When our executive coaching client Jane* was appointed vice president and COO of a large community hospital of an academic health system, her new appointment represented an exciting milestone in her career trajectory.
Like all professional opportunities, it also posed some changes and challenges. First, Jane’s new role was her first within an academic health system bringing with it an unfamiliar workplace culture and strategic priorities. Second, as part of the hospital’s strategic succession management plan, a year after her appointment to COO, barring any issues, she would be considered the replacement for the hospital’s president and CEO.
Early on in her transition to her new role, Jane realized that she needed to align with the organization’s strategic needs and the hospital’s CEO succession plan. Also, she wanted to address both her current and future-facing leadership development needs. To achieve these dual goals, she began researching executive coaching programs that specialize in assimilation and have deep experience in the health industry.
Her search led her to us at the TLD Group and our customized healthcare executive coaching solutions. With a depth of expertise in the payer, provider, and pharmaceutical sectors, our coaches truly understand the unique challenges facing senior executives and medical and scientific leaders.
When we began our coaching journey with Jane and the hospital’s key stakeholders, Jane already had three decades of leadership experience.
Now, at first glance, this may beg the question: “Why would an organization invest in executive coaching for an already seasoned and experienced leader?”
Welcome to the new—or not-so-new--role of executive coaching in and beyond the health industry. In fact, in terms of engaging and justifying executive coaching services, Jane’s past experience and her future-facing career goals are exactly the point.
The Changing Role of Executive Coaching
Here’s how this Forbes article describes the shift in contemporary executive coaching models: “Whereas 20 years ago most coaching was a remedial effort aimed at poor performers, most coaching budgets today focus on developing high performers.”
As recently as 10 years ago, some companies and nonprofits tended to engage an executive coach as a corrective action, or a kind of broad-based companion or addendum to their Human Resources Department’s corrective action plan. Broadly speaking, coaching was a fix-it solution for a poorly performing manager or a leader with sub-par (or downright toxic) soft skills, such as inter-department communications, team and Board engagement and relationship building.
Enter: Today’s strengths-based, future-facing and inquiry-based approach to professional development and executive coaching.
Rather than focusing on remediation, the success of today’s model rests on two factors: The experience and quality of the coaching program; and the coachee’s capacity and willingness to look inward (self-analysis), backward (past successes) and forward (future vision). Oh, and let’s add one more factor: The coachee and organization’s mutual and sustained investment in, and commitment to, a trust-based relationship, coaching experience and the established outcomes.
“I chose my coach because I felt she possessed professional integrity; that was the right call,” Jane recalls.
Early on in the process Jane’s coach designed an exploratory interview-based 360 process with Jane’s manager, peers, direct reports, and board members to determine their expectations of Jane in her new role and itemize and shortlist her current leadership strengths Next, in tandem with the CEO, Jane and her coach targeted areas for improvement or opportunity.
Based on stakeholder survey responses, Jane’s coach crafted a longitudinal career-development plan that spanned Jane’s first year as COO and her first six months in the role of hospital president and CEO. The plan included defined quantitative and qualitative outcomes and metrics.
One year later, Jane had leveraged her existing skills and talents. She had also improved her communications style, her board visibility and her executive presence—objectives that met both her personal and organizational strategic goals.
Executive Coaching: What’s the Return on Investment (ROI)?
Across the health ecosystem, all sectors are grappling with rising administrative costs and uncertain revenue. Provider groups are dealing with overcapacity issues due to COVID-19; many pharmaceutical companies have had to stall, delay or pivot non-coronavirus vaccine clinical trials; and other sectors have had to significantly pivot their operating models.
So in a complex, challenging and changing health ecosystem environment, is executive coaching really worth it?
“This is the most challenging and most promising time to be working in our health industry,” says our founder and president, Tracy Duberman, PhD, in her recent presentation on executive leadership coaching for The Institute of Coaching. “The opportunities require leaders to think and act very differently. Many lack the requisite capacity to lead collaboratively both within and beyond organizational boundaries and sectors. These new collaborative skills are essential to leading today and can be developed through executive coaching."
Executive Coaching: Measuring the Quantitative Outcomes
To measure or project the value of executive coaching, let’s take a look at the quantitative outcomes, including the organizational returns on investment (ROI).
Based on a number of studies, The International Coach Federation (ICF) has demonstrated that, for every coaching dollar invested, the host organization gains between $4 - $8.
Also, in a global survey by Price Waterhouse Coopers and the Association Resource Center, the ROI for executive coaching was seven times the original expenditure, with over a quarter of surveyed companies reporting an ROI of 10 to 49 times their original spend.
Though every executive coaching experience is tailored to the organizational and individual coachee's needs, these reports represent a promising and high-yield gain.
Executive Coaching: Measuring the Qualitative Outcomes
Using qualitative measures, organizations who engage and invest in executive coaching report higher productivity rates, improved senior-leadership and employee retention rates, reduced conflicts, and a higher capacity to meet established outcomes.
Or, as our client Jane reports: “My coach was extremely helpful with looking at things from different perspectives. She provided the insight and wisdom to remind me to be mindful, not reactionary. She helped me to think things through.”
The quantitative and qualitative outcomes are, of course, interconnected. For example, in the case of reducing employee retention, the Center for American Progress, calculates that, each time an employee voluntarily leaves for another or competing organization, it costs approximately 21% of that employee’s annual salary to find and onboard a replacement. At the higher or executive levels, replacement and recruitment can cost up to 213% of an outgoing executive’s salary.
We all know this: The lateral and downstream impacts of a transformative and collaborative leader extend from the C-Suite to investor relations, to client or patient services, and, ultimately, to our organization’s ability to meet or exceed patient care and health-quality objectives.
Conversely, the systemic fallout from under-performing leaders or high leadership turnover has a similar organizational reach within, across, and outside the organization.
The Preventive or ‘What-If’ Factor in Executive Coaching
From care delivery to public policy to research, 21st-century American healthcare values, practices and reimburses based on a high or prudent degree of preventive care. In terms of both human costs and fiscal spend, we know that timely or early intervention, coupled with a comprehensive, population-health perspective, reduces the costs and pain of disease management or interventions.
This presents a good analogy for executive coaching and leadership development.
In other words, when considering executive coaching for your organization, it’s prudent to ask: How much will it cost us if we don’t invest in our organization’s most promising leaders? Or, a year or five years from now, how much will it cost our organization if we don’t implement and invest in effective leadership development and strategic succession planning?
*To protect our client’s privacy, we have changed her name.
Grounded in best practice methodologies and customized to meet the needs of the client and organization, our executive coaching programs are conducted within the context of the leader’s current and desired future roles and the organization’s strategy and cultural norms. We align the coaching process with each organization’s strategy and objectives.