How do you persuade a reluctant executive to meet with a coach?

There’s that old saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. But what if you can’t even lead the horse to water in the first place? I was reminded of this the other day when a client – a Chief People Officer – said they were having trouble convincing their CEO of the benefit of having a coach, let alone getting them to actually see one. The CEO, in this case, is a very private individual and is reluctant to discuss their inner thoughts with a third party, but is also operating in a corporate culture where executive coaching has traditionally been used as more of a remediation process for ‘problem’ individuals rather than as a positive process for individual growth.

In my mind, this scenario has three challenges: if you are an HR Director or Chief People Officer, how do you persuade a CEO or another senior member of the management team that coaching would be a good use of their time? If you are the reluctant coachee, what arguments would compel you to agree to working with a coach? And, is there tangible, factual evidence to say that coaching really delivers value beyond relying on anecdotal recommendations from peers and colleagues?

Persuasion begins with trust

If we take the first area of ‘persuasion’ first, trust in the individual recommending the coaching is vital. If a senior manager trusts, respects and has confidence in their CPO’s advice around coaching, for example, they are more likely to engage. Reassurance that the coaching process is completely confidential will also form a keystone of the argument. Of course, the organisation will also have to develop a culture that coaching is more about creating performance enhancement than addressing performance problems.

If you are the potential coachee on the other hand what arguments will compel you to meet with a coach? There is nothing to lose of course, only your time, and why wouldn’t you want to meet with an experienced coach and tap into the experience of someone who has held senior positions and coached many other senior individuals? Coach selection is important and it’s key that there is an effective personal chemistry between both coach and coachee in order to have the high quality discussions that can help the coachee genuinely develop in their role.

The financial and psychological benefits

And if anyone needs more convincing, there is plenty of hard, objective evidence that shows the return on investment can be significant. An ICF Global Coaching Study, for example, found the median ROI is 7x the investment, with as much as 50x the investment for one in five businesses. In addition, the ICF found that 80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence, and over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills.

The sum of all these arguments makes for a powerful case to meet with a coach and, if the right coach has been chosen, there should be no problem in getting that SEO or executive to drink from the well of experience and learning that the very best coaches can offer.