IN TODAY’S economy, an organisation’s ability to quickly build the capacity needed to execute strategies and respond to emerging challenges is paramount.

Statements like “people are our greatest asset” have almost become clichés. Now, organisations are realising that intellectual and human capital are the most critical assets they must use to compete and succeed.

While traditional training provides the basic management skills, it is insufficient to produce outstanding corporate leaders. Achieving authentic leadership takes more than textbook management skills.

For budding leaders to become outstanding, there needs to be a different and more scientific approach to management development, one showing measurable results that ultimately have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Measuring and modifying behaviours within the management talent pool is crucial to developing future leaders. But how can you measure something as abstract as behaviour, and is it possible to change someone’s behaviour in order to shift them to a higher plane of performance?

Modifying an individual’s behaviour goes beyond the realm of training and into the realm of coaching, a longer-term, supportive method of shifting the way an individual presents himself to his colleagues and the outside world.

Strategic intervention

Executive coaching is a strategic performance intervention that helps senior executives manage a constantly changing business environment and refine their leadership skills by focusing exclusively on skills and behaviours that have a direct impact on the organisation’s ability to achieve mission-critical objectives.

Likened to sports coaching, executive coaching serves the same purpose: to take the brakes off any factor — behavioural, attitudinal, interpersonal relationships or a combination of all — that might impede or inhibit peak executive performance.

The skill of the business coach lies in prompting and facilitating the process resulting in the executive’s development of a solution and/or an action plan that will move him towards a higher level of performance.

Using a structured process, perhaps including a 360-degree assessment and feedback tool to ascertain competency gaps, executive coaches work one-on-one with top executives to understand their current business realities, assess their strengths and weaknesses, identify ways to improve specific business and leadership abilities, and deliver better business results.

Executive coaching is far more targeted, individualised and connected to current business needs than recruitment or training initiatives. Hence many organisations regard executive coaching as simply the most efficient and effective way to make top performers even better.

Maximising potential

Coaching isn’t limited to senior-level executives. Savvy organisations understand that the development of high-potential people and the continuous development of current executives’ leadership skills are critical to company-wide success.

Recent research suggests that executives who received coaching experienced improved working relationships with their direct reports, peers, and immediate supervisors. In addition, coached executives reported increases in job satisfaction, team performance and organisational commitment. These benefits help to create bottom-line results and improve operational achievements.

The question is: When is executive coaching the right solution for an organisation? And the answer: When an organisation realises that well-intended management training can only achieve a set amount of success and intervention is needed to take the brakes off to accelerate to a higher plane of executive performance.