What are Corporates really looking for in Executive Coaches?

Well, I thought - why not ask them? At the end of February I facilitated a panel Q[&]A session in my role as Guildford Area Coordinator of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council. On the panel were heads of HR, Learning and Development and Organisational Development from 3 multinationals based in and around the Guildford area. So, what are these buyers of coaching looking for? The key requirements seemed to me to be twofold – quality assurance and value for money.

Quality assurance / value for money

Their responses to the many questions they were asked distilled down to these themes – explaining their preferences to, for example, use coaching firms they know well and who they trust to quality-check any coaches they offer them, and they tend to use firms who employ results-focused coaching models, enabling value for money to be measured. Another way of ensuring quality control and maximizing value for money is to develop their own people as internal coaches.

Training and certification

We in the coaching profession often get excited about training, certification and supervision. And, yes, these are important to the corporate buyers of coaching – but they are only part of the equation. They also like to have choice – to be able to put two or three coaches in front of the potential coachee so that he or she can select the best ‘chemistry’ match. Qualification and certification in themselves do not, as one panel member put it, necessarily equate to meeting the needs of the business.

Coaching trends

In terms of trends in the business, globalization was identified as a theme, as was the decline in ‘remedial’ coaching. This is due in the main to budget constraints – coaching is regarded as an expensive investment and it now tends to be allocated to developing high potential rather than to fixing problems.

Confidentiality is taken very seriously, psychometrics are liked and widely used. Having in-depth and coaching-at-senior-levels experience is thought to be more important than experience in the buyer’s industry sector.

And times are getting tougher for the ‘purist’ coach. Flexibility in approach on the part of the coach in order to meet the business need is appreciated – including the giving of opinions where the coach is qualified to do so.

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