I have an executive coaching hammer, but not every problem is a nail!

Executive coaching can’t fix everything.  There, I’ve said it.

Even if executive coaching was a hammer, not every problem is a nail.

It’s an amazing tool for aligning leadership behaviour with organisational expectations.  It’s fantastic at helping managers understand what will motivate and inspire others.  In short, it’s a brilliant tool for helping individuals change themselves, and influencing change in others.

In light of some recent conversations, I think we need to be really clear on some of the things that coaching cannot achieve (well, not on it’s own anyway):

How to shortlist executive coaches

There’s a lot of executive coaches out there.  An awful lot.  The Association for Coaching lists over 1,600 members.  The International Coach Federation has over 20,000. There are multiple LinkedIn groups dedicated to coaching practice with 30,000+ members.

The eventual decision on the coaches you choose to work with will often be somewhat subjective (hence why rather vague words like ‘chemistry’ are often used to describe the final stages of selection), but with such a bewildering array of choice, how do you produce a workable shortlist?

Masterclasses in organisational change, executive coaching and behavioural change

Join us in London throughout 2017 to learn critical skills in organisational change, executive coaching and behavioural change.

Hot on the heels of our successful one-day BootCamps, we’re delighted to announce a series of intensive two-hour afternoon sessions covering some of the most common questions we’ve been asked.

Our MasterClasses provide an opportunity to look at specific challenges in detail and answer questions to accelerate your leadership and change projects.  Best of all, like all our public events, they’re completely FREE!

Our new schedule will cover topics such as:

  • Creating an internal coaching programme
  • Effective management and measurement of executive coaching
  • Harnessing the power of culture
  • How to create meaningful change (and ditch the ‘values’)
  • Turning leadership promises into business results
  • Getting the most from 360° assessment

For more details, and to book your free place, visit our events page.

Look forward to seeing you soon!

Am I coaching or mentoring? Know the differences, but don’t worry too much…

At our regular, free Executive Coaching BootCamps, one of the most common questions we get is the difference between coaching and mentoring.

Whilst it would be lovely to give a black and white answer to this, the reality is it’s a grey area and we will often do both at the same time.

Pure mentoring can be summarised with a single statement:  “I have the knowledge/experience and will give them the benefit of it”.  This can be of real benefit, but should be used carefully.  After all, the experience we have is never exactly the same as the situation other people find themselves in.  There may be similarities, but giving direction in these situations can lead to some some pretty predictable responses, all beginning with the dreaded “Yes, but…”

“Yes, but, that wouldn’t work because…”

“Yes, but my manager wouldn’t value that because…”

“Yes, but my team are different because…”

On the flip side, purists describe good coaching as being summarised by a similar, single statement:  “They have the knowledge/experience, but can’t always access it”.  This leads us to the unending search for the ‘killer question’.  We need to tread carefully here too. Relentlessly questioning can lead to helplessness as the coachee is made to feel they should know something that they simply don’t.

Why should they be expected to know the answer?

Is it a situation they’ve never experienced before and have no frame of reference?

Good coaching is undoubtedly about unlocking potential through insightful questioning, but it’s also about helping people solve problems.  Sometimes people get stuck, and if they don’t have the knowledge or experience, no number of clever questions will unstick them. Sometimes people simply need to be told the answer.

Whether you are a mentor or a coach, recognise that you will use a variety of approaches to help the people you work with.  Understand the differences and the differing impact of the approach you choose.

Importantly though, don’t worry about it too much.  ‘Pure’ coaching and ‘pure’ mentoring both have their strengths and weaknesses – a sensible, balanced approach is likely to achieve the best results.

Supporting organisational change at Air France KLM

We supported managers at one of the world’s largest airlines to better manage conversations about change.

Combining coaching techniques with skills in conducting difficult conversations, their UK management team were better equipped to help employees succeed and support their people through change.

They really enjoyed the experience as well.  Vicky Frith, Air France KLM’s Corporate Sales Manager called it “highly engaging and motivating and an excellent learning opportunity”.

Read more about our work with Air France KLM here.

Why we love to run free events

For over 3 years, we’ve been running regular Leadership BootCamps across the UK.

Our BootCamps are free events on a range of topics close to our heart such as Executive Coaching, High Performing Teams and Organisational Change.

