The ins and outs of IT executive coaching

CEOs have long used executive coaches to take their leadership to the next level. Now IT pros are following suit.

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Who Gets Coached, and When

Like their counterparts in other business units, IT professionals sign on with executive coaches under a variety of circumstances. Some get coaches as part of executive compensation packages that come standard to all leaders at certain levels of the company. Others are assigned coaches individually -- either because they're rising stars who are being groomed for promotion or, on the flip side, because they're struggling managers who need help in specific areas of performance. And some people decide on their own to work with a coach as a way of investing in their careers.

Prices vary, but multiple sources say the cost of coaching services ranges from $200 to $500 per hour. Though employers usually cover the cost of the service, some professionals do pay coaches out of their own pockets for various reasons. Some might work for companies that are having financial difficulties and just can't afford such expenses. Others might want their coaching arrangement to remain private, or they may not have reached a level where the company is willing to pay for them to get coaching.

At what point in an IT leader's career does it make sense to engage a coach? Baldoni, president of Baldoni Consulting in Ann Arbor, Mich., and author of several leadership books, says there is no set rule. However, in general, "most companies hire executive coaches for more senior leaders -- director, VP and above," he says. "That said, anyone can benefit from coaching, and some companies do provide it to emerging leaders."

Effective, Focused Leadership

IT executive Caren Shiozaki has worked with two coaches over the course of her career.

She first had a coach when she was CIO at a Dallas-based Fortune 1000 media company that paid for coaches for all of its executives. For 18 months, she and her coach talked once a month for an hour or two, usually by phone but sometimes in person. Shiozaki also called her coach to work through particular scenarios as they cropped up.

The meetings were unstructured, she says, allowing her to talk about whatever challenges she faced at the time. Typical topics included how best to build relationships throughout the organization and how to rally support from other business leaders for changes she wanted to implement.

"There were some initiatives directed from the top that I was responsible for implementing. These had major implications for a number of stakeholders, who understandably reacted very emotionally," Shiozaki recalls. "Being able to better take into account their perspectives helped me develop better approaches to change management. The coach helped me improve my emotional IQ."

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