STATISTICS suggest that two out of every five new chief executive officers (CEOs) fail to perform to expectations in their first 18 months on the job.

It is therefore critical for companies to cultivate internal candidates for top positions.

Yet corporations are beginning to realise that executive succession pipelines can get broken, adversely affecting their management’s ability to identify and nurture future leaders.

This situation can be alleviated by establishing on-going programmes that correctly ascertain the highest potential executives and provide them with meaningful and measurable development.

According to surveys, recruitment and talent retention are perennially at the top of a CEO’s most pressing worries — and for a good reason.

Having enough capable leaders to execute corporate strategy is a growing concern, one that is heightened by demographic trends that promise a continuing shortage of leaders in coming years.

From the field to the boardroom

A concept that has moved from the world of sports to the executive suite, executive coaching is a means to help senior executives manage a constantly changing business environment and refine their leadership skills.

Coaching is not only limited to senior levels. Some corporations have begun to utilise executive coaches to develop staff at all levels to help them achieve their full potential.

The process focuses on each participant’s goals, reinforces learning and change, and increases self-empowerment.

Savvy organisations understand that the development of high-potential employees and the continuous development of their current executives’ leadership skills are critical to company-wide success.

On the organisational level, executive coaches help companies avoid costly management turnover, develop their most talented people and ensure that leaders perform at their maximum potential.

Recent research suggests that managers and executives who have received coaching are more likely to be promoted than those who have not had one-on-one coaching.

Executives who receive coaching have improved working relationships with their direct reports, peers and immediate supervisors.

In addition, coached executives experience increases in job satisfaction, team performance and organisational commitment.

These benefits help to create bottom-line results and improve operational achievements.

How does executive coaching work?

Executive coaching is typically seen as an ongoing relationship with no set timeframe or definitive ending point.

For example, a manager may have poor communication skills and is unintentionally undermining direct reports, which can lead to a loss of morale and retention issues.

In corrective situations, the executive coach begins by completing a full diagnosis of the situation through the identification of undesirable behaviours — such as berating or blaming others — and will then demonstrate the consequences these behaviours will have on the individual and organisation.

The coach then helps the manager identify practical ways to strengthen his leadership impact, provides direct and objective feedback, and ensures the manager gets back on track and stays on track.

Whether the relationship starts with a derailment situation or as part of a corporate-wide initiative, executive coaching covers a wide range of situations with one common goal: the personal development of a leader through the support of a professional relationship.

Executive or transition coaching?

While many executives are familiar with executive coaching, and may have even enlisted the help of coaches, what is transition coaching? And who needs which type and when?

Transition coaching encompasses the goals of executive coaching, but focuses on a specific niche — the newly appointed leader.

Leadership transitions are among the most challenging and difficult situations executives face.

Take the case of a leader who might enter a new position thinking he already has all of the answers. Or it could be just the opposite — the leader might lack a clear understanding of the role’s expectations.

The goal of transition coaching is to reduce the time it takes for new leaders to make a net contribution to the organisation and establish a framework for ongoing success.