Don’t forget coaching when transitioning new leaders

Between 50 and 70 percent of executives fail within the first 18 months of being placed in an executive role, whether they are promoted from within or hired from outside the organization, according to research from the Corporate Executive Board.

That statistic is unnecessarily high, say organizational coaching experts Madeleine Homan Blanchard and Patricia Overland. As leaders in the Coaching Services division of The Ken Blanchard Companies, both coaches have seen the research and witnessed firsthand the failure that can occur when leaders are not provided with the support they need to succeed.
“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve coached leaders who were newly promoted because they had a set of skills and good relationships with people,” says Blanchard, “and when they got on the job, they failed.”

It’s not that surprising, she says, given the high expectations set for new leaders and the minimal support they actually receive when transitioning into a new role.
“Leaders are under a lot of pressure to produce results, but they often don’t get the mentoring support they need. The thinking is that at this level they should be able to just do it.”

In conducting interviews with 2,600 Fortune 1000 executives, organizational and leadership consulting firm Navalent found that 76 percent of new executives indicated that the formal development processes of their organization were, at best, minimally helpful in preparing them for their executive role. What’s more, 55 percent of respondents indicated that they had little if any ongoing coaching and feedback to help them refine their ability to perform in an executive role.
“It’s a challenge for HR professionals,” says Overland. “And with the level of change and the number of executives transitioning into new roles, especially in larger organizations, the problem becomes magnified. It’s not uncommon for larger companies to have five executives in transition from five different parts of the company at the same time.

“Even one or two levels below the executive team, all kinds of change is occurring at the VP and director level. It’s always difficult when decision makers move. Now HR finds itself managing several different coaches from different companies, each with their own approaches, contracts, conditions, etc. It can be overwhelming, and that much harder to ensure quality and a return on the investment.

For HR leaders facing this challenge, Overland offers four words of advice: “Don’t go it alone—especially if you are managing a large number of executives in transition across a wide geographical area. This is where working with one company with global reach and a single point of contact really helps. Having one contact person who can help ensure quality, vetting, reporting, and ROI can position an organization to provide successful coaching to every leader who needs it.
“A larger, experienced coaching organization can provide a consistent quality of coaching. Not only is this good for the client and the leaders being coached, it also permits the coaches to talk to each other about how the coaching is going or about the challenges they encounter, and to ask for help when necessary—all without breaching confidentiality.

“This keeps the coaching aligned with organizational objectives and keeps the people focused on priorities,” says Overland.

Be especially careful about going it alone if you are looking to bring the executive coaching function in-house, says Overland.
“In my experience, executives tend to have a real hesitancy to work with an in-house person. They see a risk in disclosing potentially sensitive information to someone junior to them in the organization. Let’s say a senior executive is feeling stressed about a major strategy change, the sale of the company, or a pending merger. The executive won’t want to talk to an internal person about that. An external person is almost always a better choice.”

Blanchard agrees. “Coaching gives people the direction and support they need for the complex, high level leadership and management skills used in a senior role. When I’m thinking about the role of coaching, I always go back to Jim Collins’s book Good to Great,” explains Blanchard. “Collins said that a leader’s job is to get the right people on the bus in the right seats and make sure that the bus is going in the right direction.

“That’s what you are accomplishing when you bring coaching into an organization. You are ensuring that the bus is going in the right direction and all the right people are in the right seats.”

Source: KenBlanchard.com
Author: David Witt
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