Executives want coaches—but aren’t getting them. What gives?

In a study from Stanford Graduate School of Business, in conjunction with The Miles Group, nearly 100% of CEOs reported that they appreciate the process of coaching and getting performance feedback, but only one-third of CEOs are getting it.

Clearly, there’s a breakdown somewhere. The study tried to uncover the disconnect:

78% of the CEOs said it was their idea to be coached, while 21% said it was their board’s idea. That so many CEOs recognize the value of coaching is great news and indicates a shift away from the stigma of coaching from something remedial, to something enhancing. There’s opportunity here for boards, HR managers or internal talent managers to build outside coaching into their talent development programs and position them as a job benefit.

The progress that CEOs make while collaborating with a coach tends to be kept under cover. While much of the coaching work can be personal in nature, sharing tangible progress with the board will continue to break down the unwarranted stigma of coaching. As of now, only one-third of CEOs who have worked with coaches reported that they updated their boards on their progress.

CEOs most commonly use coaching for sharing leadership / delegation, conflict management, team building and mentoring. At the bottom of their coaching priority list was motivational skills, compassion / empathy, and persuasion skills—each of which is a prerequisite to successfully carrying out the skills at the top of their priority list. And arguably, empathy is the foundation to each of those softer skills. CEOs tend to shy away from them; they’re touchy feely in nature. But as reported in an earlier blog post, power and empathy have an inverse relationship; statistically, the higher one goes on the ladder, the more empathy they lose. Yet leadership improves dramatically when anchored to empathy. HR managers and boards have an opportunity to position this kind of self-awareness coaching as empowering and preventative to a series of leadership traps with waterfall consequences.

Click here for full survey results.

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