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Leadership Coaching: A Key to Workplace ROI

Source: 29/11/2004

As business leaders and human resources executives look for ways to improve productivity, enhance leadership performance and increase profits, a new survey from members of ACP International suggests investing in employees through leadership coaching is a wise decision.

ACP International, a global organization with members in 30 countries who provide life-long career related services, surveyed over 2,000 members to report on the latest approaches to leadership coaching.

The return on investment for leadership coaching can be powerful. Career Performance Strategies, a leadership coaching firm, provided a recent case study reporting on the results of a leadership coaching initiative conducted by a Fortune 500 company. The study found that coaching produced a return on investment of 788 percent, including improved performance, financial benefits from employee retention, and other intangibles.

As the dynamics of organizations change, requiring more agile managers, leadership coaching may be needed to develop managers to multi-task and maximize their capabilities.

"With the high cost of conducting a search and training a new executive, a company is far better off financially to re-groom or re-shape an existing employee if he/she is open to change, has the values and principles that fit into the organizational culture," says Margaret New, Ph.D., of The Middleburg Group, LLC (Middleburg, Virginia).

Leadership coaching is a growing corporate trend that focuses on specific ways to improve performance and maximize leadership capabilities. Training for employees is offered along with the help of a personal "coach" to enhance leadership, management, and communication skills necessary in leadership positions.

"Leadership coaching provides executives with an opportunity to clarify their goals and define ways of reaching them within the context of a wider vision and set of values," explains Warren Redman of the Centre for Inner Balancing in Canada. "The outcome is a clearer focus on the important aspects of leadership which inevitably leads to greater effectiveness and enhanced bottom line results. In my experience, employees who are coached are more motivated and fulfilled, which leads to greater employee retention and therefore significant savings; improved communication, leading to less likelihood of misunderstandings and errors that could be very costly; and greater attention to the needs of customers, providing for improved quality of goods/service, again leading to a healthier bottom line."

With a personal coach, further training can be focused on specific tactics and developmental tools for a more effective leader.

"One-on-one leadership coaching contributes to the bottom line because it's an intervention that is entirely focused and tailored to the individual development needs of the person," observes ACP International Toronto member Judy Orr. "This differs from conventional developmental initiatives that focus on a general theme targeted to a broad group. It is more likely that behavioral change will occur with the support of a coach than with standard training models."

"Leadership coaching for any member of the organization helps them develop their 'personal responsibility' muscle," notes Mary Schaefer, President and Lead Consultant of Artemis Path, LLC. "When all employees feel a personal responsibility to fix problems and contribute to solutions, instead of complaining or thinking it is someone else's responsibility, it contributes to the bottom line through increased initiative, creativity, and productivity."

For some, leadership coaching may not be just a last resort for improving productivity but rather an everyday key investment to keep leadership skills sharp.

"Every corporate [executive] is like an elite athlete who needs to practice his/her sport every day, sometimes for 6-8 hours at a time," explains Dinah Day, professional image and career coach for The Image Circle, Inc. in New York, "When the going gets tough and the competition is unexpectedly challenging, the trained athlete is ready to respond immediately. The financial rewards for executives are in making that personal investment in their image and presentation skills, especially if they make it look effortless, as champion athletes do."

"I think leadership coaching should be offered to executives as a corporate benefit just like an automobile or membership at the country club," New adds. She sees the benefits of leadership coaching as including increased business profitability, more clients, improvement in customer retention, and increases in revenues.

"Understanding people and their behavior and motivation, and then providing the environment for them to thrive and show what they can deliver takes courage and faith on the part of the leader," comments ACP International member said Linda Sutcliffe, (Berkshire, England) when asked how investing in leadership coaching contributes to the bottom line. "But the increase in productivity, teamwork, retention, and becoming an employer of choice will pay dividends. There are many people in organizations who are willing to work harder, but lack the motivation. Trained coaches, who can listen and help individuals unlock their own potential, provide the vehicle for success."