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If you find yourself on the fast track to a management job, make room for company.

Executive coaching or one-on-one business mentoring is no longer reserved for a company’s top officers. Companies are hiring executive coaches who tend to focus on improving communication and time management skills to groom their high-potential employees, changing the way firms train executives-to-be.

Coaching, in personal and business capacities, has become a $1 billion-a-year industry in the United States. Some surveys indicate that half of all businesses now employ coaches.

"It has really blossomed," said Gail Aldrich, Senior Vice President for member services for the Society of Human Resource Management. "Companies are recognizing that investing in people makes a big difference to the bottom line."

Kasey Bell, a Coppell, Texas-based operations manager with International Business Machines Corp., tapped an internal coaching network before taking a promotion that increased her direct reports fivefold.

"There was a lot I wanted to change about my management style," said Bell, 41. "But I didn’t want to go to my boss with stupid questions. I needed a penalty-free environment where nothing was off-limits."


The Kentucky-based International Coach Federation, the closest thing the industry has to a governing body, now claims more than 8,300 members, a more than fourfold increase from six years ago.  Some estimates place the number of working coaches at nearly 40,000 worldwide.  Hiring by businesses has been a major driver of that growth.

Industry data is scarce, but in a survey released in July by Right Management Consultants, nearly half of the 212 organizations queried said they provide coaching to their executives and managers. Other surveys have returned similar results.

Dell, Inc., based in Round Rock, Texas, has provided coaches to top executives for years, but now lower-level managers can tap them for candid feedback on their management styles, said spokeswoman Amy King. "It is not something that is limited to the upper echelons," King said. "It’s difficult (at any level) to have those discussions in a classroom setting or a direct report situation. But you have that direct, meaningful input through coaching."

Many top managers seek help because they are overcommitted and unable to say no to their superiors, coaches say.

Teresa Pool, a Plano, Texas-based coach and former operations manager with Electric Data Systems Corp., persuaded a workaholic client on the verge of burnout to skip unnecessary meetings and stand up to his superiors about taking on too many projects. The client, a regional vice president for a global technology company, was able to focus more on existing projects and quickly won a promotion to head of North American Operations.

"I believe, and he believes, that coaching was critical to him making this leap," she said. "He felt he didn’t have anyone else to talk to about this."

New return-on-investment research shows that hiring business coaches can lead to increased productivity and significant financial gains
. In one 2004 study, executive coaching at Booz Allen Hamilton, the business consultants firm, returned $7.90 for every $1 the firm spent, according to MetrixGlobal LLC, the Iowa-based consultancy that conducted the study. The more than 40 managers who received coaching said advances in team chemistry, the quality of its consulting and retention rates among senior managers added dramatically to profits.

"The most important benefits are intangible in nature," said Merrill Anderson, chief executive of MetrixGlobal, which has found similar results at three other clients. "But companies are realizing that there are substantial monetary benefits that can be identified as a result of executive coaching."

That’s not to say they are cheap.


Most coaches charge between $100 and $500 an hour; and highly regarded academic and business consultants can demand $1,000 per hour to take on top executives, said Aldrich of the Human Resource Society.

But HR departments are starting to view coaches as a necessary complement to existing training programs, Aldrich said.  "It is really becoming ingrained into the culture of many companies," she said. "The stigma is gone. It used to be that you only got a coach when you were in trouble – time to develop an exit strategy. Now it’s really used more often to help top performers become even better."

Coaches are particularly useful in helping executives identify and neutralize internal threats.

Alma Weaver Jones, a business coach with a corporate recruiting background, recalls a client of hers who clashed with a talented but ill-tempered executive who frequently undermined her in public. Jones persuaded the client, the owner of a struggling software company, that she could reverse the company’s fortunes without firing the executive, who was demoted and given a more strict definition of his job duties.

"It was a turning point where she took control back of her business," said Jones. "She took some drastic steps to get her company healthy again. They went through a really rough time, but they’re thriving now.

We thank the Dallas Morning News for this insightful story. One of the things JFD Performance Solutions does best is coach. We offer Executive Coaching, Professional Development Coaching, and Intervention Coaching for employees who are struggling in their role at your organization. For more information, contact us today!