By Jeremy Thorn

Who do you think might benefit the most from an opportunity for Executive Coaching? Would it be just for those who show promising career potential, do you think, or could there be others? And although coaching has become increasingly popular over the last 10 years, is this the only alternative to a more formal programme of management development? It doesn’t have to be!

In the first part of this two part article, I will look at who needs coaching. In the second part, next week, I will explore and what coaching solutions and approaches are available.

Who Needs Coaching?

If you have ever enjoyed a sport at a serious level, you will know at first hand how critical a coach can be; first for maintaining, and then for improving, both personal and team performance. It isn’t any different at work. But because management and leadership development requires a serious commitment of both organisational time and cost, inevitably many employers might far prefer to recruit the ‘finished article’. Yet surely a fond hope? History records no such person ever existed! Even if you were to find the ‘perfect recruit’, jobs inexorably change over time and require new skills. And if the job-holder can’t develop these new skills, he or she may then block others who might.

This is the reason why really wise employers seek to recruit people for their ability to do the next job in their organisation, not just the present one.

For ‘Developing Potential’

Accordingly, the most frequent reason to offer Executive Coaching in any organisation, of any size and in any sector, is to develop an essential ‘talent bank’ of potential for the future. (How might you identify those with the potential? — subject to a separate article!)
Confidential Executive Coaching is most certainly not the only way to develop such colleagues. But it has an extraordinarily strong track-record as part of a wider management-development strategy in developing and realising existing talent. It is highly flexible and outcome-focussed and, inevitably, it is highly motivational for those selected.

However, in focusing on developing potential managers and leaders, you might still miss out on at least three other categories of people who might benefit from coaching, as follows.

‘The High Fliers’

First, don’t forget your ‘high-fliers’, whose rapid rise to a very senior management position may have resulted in some essential omissions in developing all the core leadership skills and experience necessary? Many of us, with more traditional if longer career paths, might take for granted the acquisition and development of some of the necessary experience and skills required of a senior post over time.

But the high-fliers will not necessarily have had this opportunity. Often, these omissions may not be too apparent to their bosses, perhaps because they have never been tested as yet. But the individual themselves might be acutely aware of them - and so, by association, might their staff.

For example, it could be that the high-flier still needs to fine-tune their business judgement or their relationships with particularly difficult or very senior colleagues and stakeholders. These skills don’t usually arrive ‘oven-ready’ on first appointment! Alternatively, there may be some new skills to acquire, as varied as managing corporate risk, managing large meetings, negotiating mission-critical deals, making major presentations, handling press interviews - or even managing stress and work-life balance. All of these are great topics to add to a tailored, confidential, coaching programme.

‘The Nearly Wonderful’

Then there are those who might have been ‘high-fliers’, who have may key knowledge and essential skills that are highly-prized by your organisation. But they just don’t quite ever seem to make the grade. You don’t want to lose them, and indeed you may not be able to afford to lose them. But for one reason or another, they just don’t win their manager’s confidence to be given the senior posts they almost certainly aspire to.

You will know this category well because their performance reviews almost always leave their bosses thinking (and sometimes saying): “If only they didn’t ...”, or perhaps “If only they did …”! Examples might include the Technical Expert, who is brilliant but never embraces the wider commercial picture; the Key-Account Sales Manager whom customers adore and their own colleagues find impossibly vainglorious, self-seeking and ill-disciplined; or perhaps the Accountant who produces wonderful management information, on time and accurately, who is painstaking over quite minor issues and misses the really important ones. You’ll know them!

Also in this category, there may also be others who really are very good. But perhaps just on this occasion, they have been passed-over for promotion because there was an even better candidate and only one post going; or the timing wasn’t quite right; or even that they were really capable, but not yet actually quite as good as they earnestly believed themselves to be. They can all benefit from coaching too.

‘The Just Treading Water’

There are also those who are highly capable, have been in post for a long time, often at the top of their profession, but feel that their job has somehow lost the savour, excitement and challenge it used to have. These may not be typical coaching clients, you might think, but perhaps they should be?

This category could include many Owner-Managers, Researchers, Teachers, Lawyers or Senior Clinicians, for example. They might not actually be bored, they probably love what they do, but they need re-energising — if only they knew how. And if they aren’t ‘re-energised’? - however unwittingly, they well may find solace in taking up distracting interests elsewhere that don’t support their organisation, and may even damage their colleagues’ morale and own commitment.


As the cliché has it, most organisations do genuinely recognise that their staff are at least one of their most valuable assets, if not their most valuable. But not only do good managers need help and training to become great leaders, they need continuing development as their roles change. And this applies to all managers, not just those picked out for a talent-management programme.

This development can’t happen easily without an employers’ support, but it can be greatly facilitated through several different options. I will explore these in the second part of this article, next week.

Read Catching A Coach Part 2 - Coaching Solutions

Watch a video of the Academy for Chief Executives Speaker Showcase at The Grand Connaught Rooms in 2009, where speakers talked about new ideas.


Jeremy Thorn is the author of several prize-winning business books, an experienced Non-Executive Director, Leadership Coach and top-team Workshop Facilitator. He is particularly well-known for his work on strategic organisational development and ‘win-win’ negotiation workshops across a wide array of organisations in both the private and public sectors, internationally. Email Jeremy at Jeremy@JeremyThorn.co.uk or go to www.JeremyThorn.co.uk

As part of the Academy Community, professional speakers, such as Jeremy, witness first hand the power of leaders learning with leaders. The Academy process, experiential business learning, provides a unique environment for CEOs and MDs to hear how other leaders are developing their businesses and themselves, and how they are motivating their own people. For more information visit www.chiefexecutive.com