Why Professional Coaching Should Expand Beyond Executives

Coaching is incredibly helpful for everyone’s development path, not just the C-Suite

Originally published in Forbes

Coaching is one of the best, if not the best, methods for learning, development and building high-performing individuals and teams.

The effectiveness of coaching is not a new concept. Executive coaching, or “counseling,” as it was first called, grew in popularity in the 1970s and '80s. Today, it’s a nonnegotiable for businesses known for high performance and continuous innovation, especially during times of mass disruption. But in a modern world with easy access to information and a plethora of evolving business challenges, why does coaching remain an elite executive experience?

Coaching is incredibly helpful for everyone’s development path, not just those in the C-suite.

Three Ways Coaching Benefits High Performers And Managers

1. Coaching Is Customizable

Online modules are forgettable. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are rarely utilized. And while retreats present an opportunity for open-ended conversations, the topics may not be relevant to all participants in the immediate future. Coaching, however, is tailored learning and development in real time.

This customization creates a long-term commitment between your high performers and their relationships with their work, their team and their desire to become a leader within your organization — especially when coaching is offered as an employee benefit. Coaching evolves as the individual evolves, becoming their back-pocket developmental tool. And with such easy access to personalized professional coaching, your high performers and managers are more likely to feel valued, express their needs and seek out internal growth opportunities rather than jumping ship.

2. Coaching Is Action-Oriented

Trainers say, “This is the technique we use here.” Mentors say, “This is the technique that worked for me.” Coaches, however, say, “Let’s find the technique best suited for you.” Coaching is not only customizable but action-oriented. Through one-on-one discussions, top talent will leave sessions with specific practices to put into action. More importantly, though, they will also have a built-in feedback loop (outside of their direct manager) with their coach, which is incredibly valuable for real-time growth.

3. Coaching Is Continuous

Coaching is an ongoing learning experience. The decision around what an individual learns and what they work on with their coach can be directly applied to what’s going on in their world at that time. As your high performers take on entirely new challenges, as they become new managers, as your organizational goals pivot, your top talent will have a knowledgeable and reliable resource and support system at all times. When done properly, coaching can be integrated into the day-to-day world of high performers and your overall company culture.

How To Make Professional Coaching Scalable

Historically speaking, professional coaching is expensive, costing thousands of dollars per month per executive. Offering such a program to your numerous managers and high performers may have your accounting department spiraling. Yet as career development opportunities continue to be the most requested work benefit and the top reason high performers job hop, executive titles can no longer be the prerequisite for professional coaching.

So how can you realistically implement a coaching program?

A free starting point is creating or expanding an internal mentorship program and working toward a coaching culture. There is certainly a benefit to having a wise, more experienced person volunteer their time to growing and supporting the organization’s next generation. To do this effectively, executive leadership must support such a program by enthusiastically encouraging participation, including themselves. It should also take place during work hours, and while one-on-one conversations should remain private, conversations around the program itself or advice individuals are comfortable sharing should be encouraged.

That said, it’s important to discuss the difference between mentoring and coaching. Mentoring is a passing of the baton. Coaching is a more engaged partnership where through a process of inquiry and reflection, a coach empowers the coachee to come to their own solutions and develop their own processes. Rather than being passed down knowledge, employees take ownership and responsibility for their personal and professional growth utilizing the toolset and feedback loop provided by their coach.

Like many industries, professional coaching is becoming more accessible, scalable and affordable through technological advancements. Many companies — my own included — create scientific-backed assessments to kick off coaching topics, match employees with certified coaches using artificial intelligence and handle all the scheduling and post-assessments within their own platforms. This not only takes a tremendous amount of work off of your HR or talent and development teams but is far more affordable than the old-school executive model.

High-performing organizations aren’t trying to build a superstar executive team but rather a superstar organization. Individual coaching has a tremendous ripple effect throughout the organization’s productivity and well-being. When coaching expands beyond executives, you create a culture of high performance and a culture of employee well-being, which, at the end of the day, should be what every organization strives for.

Tom Finn

Tom Finn

Entrepreneur & Podcaster

Through his work as the co-founder and CEO of LeggUP and host of the Talent Empowerment podcast, he helps people find and create company cultures rooted in community and defined by comfort, connection, and contribution.