The No. 1 thing CEOs want from executive coaching? Self-awareness


Quartz | May 1, 2016


The Quartz article, "The No. 1 thing CEOs want from executive coaching? Self-awareness," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates' Dean Stamoulis about the expanding role of executive coaching and its benefits. The article is excerpted below.     

Executive coaching once carried a stigma, much like psychotherapy, in part because it was mainly employed to solve a problem or to “fix” difficult personalities.

Now, it’s become so common for top executives to be coached that it’s viewed as a perk, a sign of having arrived at the top.

Executive coaching has grown into an industry with an estimated $1.5 billion in annual revenue and more than 20,000 dues-paying members of the International Coach Federation. Surveys indicate that most of the biggest companies now use coaches. What their executives most often talk about in these sessions isn’t their business strategy, but themselves.


“We’re often adding reflection and judgment” to the executive’s tool kit, says Dean Stamoulis, co-founder of the leadership development practice at Russell Reynolds Associates, another big search firm. “We help round out the edges.”


One executive Stamoulis worked with would be short-tempered and overly critical with employees when he was under stress, and react angrily when presented with new information. As a result, his lieutenants withdrew and avoided him. Stamoulis urged him to develop relationships with his employees in more relaxed settings, whether chatting in the hallway or meeting weekly one-on-one with his direct reports.

Stamoulis also makes suggestions about how to begin conversations, recommends regular exercise and yoga routines, and hands out reading assignments. (The Open Organization, by Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, is a favorite.)

Whether coaching actually works is hard to pin down. While one 2001 report conducted by a coaching and consulting firm pegged the return of coaching at 5.7 times the investment, a figure frequently touted by the industry, another academic study was critical of its methodology, stating “the ROI metric is of very limited validity.”

Given the murkiness of human relationships, and the complexity of large organization, calculating how much a company really profits from a kinder and gentler CEO may be impossible.

But as, Stamoulis says, “at the very least, their self-awareness is higher.”

To read the full article, click here.

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The No. 1 thing CEOs want from executive coaching? Self-awareness