Executive Coaching Critical for Career Success in Recession, Says WSJ

Did you see this article in the Wall Street Journal this week on executive coaching?  I’ve excerpted my favorite bits from it, and you can always go and read the full article posted at the WSJ as well.

Staying in the Game With Help on the Sidelines

Demand for Coaches Is Steady as Executives Try to Hone Skills in Recession


Executive coaches report steady demand for their services despite the recession. Individual and corporate clients say the one-on-one counseling is critical for career success, especially during tough economic times.
Coaches typically are hired by companies, at $300 an hour or more, to hone the management or communication skills of senior leaders and rising stars. Even with the recession, many coaches say some companies are retaining their services to help them get lean and efficient. Coaches also said they are seeing an increase in individuals hiring coaches on their own.
Eric Chaffin, a 38-year-old partner at law firm Bernstein Liebhard LLP in New York, has paid coach Dee Soder out of his own pocket on a retainer since 2003, and has no plans to stop. “In a down economy, it’s particularly important to have someone on your side,” he said. “Instead of 10 client opportunities this year, there might be five. You have to make each one count.”
Mr. Chaffin said Dr. Soder, founder of the CEO Perspective Group, an assessment and advisory firm in New York, helps him with tough career and practice decisions. For example, in 2003, she helped him weigh job offers from private firms after his four-year stint as a federal prosecutor.  Last year, he shifted to another plaintiffs’ firm, Bernstein Liebhard. Recently Dr. Soder advised him on how to work with clients who are hurting because of by the recession. Mr. Chaffin said Dr. Soder gives him a different perspective than business associates. “Most lawyers think alike,” he said. “She’s helped me understand some of the characteristics of my clients and their motivations.”
Executive coaches say they’re being hired by more individuals like Mr. Chaffin, a trend that has helped offset tighter budgets at some corporate clients.
Coaches say many companies still use their services to retain top talent and support senior leaders while coping with smaller staffs and recession-starved budgets.
Denver telecommunications provider Wide Open West Inc. will spend $25,000, about what it spends every year, on coaching for three managers. “Our fundamental belief is you have to develop your greatest assets, which are your people,” said Colleen Abdoulah, chief executive.
Humana Inc., a Louisville, Ky., health insurer, also is protecting its coaching program. Humana this year will spend between $17,000 and $30,000 for six months of sessions for each of about 50 senior employees, said Jeff Nally, who heads the firm’s executive-coaching initiative. The meetings cover areas such as how to build an executive presence, communicate ideas and influence others. “Even in a recession, developing talent in key roles is still important,” said Mr. Nally.
Some small-business owners use coaches as sounding boards.

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