Shortage of talent leading to boom in boardroom coaches

Sep 14 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

The growing number of executives being fired or retired in the U.S in the past three years has led to a boom in demand for specialists who can not only scout for talent boardroom talent, but also groom it.

So-called "onboard coaches" are now charging as much as $2,000 an hour to help the newly promoted hit the ground running rather than fizzle after a few tough board meetings, according to Chicago-based consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The number of chief executives who left their jobs rose seven per cent to a record 728 in the first half of the year, compared with the same period in 2005, it added.

On top of this the number of CEOs who retired in the first eight months of this year was at 245, nearly double the same period in 2004.

Alongside this, the International Coach Federation, an association of business coaches, has said it now has more than 10,000 members, up from about 1,500 in 1998.

"[Coaching] has become almost an executive insurance policy," Gerry McDonough, chief executive of executive coaching firm LeadFirst told the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper.

Coaching has become almost an executive insurance policy
"If a candidate washes out in their first year, it's often the search firm that has to find a replacement, at no extra cost.

"And by that time, there's often irreparable damage. We're there to make sure it doesn't get to that Ė that the placement is right from the start."

Bank BB&T is one company seeing more senior managers retire and said it would have to spend more than $700,000 this year on coaches, workshops and other training to help successors adjust.

"It's important to provide immediate feedback," said Tim Davis, head of human resources told the newspaper. "You have to make sure your key executives get up to speed as soon as possible to give the organisation its return on human capital."

Getting clients on the right path requires is not for the faint of heart, added LeadFirst's McDonough.

"We see the full range of emotions, from anger to tears to frustration to disbelief in the process to people who conclude they're climbing a ladder propped up against the wrong building," he said.

He and other coaches have witnessed clients burst into tears, scream, confide about children on drugs and admit to marital infidelities. Much of this often follows the review process, he said.

"There are a lot of technically competent people out there who never learned how to lead," said McDonough.

"One chief finance officer once licked his fingers at a fine restaurant. Think if he did that in front of analysts, or a group directors," he added.