Coaching ‘in-the-moment’ happens when managers acquire tools to change the way they engage with difficult, often stressful, situations; the premise being that their current approach isn’t giving them the best results, and that if a quick and simple way of getting better results were available, they’d like to have it. This premise works because it’s grounded in reality, so when the question is posed: 

“Would you like to know how to do get better results more quickly?” the answer is almost inevitably “Yes, please!”

A 2012 Deloitte report estimated that U.S. companies were spending about $14 billion annually on leadership development, and 70% of companies with formal leadership programs employed executive coaches. A 2013 Stanford Business School survey found that almost all executives surveyed wanted leadership advice and training. Executive search firm Korn Ferry’s 2014 report revealed only a small percentage of organizations evaluate impact of coaching.

Indeed, some estimates suggest coaching fails half the time.

This failure rate can be explained by the fact that almost all executive coaching is conducted in private and focuses on the individual, when in fact no executive operates in private or on his or her own. We believe this misalignment of practice and problem limits the potential of executive coaching to help either executives or their organizations.

If it takes a leader to make a team what does it take to make a leader?

According to a Stanford survey, top 5 skills executives want coaches to help them with are:

  1. Delegation (37.2%)
  2. Conflict management (27.9%)
  3. Team building (23.3%)
  4. Mentoring (23.3%)
  5. Listening (20.9%)

All these relate to interactions with others, especially with teams.

  1. Delegation is critical to take advantage of a team’s abilities.
  2. Conflict management promotes creative discussion within high-performing teams.
  3. Teams are at the centre of any leader’s work.
  4. Mentoring helps build strong teams.
  5. Leaders who can’t or won’t listen under-leverage their people.

However, according to the Stanford survey, 60% of executives who receive coaching report that the process is “kept private.” In other words, the outputs of the coaching they receive are not shared. That makes it difficult to address the very skills leaders want to develop, as by definition those skills are exercised in public, working with others.

Worse, traits that support the top five skills — the ability to persuade and motivate, compassion, and empathy — are at the bottom of the Stanford list of what executives are working on. They avoid these “intangible,” “nuanced” skills because working on them makes them “uncomfortable,” even though improving them can “really make a difference in [their] effectiveness.”

If this is indeed the case, then I challenge the coaches with whom these leaders are working. My challenge is this: Coaching isn’t a nice conversation. It’s where the rubber hits the road. It’s for real. What then are these coaches doing to let their clients get away with excuses such as it is ‘uncomfortable’ and / or it needs to be kept private. What an extraordinary waste of money, time and energy.

Coaches and clients time to stop colluding and get over yourselves. Do the work. Make every moment count.