It is the job David Brent believes he was born to do. Executive coaches claim they can improve organisational performance by transforming the way people relate.
The best of the bunch will charge you £2,000 a day for their troubles – but profess they are worth every penny. So what are they and how can you become one?
The concept first started in the US in the 1980s and then rapidly spread throughout Europe. By focusing on training individual managers at every level in a corporation, executive coaches were able to achieve impressive results.
They tackled areas that had long been neglected by conventional workplace trainers, targeting communication skills, work-life balance and conflict resolution.
For many years, hiring an executive coach was seen as ‘seeing the shrink’, but as coaching paid dividends, companies became less cynical.
Gerard Clery-Melin, boss of headhunting group Whitehead Mann – which recently took over the leading coaching firm, Change Partnership – says attitudes towards coaching are changing.
Clery-Melin, whose coaching firm works with half the FTSE 100, says: “This is not remedial stuff. It is about developing leadership skills and working on weaknesses.”
Natalie Bloom, co-founder of the Good Bean Coffee Company, also believes in the value of executive coaching.
She says: “I read a business magazine that dismissed coaching as a fad, but I thought it was a brilliant idea. It has been a huge benefit. I needed another dimension and coaching gives it. It helps make you more effective so, hopefully, you get better.”
According to Amanda Vickers, director of Speak First, one of the UK’s foremost executive coaching companies, it’s all about getting the best out of people. That means being approachable, good with people and, above all, trustworthy. Vickers suggests that those best suited to the role are “people’s people” and those that are naturally good at developing rapport.
“It is important for the coach to be able to create a safe environment in which people can be more open as then they will be more likely to progress rapidly,” she says.
“They should be observant, naturally curious, analytical and able to pick up on patterns of behaviour. They need to be sensitive, good, active listeners, but also able to ask challenging questions to test the client’s habits and long-held views and assumptions.
She adds: “They need to be able to tell people what they don’t want to hear without breaking the rapport.”
Executive coaches increasingly come from a variety of professional backgrounds. One leading consultancy, Philpott Black, currently offer actors to help with presentation skills, media professionals to advise on communication skills and psychotherapists for personal issues.
Lawrie Philpott, who runs Philpott Black, says: “If you do things in the right order, with the right ethic and using the right people, there’s a good chance you can make a significant difference [to the client] in six to nine months.”
According to Vickers, it is also a highly satisfying career. “Being a coach is fulfilling and rewarding, as through transforming your clients’ performance and developing more choices and new perspectives for them, you are also continually working on your own personal and professional development,” she says.
To be a good coach, Vickers says you need to have “a passion for developing people but with the same commitment to your own personal development.”
However, she warns: “Only the best people with the right track record and a continuing ability to be self critical and embrace development will achieve big money.”
The Change Partnership www.wmann.com
Speak First www.speakfirst.co.uk