Things are changing but more often than not when you talk about coaching with private equity or venture capital funds they immediately think of their problem CEOs and companies. “Oh yes … so and so is struggling, she could do with a coach.” They are largely missing the point. Most sportsmen and sportswomen don’t choose a coach to sort their problems out, they select a coach so they can go from good to great to excellent.

Coaching is the X factor. Is there any player in the top 100 of any sport without a coach? I doubt it.

Starting, scaling up and leading a business is not just complex, but volatile, uncertain and ambiguous.

There are over 75,000 books published on leadership yet no one has perfected it. There is no one playbook for CEOs to follow.

“Four out of five entrepreneurs are forced to step down from the CEO’s post,” according to Noam Wasserman, in his article and book The Founder’s Dilemma.
The challenges leaders face today are too great for one person to cope with.

So if athletes and dancers are using coaches, why doesn’t every CEO on the globe have one?

Maybe asking for a CEO coach is perceived as a sign of weakness or it’s because they don’t think they have time. Or they believe it’s too expensive or they don’t know how to assess what a good coach looks like. Or they are not sure how a coach can help or they think it’s selfish to spend money on themselves. Or maybe they have had a bad experience with a coach.

But as I said at the beginning the times they are a changing. In Silicon Valley the question is more likely to be, “Why haven’t you got a coach?” than “Why do you have a coach?”

Eric Schmidt, ex-CEO of Google, who was initially offended when it was suggested he should use a coach, mentions in the Trillion Dollar Coach, which he co-wrote, “Bill Campbell [his coach] has been helpful in coaching all of us, his role [as a coach] was needed from the beginning. I should have encouraged this structure sooner, ideally the moment I started at Google.

A global survey of coaching clients by PwC concluded that the mean ROI for companies investing in coaching was 7 times that of the initial investment, with over a quarter reporting an ROI of 10 to 49 times!
Jeff Bezos, in an Amazon shareholder letter, said: “Coaching is also extended to employees who are excelling and in line for increased responsibilities. In fact, 82% of coaching is positive to employees who are meeting or exceeding expectations.”

A recent study of Executive Coaching in a Fortune 500 firm by MetrixGlobal reported a 529% return on investment and significant intangible benefits to the business.

Coaching is becoming a must-have for successful founders, leaders and CEOs.

In my experience of working with 100s of founders and leaders, the best ones have coaches to help them on their leadership journey.

Here are five reasons why I believe executive coaching is the way to achieve success.

  1. Accelerate your awareness and self-awareness

The CEO world has a tendency to be a feedback-free zone. This is a dangerous place to be. How your team members perceive you, the stories they tell about you and the impact you have on them (i.e. your reputation) is your strongest predictor of performance. Great leaders care about their reputations.

Use a coach to get the data on your reputation and accelerate your awareness through 360 degree interviews, psychometric tests and simply observing you in action. A coach is like having external eyes and ears, providing a more accurate picture of the reality. Feedback from a coach is a gift for a leader.

  1. Thinking partner

It amazes me how few leaders reflect on how they make decisions. Pros and cons. Gut feel. SWOT analysis. That’s often it. Your decision making processes over time will make the difference between success or super success and failure.

A great coach will help you become a better decision maker. Through questions they will get you to reflect on your decisions; to step back and think strategically rather than get sucked into day-to-day operations. A coach acts as a sounding board, encouraging you to challenge your own thinking. A great coach will also offer different perspectives, not to show how smart they are but to help you do your best thinking.

  1. Feel less lonely

Being a founder and a leader can be very lonely. Your team members come to you with their problems. But who do you go to with yours? You don’t want to burden your friends or your partners. And anyway they don’t really understand what you are going through. You don’t want to admit to your investors or your executive team that you have fears and weaknesses.

The magical thing about the coaching conversations is that they are safe. What is said in the room, stays in the room. You are free to talk about anything. And most importantly you are listened to. You are heard. Leaders feel a weight being lifted from their shoulders, less stress. But unlike therapy the focus is on future possibilities not past mistakes.

  1. Unleash performance

Modern day coaching came from a Harvard educationalist and tennis expert, Tim Gallwey. He claimed the best way to reach peak performance was to remove or reduce your internal interferences to allow your natural ability to learn and perform. His simple equation is a very effective way of summarising modern coaching:

Performance = Potential – Interference

So the essence of coaching is to unleash someone’s potential so they can maximise their performance. This is not done by instruction or telling someone what to do. But by helping leaders find their natural learning capacity (think of how you learnt to walk!). A coach’s job is to remove those limiting beliefs or assumptions and to draw energy and learning out of the leaders they work with.

  1. Accountability partner

Arguably accountability is the most important role of a coach. Why? Because it’s about turning a coaching conversation into action or concrete decisions. A coach does not force you to do anything. We are individually responsible for our own development.

Accountability within the coaching experience is about asking you to define specifically what you will do and when, and trusting you to do it. A coach will help surface any obstacles which might get in the way of you taking action. And any support you might need. Coaching has a purpose; it’s about getting results without imposing their will but activating your will.

Great coaching will make you feel special, valued, confident, safe, supported and enthused.

“Who needs executive coaching?”

Perhaps the better question is who doesn’t

Mark Farrer-Brown
Founder and CEO Coach, Entrepreneur, Business Builder and Angel Investor

Mark Farrer-Brown

Mark is known for his scale up expertise having been part of multiple successful exits over the last 25 years as a founder, business builder, coach, mentor and investor.

Follow Mark on LinkedIn.

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