance appraisal, L&T introduced “Feedback and Counseling” as a separate sub-system of their Integrated HRD system. It was given the same status as that of Performance Appraisal, Training, Potential appraisal, Career Planning and Development and OD subsystems of HRD. A large number of Executives were trained in counseling skills in L&T. Later in eighties the term counseling was replaced by coaching as for many counseling represented clinical (some thing wrong) connotations and also somewhat of a taboo, in spite of  its meaning clearly focusing on helping, communicating and influencing ( see Pareek and Rao, 1978 and 1990).

In the USA coaching term became very popular and our article on Performance Counseling was re-written as Performance Coaching and was published in Pfeiffer’s Annual Handbook on Developing Human Resources.

In recent times the term “Executive Coaching” seems to replace all of them. It is understandable that Executive coaching as a term extends beyond performance coaching and is largely aiming at developing Executive Competencies as leaders or enhancing the managerial and leadership competencies.

“Executive coaching, which surfaced as a leadership development practice over a decade ago, is now among the most widely sued executive development techniques. Yet, despite its growing tenure as a leadership development practice executive coaching is still sued sparingly in organizations and still remains underutilized. “(McGovern, Joy and team, 2001 in the Manchester Review, volume 6 No.1).

Perhaps these observation made seven years ago continue to be true though the use of executive coaching has grown since then and annual conferences and seminars are being held continuously and a number of people claiming themselves as Executive Coaches and CEO coaches as well as those training Coaches have increased internationally. This is gaining moment in India.

However Executive Coaching can do and cannot do and how it fits into the corporate culture in India need some attention.

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