When Do You Need An Executive Coach


When can you use an executive coach?

The sooner the better.

No, I’m not being flip.   There is a growing belief that the earlier an executive coach is inserted into the equation, the greater the value to both the executive and the company that hired him or her.

The underlying stats have been there for a long time.

It has been widely accepted in executive search that the failure rate can be as high as 40% in the first 18 months of the hire.   Now that seems low.  A study in the Harvard Business Review suggests the figure could be as high as 50%-60.

The HBR figure comes from one of the seemingly few studies that have wondered why.  The publication “Rising to Power” is subtitled “The journey of exceptional executives.” There are four sections, but the clue to the alarming failure rate is right there in the first four lines of the synopsis:

“Nearly two-thirds of all leaders entering into executive roles lack sufficient understanding of what is required of them and are underprepared for what they will face”

This is the opening conclusion by authors Ron Carucci and Eric Hansen after performing a 10-year, longitudinal study of organizations and their leaders.  They found that many of the issues faced by newly minted executives are a result of rising to leadership roles earlier than ever, despite a lack of experience and after minimal— if any—formal development.

They describe the initial shock and disorientation executives feel when entering their new roles at the top of the hierarchy as “altitude sickness”.  It takes time to acclimatize to the new perspective and responsibilities their job requires.

If you accept this – and it does make a lot of sense – it is immediately clear that the problem lies on both sides.  The newly hired executive, however skilled, lacks at the outset the required depth of knowledge in managing and executing a specific, competitive strategy.  In most cases, the organization has done little or nothing to prepare an on-ramp that will acclimatize the new exec at an appropriate rate.

And if you consider the vast range of issues and organizational rabbit warrens, there is unlikely to be a one-size solution.  So, let me ask the question again: when do you need an executive coach?

We’ll look at this up close in the next post.

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