Research Quantifies That, Like in Sports, Management Coaching Helps Win the Business Game

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If everyone in elite-level sports uses a coach, the same should also be said for high-performance managers in business today.

I knew you'd ask that

So says Leo F. Flanagan, Jr., Ph.D., President, Flanagan Consultants, LLC, in recently concluded findings that are based on an analysis of 158 executives to determine why executive coaching succeeds and fails.

"The parallels are clear," says Flanagan. "Coaching, whether it's for sports or business, is focused on performing and winning today's game. It's about providing observation, feedback and guidance, in order to improve the consistency and effectiveness of performance. The ultimate goal is exactly the same, to improve results."

Further, Flanagan found that "remedial" coaching is a waste of time. Just as you bench or trade away a .150 hitter in the big leagues, you're not going to work with and promote a micro-manager who's risk-adverse, focused on tactics and is consistently missing performance benchmarks.

To compile these findings, Flanagan analyzed results for 158 executives, who engaged in a coaching program that included 360-degree feedback and an average of 17 one-on-one coaching sessions over an average 20-month period. Executives were gauged on measurable business performance results that were achieved as part of their responsibilities over the following six-month period.

In sports, whether it's a low earned run average, kicking last-second field goals or scoring triple doubles in basketball, everyone knows what performance parameters qualify as world-class. By the same token, Flanagan found in his research three specific managerial categories where coaching could quantifiably drive world-class business results.

Individual performance, where a world-class executive will focus on:

strategy formulation and execution balancing strategic and tactical demands managing talent collaborating and exercising influence building personal relationships Team leadership, where top performers leverage a team's behavior, in order to:

communicate strategy foster inquiry and innovation empower and coach lead change Business results, where executives who consistently deliver results:

track leading indicators are accountable anticipate market trends rapidly respond to opportunities change the game Nonetheless, unlike sports, the need for coaching in these three categories is not necessarily self-evident. In order to decide on which area should be emphasized in a given business setting, Flanagan found there's a broad set of questions which, if used properly, will identify the most appropriate coaching model. The questions are: 1. What do you want? 2. What are you doing? 3. How is it working? 4. What's your plan?

Each question requires probing wide and deep. Immediate answers are less important than establishing a process of reflection. When an executive answers "I knew you'd ask that," you've built their competence.

While an all-star athlete usually possesses gifts that have been nurtured since adolescence, the qualities needed for success in business are not as self-evident. Out of Flanagan's research emerged the profile of an ideal potential CEO. An all-star in business is someone with these six traits:

a strategist with a focus on the long-term someone who encourages game-changing strategies has been or is willing to be openly coached someone clear about the behaviors he values and the results he wants a risk-mitigator someone who gives his team direct, constructive feedback. On the contrary, the "challenged" performer is:

a tactician and/or micro-manager looking for execution of his own strategy not willing to openly be coached focused on "style," and working with people who fit his profile a risk-avoider someone who misses performance reviews. Coaching, Flanagan found, can give the potential business all-star a "running start" at the corner office. But it can't make a nominal performer an all-star.

About Leo F. Flanagan, Jr., Ph.D., President, Flanagan Consultants, LLC

As founder and president of Flanagan Consultants, LLC, Stamford, CT, Leo Flanagan, Jr., Ph.D. has developed a unique practice around the formulation and execution of business, marketing and human resources strategies to drive sustained business success.

A hallmark of Flanagan's work is the ability to meet the unique challenges faced by individual leaders and their organizations, within the context of their markets… the alignment of an enterprise's people and processes with its brand and customer loyalty strategies. Over a period of 21 years, Flanagan has personally coached some 200 executives.

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Dick Badler
Flanagan Consultants, LLC
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