Today’s leaders are operating within a complex environment. They are grappling with daunting challenges such as increased threats of global competition and the need to engage an increasingly diverse workforce. Organizations are quickly recognizing the importance of leadership development programs. Unfortunately, these programs tend to fall short. According to the 2018 State of Leadership Development Report published by Harvard Business Publishing, while the vast majority of organizations have implemented some type of leadership development program, a mere 5% describe these programs as “best in class.”
Enlisting the services of an executive coach can prove transformative and can reinvigorate a languished leadership development program. When retaining an executive coach, a critical question involves whether to select individuals from outside your company or hire an in-house coach. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with each approach.
Increased organizational familiarity
In-house coaches tend to be more familiar with the intricacies of their organization, including its history, culture, objectives, and politics. Armed with this insight, they may be better able to quickly implement solutions that align with the company’s trajectory.
It tends to be easier for employees to enlist the help of an executive coach if he or she is permanently physically situated in the workplace. There’s less difficulty in arranging face-to-face coaching sessions.
In-house coaches are typically less expensive than external coaches. According to The Conference Board's 2016 Global Executive Coaching Survey, the cost of external coaching has escalated since 2014, with an increased number of organizations paying an hourly rate to the tune of upwards of $600 for CEO and C-suite level coaching.
Because external coaches work with a multitude of different organizations operating in different industries and facing different business landscapes, this talent pool typically has more experience than in-house coaches. Due to their vast range of experience, external coaches tend to fare extremely well in sessions with senior executives.
Greater likelihood of objective evaluation
Comparatively speaking, an external coach is better equipped to see an organization through an objective lens (or have a “window into the organization.”) This objective lens enables them to recognize blind spots that internal coaches may fail to identify. As well, external coaches are less susceptible to a groupthink mentality. As highlighted by research by University of Michigan Professor Scott Page, diverse perspectives give rise to improved business outcomes.
Higher psychological safety levels
Employees tend to feel safer expressing their personal thoughts and discussing issues freely in the presence of an external coach who is not directly involved in their day-to-day business affairs. Employees sometimes question an internal coach's ability to remain politically neutral and objective. There’s often concern that conversations will be shared with other employees or board members. When employees more confidently and freely engage in discussion and problem-solving activities, they are better able to benefit from coaching sessions.
The decision to hire an in-house versus external executive coach is highly specific to each organization. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Without a doubt, executive coaching (whether managed internally or externally) is not a panacea. In order to reap significant and lasting rewards from an executive coach, the relationship must be well-managed. The coach must be aligned with business strategies and objectives. The coach and the organization must jointly agree on the objectives of the engagement. There must be a two-way commitment. Ideally, the coaching process is supported by other business processes and infrastructure, including training programs and feedback channels. A study by the International Personnel Management Association found that when training is combined with coaching, individuals’ productivity levels increase, on average, by 88% compared with a 22% increase when only training is offered. Finally, all parties must be held accountable. There must be a concrete and comprehensive agreement in place with set milestones and metrics for evaluation.
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner
Contact Information: Feel free to email Dr. Nadine San Francisco Executive Coaching at