Leadership Coaching = Performance Improvement A Formula for Business Success

May 2011
Issue 16

by Kerrie Halmi, Director, St. Charles Consulting Group

Roycee Kerr

In the world of sports, coaches help players take their game to higher levels. As Notre Dame legend Ara Parasheghian observed, “A good coach will make players see what they can be rather than what they are.” It is this coaching advantage that often accounts for the difference between excellent and exceptional – on the court and in the field.

While coaching relationships are common with athletes, and in many other performance arenas as well, such as music and acting, it is not as prevalent in the business world, where the stakes are often very high and where there is urgent need for exceptional performance. Many companies are using coaching to some extent, but most professionals have yet to benefit from the guidance of seasoned experts whose job it is to enhance the vision, motivation, and impact of others.

We are not sure of all the reasons. Some of it is cultural, where it may simply not be the norm to engage coaching services for performance improvement. Some of it may be related to the perceived cost of coaching (when in fact studies have shown that leadership coaching can provide a 100% return on investment, delivering $2 for every one dollar invested).

But, while we may not know all the reasons that “the coaching advantage” is not effectively leveraged in many situations, we do know what a well-structured leadership coaching program can bring to the equation that delivers 2 + 2 = 5 results.

Nearly 60% of North American companies use coaching for high-potentials and about 42% use coaching for executives. (These percentages are higher internationally.) So, at these levels, many business people with significant management and leadership responsibilities have heard of coaches but have never actually worked with one.

Attributes of Coaching

Working closely with a leader one-on-one, a strong coach helps to pinpoint areas of focus and to develop plans of action to achieve goals. In this process, the coach builds trust, asks the right questions, makes the right connections, acts as an impartial sounding board for issues, applies experience and knowledge, and generally champions the leader’s success.

We define the effective coach as having these attributes:

  • is future-focused
  • provides results-oriented learning through action
  • works with clients to set better goals
  • supports achievement of goals by providing tools, processes, and structure
  • ensures that the clients do the work
  • provides direct, constructive feedback
  • stays with the client to implement new skills and behaviors and to monitor the course of progress

Tools of the Coaching Trade

Leadership coaches apply focused and customized tools to help enhance the skills that leaders need today to move their organizations forward.

Many coaches are certified in different assessments such as Myers-Briggs (MBTI) or Kolbe. Assessments such as these allow the coach to understand the client’s preferences and styles, which helps the work on interpersonal issues. Another effective instrument is the 360° feedback tool, through which the coach gathers feedback from the client’s direct reports, managers, and peers about areas of strength and weakness.

Examples of Success

Any manager or executive who is committed to increasing skills and to becoming more successful can benefit significantly from leadership coaching. Here are some specific examples:

  • Frequently, top technical performers are promoted into leadership positions without a lot of interpersonal training or development. Coaches work with them to identify improvement areas and offer a sounding board and sound advice for handling different situations.
  • Any time a leader is in transition – in a new position, with a new team, or as part of a major change initiative – a coach can help navigation through the issues and maintaining the focus on high priority needs.
  • Coaching increases the effectiveness of training programs. We frequently use leadership coaches to reinforce the learning experienced during training. Studies show that a training program can be four times more effective if followed up with coaching.

For More Information

For more information, please contact Kerrie Halmi at[email protected] or call 510-336-0654.

Next month

Team Coaching – “Will you ask us to have a group hug?”

How many times have you prepared for a team retreat with dread, asking yourself: “Will this meeting be too touchy-feely?” … “Will they ask me to divulge something very personal?” … “Will all the others want to have a group hug?”


In our next issue, we will debunk many of the common myths – and fears – about leadership team meetings and, particularly, about leadership team coaching. At St. Charles Consulting Group, we have developed a model for Situational Team Effectiveness™. With this model, we help clients answer the questions:


  • What are the most critical opportunities and challenges that our business faces?
  • What are our shared commitments as a leadership team?
  • What process will help us achieve enhanced team cohesion plus stronger business results?


In short, with our Situational Team Effectiveness™ model, we demonstrate how you can assess your current situation, customize a team development process, and build a cohesive team that delivers extraordinary results over time.