So why do we continue to give away learning that our customers have told us regularly they’re prepared to pay for?

  1. We like meeting new people.  We love our customers (very much), but we also like meeting new people.  We’re a bunch of extroverts, so new encounters keep our energy levels high.
  2. We love our topic areas.  We’re passionate about coaching, leadership and change so that’s what our BootCamps focus on.  We love talking to people about these topics, and we love the questions and challenges they bring along to discuss.
  3. We love presenting.  A lot of our team are from learning and development backgrounds, and really get their kicks being in front of a new audience.  They say there’s nothing better than a bunch of enthusiastic participants!
  4. It helps us generate new business.  Let’s be absolutely honest, we’re not only doing this for the love!  People who meet us generally like us, and often ask us to help them with their challenges.  We’ve met a lot of new customers that way, including OCS, The Co-operative Bank and Air France KLM.

    We’re absolutely transparent about this point because it keeps us focussed on providing great learning events, rather than sneaky sales days!

Click here to explore our latest free events

Executive coaching at Rio Tinto

We coached leaders in one of the world’s biggest mining companies to achieve their personal and business goals.

Involving a team of coaches working closely together and across the world, this was one of our biggest and most challenging assignments.

The results were fantastic, and Sam Walsh, former Chief Executive attributes part of his success to his use of coaching with us.  In his own words:

“I was extremely fortunate to have Paul Victor of Vmax Consulting, a Doctor of Psychology with a manufacturing background, so we understood each other well. Paul assisted me particularly as I entered new territory in restructuring, and maintaining the focus on getting the balance right between the present and future business.”

Read more about our work with Rio Tinto here.

Reducing the cost of executive coaching

Let’s not beat around the bush – executive coaching isn’t cheap.  In fact if you measure your learning and development interventions in terms of per-person contact time, it’s probably the most expensive development activity you will undertake.

The returns that executive coaching can deliver back to your business are the subject of much examination.  You don’t have to search for long to find both philosophical and pragmatic calculations of what you might expect to get back in terms of business value.  If you’re struggling, try this 2009 ICF study that estimates returns of 344% on executive coaching investment, but balance it with this 2012 ICF study that states that better understanding of the benefits of coaching and credible ROI measures represent the two biggest challenges facing the industry.

Regardless of the magnitude of the returns possible and how credible the returns are, one thing is certainly true – we want all more for less!

There are many ways in which you can reduce the cost of your executive coaching interventions without reducing the quality of provision.  Here are 5 questions to ask of your business, and your provider:


1. Is choice important?

One of the expectations of executive coaching is that the coachee will be able to choose their own coach.  Whilst choice CAN be an important factor, it is by no means essential for everybody.  We have provided one-person-shortlists for many coachees for many years, with no reduction in quality and impact.

Reduced choice for the coachee opens up the opportunity to significantly rationalise the size of your coach portfolio and the associated cost of management.


2. Can we use days instead of sessions

Coaching is typically charged on a per-session basis, representing the time it takes for the coach to conduct a session, including their travel time, preparation and expenses.

If you have multiple coachees within your business, consider tighter scheduling of your coaching, allowing multiple sessions to take place on a single day.  This change allows for the consolidation of expenses and pricing to be negotiated on a per-day rather than per-session basis. 


3. Do we need to be in the same room?

Coaching using the telephone and web conferencing works.  In fact for most people it works as well as face-to-face coaching (for some, even better).  

It isn’t always appropriate to have ALL coaching sessions conducted virtually, and the method doesn’t work for everyone, but consider what options you have for virtual and blended modes of coaching delivery.


4. Could more cost less?

Economies of scale work in coaching too, so consider the marginal cost of increasing the number of people having coaching in your business.

When combined with some of the previous questions, there is significant scope to increase the number of assignments per coach, reduce the per-session cost and secure better rates for your business.


5. What do your coachees do next?

Experiencing coaching is an important element in the development of the coach.  In fact there aren’t many coaches who didn’t enter the world of coaching after being initially coached themselves by somebody else.

Start thinking about the coachees in your business as a potential talent pool. Could these leaders coach others in your business and reduce your reliance on external coaching providers?


A ‘race to the bottom’ cost approach to executive coaching procurement helps no-one and can severely impact the quality of provision you receive, but that doesn’t mean savings aren’t possible with a little pragmatism.