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 / Summer 2003 / Issue 31(originally published by Booz & Company)


My Coach and I

Books and videos are a means by which coaches can share their techniques with a larger audience. The gung-ho, can-do attitude of the self-help genre is evident in many of the works on offer, and the messages in most are quite similar and mostly common sense. Talane Miedaner’s Coach Yourself to Success: 101 Tips from a Personal Coach for Reaching Your Goals at Work and in Life is a typical title. Debra Benton’s books, which include How to Act Like a CEO: 10 Rules for Getting to the Top and Staying There and How to Think Like a CEO: The 22 Vital Traits You Need to Be the Person at the Top, have sold well. However, CEO autobiographies are hard to beat. Why read what an executive coach has to say on the subject when you can read Jack Welch or Larry Bossidy?

No book can replicate the human touch. A more promising avenue may be interactive technology that could be used to bridge the interpersonal gap between the executive in need of coaching and the expert. For example, the University of Maryland’s National Leadership Institute offers an 11-week leadership development program that combines online classes and in-person coaching. HeartMath LLC, based in Boulder Creek, Calif., has a variety of interactive e-learning tools focused on helping executives in high-stress jobs be more effective leaders. The company’s “Executive Strategies for Coherent Performance” combines interactive software with individual coaching by telephone.

Videos are another resource that executives can use to assimilate the messages of business leaders, management thinkers, and executive coaches. For example, the Stanford Graduate School of Business offers its Executive Briefings series on video. Filmed at monthly presentations on the Stanford campus, the series features leading business minds, including Bill Gates, Harvard professor Clayton Christensen, and Terry Pearce. Although it was recorded in 1994, Mr. Pearce’s best-selling The Mastery of Speaking as a Leader is a master class in contemporary public speaking.

All of this marketplace activity can deflect attention from the issue of whether coaching actually works. Amid the publishing detritus, persuasive research is thin. The fact that at present almost anyone can set himself or herself up as an executive coach means that for those considering using executive coaching services, caveat emptor applies — in spades.

In the corporate world, inputs inevitably are weighed against outputs and investments judged on their returns. Right now, it is too early to tell whether coaching is essential, or whether it is just a passing fad. As was the case with many corporate fashions before it, the danger for today’s growing executive coaching market is that its own momentum could derail it. Hyperbole and snake oil beget disappointment and cynicism, as surely as success breeds success.

Robert Berkley believes that the bandwagon effect can last only so long. “Eventually that will reach a plateau,” he says. “But the coaches with the experience, skills, and temperament to sit across the table from a CEO, having been there themselves, will remain.”

Reprint No. 03211

Coaching Resources
Works mentioned in this review.

David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Viking Penguin, 2001), 288 pages, $24.95.

D.A. Benton, How to Act Like a CEO: 10 Rules for Getting to the Top and Staying There (McGraw-Hill, 2000), 204 pages, $19.95.

Steven Berglas, Reclaiming the Fire: How Successful People Overcome Burnout (Random House, 2001), 256 pages, $25.95.

Marshall Goldsmith, Laurence Lyons, and Alyssa Freas (eds), Coaching for Leadership: How the World’s Greatest Coaches Help Leaders Learn (Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 2000), 432 pages, $45.

Dennis C. Kinlaw, Coaching: Winning Strategies for Individuals and Teams (Gower Publishing, 1997), 208 pages, $74.95.

Richard J. Leider with David A. Shapiro, Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Rest of Your Life (Berrett-Koehler, 1994), 250 pages, $21.95.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal (The Free Press, 2003), 256 pages, $26.

Talane Miedaner, Coach Yourself to Success: 101 Tips from a Personal Coach for Reaching Your Goals at Work and in Life (McGraw-Hill, 1999), 256 pages, $14.95.

David S. Pottruck and Terry Pearce, Clicks and Mortar: Passion Driven Growth in an Internet Driven World (John Wiley & Sons, 2000), 352 pages, $17.95.

GroupMV LLC:

HeartMath LLC:

The International Coach Federation:

University of Maryland University College National Leadership Institute:

Stanford Executive Briefings videos, sold by Kantola Productions, $95 for one ($79 each for four or more);

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