Coaching for the 21st century

Executive coaches, just like leaders, must be agile, cultivating their own capacity to embrace uncertainty, move through complexity, to assist clients.

As the speed, uncertainty, and complexity of global markets intensify, leaders must learn to navigate this fast-moving landscape—by keeping their businesses on track amid adaptive change. In such challenging and opportune times, experienced coaches are of tremendous support to these executives; however, coaches also must adapt in parallel with business evolution, expanding their tool kits to include real-time, technology-enabled coaching to global locations, as well as expanding methodologies to address not only individuals but also systems and teams. Just as leaders must develop the agility to confront uncertain times by engaging the workforce through vision, understanding, and clarity, coaches also must be agile. They must cultivate their own capacity to embrace uncertainty, move forward through complexity, and position their clients for discoveries, smart implementation, and ongoing development.

What will it take to achieve all of this? To answer the question, we surveyed more than 200 coaches from around the globe who are part of Korn Ferry’s coaching network—professionals who listen to, guide, and counsel thousands of senior leaders. The coaches surveyed generally have more than 10 years’ experience (64%), and many have more than 20 years’ experience (19%). All of them are certified, 28% of them with certification from the International Coaching Federation (ICF). The majority of respondents practice in North America (66%), with many from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (19%), the Asia Pacific region (12%), and a few in Latin America (3%). The coaches responded to questions about the challenges leaders face most frequently, which coaching interventions they use most often with clients, and what competencies they see as most essential for leading companies through complex and uncertain business conditions.

Why focus on coaching?

Coaching is widely regarded as a potent development force. De Meuse and Dai (2009), in examining research on coaching effectiveness, reported that in one study 96% of organizations saw individual performances improve after they introduced coaching. Nearly as many (92%) also reported improvements in leadership and management effectiveness (Coaching Counts 2007). In another study, 77% of the respondents indicated that coaching had a significant or very significant impact on at least one of nine business measures. Productivity (60%) and employee satisfaction (53%) were cited as being most improved by the coaching (Anderson 2001).

Clearly, coaching makes a difference. To sustain and deepen this impact in the new business era, coaches must refine and continue to build their repertoire.

What are the current coaching themes?

Businesses expect their senior leaders to activate strategy by motivating and managing their teams, peers, and partners to achieve results through others rather than through individual contributions. The coaches surveyed reflect the importance—and the challenge—of this leadership imperative; responses identified interpersonal and communication skills such as influence, listening, and empathy as key coaching topics across all levels of leadership. Self-awareness, a topic identified in research as crucial yet frequently a derailer, ranks high for all leaders and is at the top of the list for C-suite leaders.

Download the PDF