Executive coaching is for non-profit leaders

fishbowlA few years ago, I wrote a post titled “Why are non-profits adverse to executive coaching?” after a conference where I couldn’t give away executive coaching services. With a few more years under my belt, things haven’t gotten any easier. In fact, I still find it challenging to sell executive coaching services to non-profit leaders. However, I’ve changed my mind since writing that last blog post about the reasons why this is the case.
After a heart-to-heart with a few non-profit friends, I’ve come to believe executive coaching is seen by some (and perhaps many) as a service for professionals who are failing. One person even compared it to counseling.
When put into this context, people who see coaching as a remedy for failure also see asking their board or their supervisor to pay for coaching as an admission of weakness or being unable to do their job.
The ironic thing here is that some of the for-profit sector’s greatest leaders have worked with executive coaches. It wasn’t because they were failing, but it was because they needed to maximize their performance.
Executive coaching is not like coaching in athletics. They don’t call the plays in from the sidelines. In fact, they don’t even tell you what to do. A good executive coach will ask powerful questions, facilitate discussions, help you with goal setting and be an accountability agent in your professional life.
Executive coaches are not therapists, but hiring one can have the impact of bringing greater work-life balance and fulfillment to your professional life.
The reality is that executive coaches are hired for any number of reasons. Here are just a few:

  • Help with succession planning
  • Developing young leaders
  • Improving performance / Maximizing performance
  • Serving as a thought-partner during important projects (e.g. strategic planning)
  • On-boarding new CEOs and key leaders (both staff and volunteer)
  • Surviving and thriving during executive search and transition

I could go on and on with this list, but the bottom line is that there are any number of projects and situation where non-profit organizations can benefit from executive coaching services.
Has your organization every hired an executive coach for staff or board volunteer? If not, then what is stopping you? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box.  We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

Why are non-profits adverse to executive coaching?

The for-profit sector discovered long ago the value of executive coaching. There have been studies that show coaching boosts job performance. There are studies that show coaching increases company profitability. There are still more studies that show coaching increases competitiveness and helps with leadership development and succession planning.

So, why is it that so many non-profit organizations seem to be reluctant to invest in executive coaching for their employees?

My first knee jerk reaction to this is to simply say most non-profit agencies are under-resourced and unable to pay for those kinds of services. However, I think I’ve recently changed my mind after attending a conference as an exhibitor. As with most exhibitor booths, I ran a fish bowl giveaway in an attempt to capture people’s business cards. At the end of the day, I pulled two names and gave away from FREE coaching services. As you can probably guess, I haven’t received a phone call from either individual. So, can the answer be as simple as money?

After spending more time contemplating why non-profit organizations seem to be reluctant to invest in executive coaching, I think I’ve come up with a different answer . . .

Non-profit leaders don’t truly understand the idea of “return on investment” (ROI).

For all the recent talk about ROI in non-profit circles when it comes to measuring outcomes and stewarding donors, this idea originates from the for-profit sector and is a relative newcomer to non-profit circles. So, quoting a study that shows coaching yields a ROI 5- to 7-times the initial investment gets quizzical looks from many non-profit leaders who I know. This response improves only slightly when you’re able to quantify the dollars and sense like Fortune magazine did in this quote:

“Business coaching is attracting America’s top CEOs because, put simply, business coaching works. In fact, when asked for a conservative estimate of monetary payoff from the coaching they got… managers described an average return of more than $100,000, or about six times what the coaching had cost their companies.”

I suspect that executive coaching won’t been seen by board volunteers as a viable performance enhancement tool until we start talking differently about it and point to improved job satisfaction and employee retention.

I also suspect that executive directors won’t start looking at executive coaching for their fundraising professionals until we start pointing to how little time non-profit CEOs seem to have and how that results in minimal time spent coaching resource development professionals.

I don’t know . . . I can be talked off the ledge. Please take a moment and use the comment box below to share your thoughts.

Has your agency used executive coaching services? Has it be beneficial? Did you measure ROI? If so, what was the return? If your agency doesn’t use coaching services, what do you suspect the reasoning is?

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC