BSG From the Boardroom

A curated selection of executive opportunities, industry highlights, and unique insights in executive search.

    Exploring the Value of Coaching in PE-Backed Middle-Market Companies

    While sports coaching has long dominated our cultural discourse, other forms of coaching, especially in the business context, have received comparatively less attention. Personal coaching, once the darling of the self-help movement, largely focused on personal development and manifest destiny. However, business coaching has remained in the shadows, often burdened with a stigma as a remedial measure.

    Unlike the generally positive perception of sports or personal coaching as tools for growth, executive and team coaching in the business world is often seen as a response to perceived problems. It's as if the default assumption is, "Let's try coaching to fix what's broken." This perspective presupposes the existence of a problem.

    From our extensive experience at BSG, we find this view to be overly narrow. Why should corporate coaching only be for those perceived as damaged or deficient? Instead, we should consider adopting an approach similar to the high-performance world of sports, where coaches are assigned to those with the greatest potential for improvement. This approach aligns with Marcus Buckingham's mantra of "focus on improving your strengths" rather than remediating weaknesses.

    Consider this: a typical NFL football team boasts an average of 15 coaches for just 11 players on the field during any given play. Pro tennis players have multiple coaches specializing in various aspects of their game. Olympic athletes have access to a team of coaches. Imagine what could happen to business growth and productivity if we nurtured more "Olympic corporate athletes and teams."

    Eric Schmidt, the former Google CEO and current Chair, openly acknowledges the value of coaching in this revealing video interview: Eric Schmidt on Coaching.

    Here's our perspective on coaching in the corporate world, and we encourage BSG's clients, as well as others seeking top performance from their business athletes and teams, to consider these principles, especially in the context of achieving OKRs and associated KPIs:

    Disclaimers & Context: Our focus primarily lies in private equity-backed middle-market growth equity businesses.

    There are nuances to coaching in venture-backed, family-owned, and publicly traded enterprises, each with its own unique dynamics and goals.

    Coaching necessitates an investment of time and money, often more than stakeholders initially realize.

    Key Talking Points:

    1. When to Consider Individual Executive Coaching:

      • Onboarding new executives
      • Developing high-performing executives
      • Equipping executives for new skill requirements during company growth phases
    2. Popular Focus Areas for Individual Executive Coaching:

      • Self-improvement
      • Relationships with superiors, peers, and subordinates
    3. Recommended Management Coaching Resources:

      • "Radical Candor"
      • "Crucial Accountability"
      • "Tribal Leadership"
      • "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz
    4. Understanding Business Team Coaching:

      • Focused on enhancing collective performance
      • Aligns with team, functional, business unit, or company goals
      • References to "5 Dysfunctions of a Team" as a foundational resource
    5. Essential Traits for High-Potential Corporate Athletes:

      • Willingness to accept coaching
      • Emotional intelligence (EI/EQ)
      • Commitment of time
    6. Costs Involved in Coaching:

      • Time commitments for individuals and teams
      • Initial team retreats and ongoing meetings
    7. Coaching Tools for Self-Discovery:

      • Personality profiling tools like DISC or Myers-Briggs MBTI
      • Deeper assessments such as Gallup's StrengthsFinder and Hogan psychometrics
    8. Coaching Certifications:

      • The International Coaching Federation (ICF) as the recognized standards body
      • Some coaches may hold clinical psychology PhDs in addition to or instead of ICF certification
    9. Selecting the Right Coach:

      • Consider factors like trust, vulnerability, and coaching medium (in-person, hybrid, virtual)
      • Prioritize the fit with the coach's expertise over their location
    10. Valuable Reading Resources for Coaching:

      • Bibliography including "Measure What Matters," "Rockefeller Habits," "Traction," "5 Dysfunctions of a Team," and insights from Bill Campbell

    As businesses strive for excellence, coaching can be a powerful tool to unlock untapped potential and drive growth, regardless of perceived "problems." It's time to shift our perspective and explore the vast potential of coaching in the corporate arena.

    -by Clark Waterfall on Sep 12, 2023 5:10:28 PM


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