Lately I have been feeling like a cutting-edge piece of technology. That’s a new feeling as I have been coaching executives for a couple of decades. But now there seems to be a new attitude towards coaching and the kinds of wisdom and experience that I bring to engagements. For many rising executives, an executive coach now seems to rank alongside BlackBerrys on the list of must-have accessories list. Why? Simply put as an Executive Coach’s my goal is to help my client get to where they want to go within the corporate world much quicker! And, these days, speed is all important – the competition is fiercer than its ever been.
For me, Executive Coaching is neither a training workshop nor occasional and random words of wisdom. It is a mutual and ongoing relationship between my client – generally a business executive that aims to foster personal growth as much as leadership development and me as their executive success coach. Whether our work is focused on time management, leadership styles, career transition or how to maintain a balance between work and life, we set goals and agree on actions with the objective of making the executive better, faster and smarter. The work that we do impacts the entire career of my clients.
Only emerging about a decade ago as a new management initiative, executive coaching has become one of the fastest growing industries worldwide. The US-based International Coach Federation reports that of its more than 5,000 members worldwide, around 400 work in Asia. Moreover, the number is growing. Coach training company Coach House Asia, with its head office in Singapore and branches in Hong Kong and Shanghai, has certified around 150 coaches in its two years of operation.
My executive coaching occurs one-to-one in a private setting and over the phone. It involves very high levels of trust between coach and client. Because of this, the learning is much deeper than in most training situations. Personal issues can be addressed. Executive coaching allows the client to deal with challenges and issues that would be difficult in a more ‘public’ setting.
I have a two tiered fee structure for my coaching engagements. The rates depend on the nature of the engagement and the client. Most of my leadership coaching is directly with a client who is paying the cost. Companies that are investing in their rising stars pay for much of my executive and organizational coaching. In these situations, there are two clients – the executive and the company.
For the first type of engagement and depending on the depth and breath of the engagement, I normally charge between $180 and $250 an hour. My rates depend on the client’s actual needs and the amount of effort and time involved. These engagements are completely confidential. There are no third-parties who have access to the work we do or the issues we discuss. As a result, the relationship which evolves during the engagement tends to be close and based on mutual trust. The focus of the engagement is to help the client improve their skills and open the door to a brighter future.
The second type of engagement involves a client – the executive – and a sponsor – the company. Although this fee can be significantly higher, the company has recruited me either for its entire staff or to coach one of its rising stars. The implied obligation for me is that I need to focus efforts on improving the value of the executive to the sponsoring company. That means that I need to work within the context of the company and with its senior team or board of directors. My experience is that it generally takes about four or five times the effort to work effectively within this more complex environment.
A recent survey by an international human resources consultancy, The Hay Group, showed that between 25 and 40 per cent of Fortune 500 companies’ recruited executive coaches for their executives. Big name companies such as Motorola and IBM offer executive leadership coaching as part of their executive development programs, sometimes even paying as much as $750 an hour.
Every company has stars amongst their top performers. It is my job as their coach to make them superstars! A US-based career management consulting company, Manchester Inc., conducted a study into the effectiveness of coaching for executives and its value to companies. The results showed that companies that invested in executive coaching received an average return on investment of more than 500%. My own experience validates that finding.
Unlike some ‘volume’ coaches, I do not work cheap. I do not have a one-size-fits-all formula for my clients. I customize every coaching engagement to meet the client’s needs and stretch their capabilities. In addition, I do not engage in ‘quick fix’ coaching. Change is difficult for most people and developing new habits to overcome old ones takes time and persistence. Real change requires real change – and that takes time and consistent, concerted effort.
The majority of my executive coaching engagements fall into one of two categories: change-oriented, where the focus is on supplementing and refocusing skills; and growth-oriented, which aims to accelerate the learning curve for recently promoted executives. In both, I bring my experience of building and managing six companies and working with a large number of coaching clients. Whether we are building skills of accelerating growth – or, with some clients, both – the engagement is purposeful and focused. For me, coaching is an understanding between professionals – and understanding with the purpose of achieving significant results that generate significant value to the client.
Ultimately, the real cost and benefits of my coaching are determined by the amount of time and effort that an executive actually commits to the coaching program. The work can be intensive and, sometimes, quite difficult. However, the objective is life-changing change. The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.
© Dr. Earl R. Smith II