I have a love-hate relationship with the term “executive coach.”
On the one hand, if I refer to myself as an executive coach, people have some sense of what I do: partner with professionals to design a customized leadership development plan. What I don’t like about the term, however, is that it excludes the majority of people in an organization who could benefit from coaching. Yes, executives receive a lot of value from coaching. But what about the leadership development needs for the majority of the organization, such as the Gen X and Millennial employees? Couldn’t they also benefit from working with a coach? This is why the relatively new term leadership coaching is gaining more prominence. While less understood, the service is the same. The name, which is more inclusive, simply broadens one’s thinking in terms of who in your organization should be working with a coach.
There are many reasons why it is more advantageous for a professional to work with a leadership coach while on their way to becoming an executive. One of the greatest benefits for a sponsoring employer is retention. Leadership coaching provides an emerging leader with clarity on how to create the elusive, yet critical, integration of one’s professional and personal life. This proactive measure prevents burnout and in turn increases engagement and retention.
I was once contacted by a Millennial who had excelled in his first few years as a professional. He landed his first job in a city he’d dreamed of living in, effortlessly passed the CPA exam, and was sponsored by his employer to go on an international work assignment. After reaching those initial goals, he was disengaged and didn't know what to take on next. In fact, he found himself so conflicted and out of balance that he wondered if accounting was even the right career choice. At a glance, it seems like a funny thought given the overwhelming success he experienced in his first few years. Yet to achieve this level of professional success, he felt there was never enough time for other important goals in his life, such as finding a life partner, travelling, or taking care of his health.
This is where leadership coaching can create a tremendous amount of value. It offers a younger professional an opportunity to take a big step back and assess what they want out of their entire life and how work fits in to their big picture. This call was not unique. A survey of Millennials found that 88% want work-life integration. The old model of work simply does not suit them.
By the year 2020, it is estimated 40% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials. In public accounting, with organizational structures that commonly resemble a true pyramid with a few executives at the top and many more staff at the bottom, the impact of Millennials will be even greater. In their Next Gen Study, PwC found that nearly 80% of their firm will be comprised of Millennials by 2016. That is a startling statistic and one that is right around the corner.
While organizations might not have a level of comfort with a $6,000 investment for an emerging leader to receive six months of leadership coaching, they should. In accounting, we sadly accept that turnover is high and readily pay recruiting fees of 20-25% of annual salaries. If you have an emerging leader earning $80,000, it will cost $16,000- 20,000 of direct expenses to replace them and thousands more for time spent interviewing and training their replacement.
The profession is faced with a myriad of challenges in succession planning. It's about time we start thinking more creatively about how to retain and develop the future of the profession. Leadership coaching is one such way. If you don’t have the time to get them the support they need, you can be sure they will be out the door.