This is an extremely common question when individuals are looking for executive coaching. They want to know how they can best convince their organization to invest in executive coaching.
In this blog post, let’s delve into the art of securing company sponsorship for your executive coaching engagement. I’ll empower you with the tools and strategies to make a compelling case for this transformative investment. And, I’ll help you determine the right timing for the “ask.” In fact, let’s start with the timing, because like most things in life – timing is everything!
Timing is Everything
The first step in convincing your company to sponsor your executive coaching is to pinpoint the optimal moment to make your request. But when is the timing right? It’s when you have leverage.
Perhaps surprisingly, one of the best times to ask is when you’re transitioning to a new position – either within your current company or at a new organization. Research shows that transitioning to a new position can be a treacherous time in your career. And if it’s a whole new organization as well – you can count on double the risk and double the complexity.
And, your first six months in a new leadership position are often the most critical and vulnerable of your career. It’s a period of intense evaluation and scrutiny, where you’re learning the intricacies of the company culture while inevitably making a few missteps along the way.
This initial phase presents a prime opportunity for an executive coach to provide invaluable insights that you may not be able to gather independently. By acting as a trusted confidant, the coach can gather feedback from your peers, supervisors, and direct reports, delving into aspects that you might hesitate to address directly. Thereby, helping you uncover blind spots and helping you understand how others perceive you. They can help you uncover nuances regarding your new supervisor or other key stakeholders, enabling you to navigate these relationships more effectively.
Factor in the following timing considerations for internal and external job changes:
Internal job change: Make the request for an executive coach while learning about the new role, its demands and expectations. Figure out where you will have to “stretch” to effectively fulfill this role. Then ask for support for your professional growth and development by partnering with an executive coach. This will help you more quickly level up your performance and address your opportunities for development.
External job change: Ask for an executive coach when you’re on the verge of accepting a new job. Yes, making the request while you’re in the midst of negotiating your employment terms –before you say “yes” to their offer – is an ideal time. I can tell you from decades of experience, if you ask right after you accept the job or right after you start the job, you’ve exponentially increased the probability of hearing a “no.”
If you’re not transitioning to a new position, consider these additional examples for ideally timing the “ask:”
- You just had a performance review that flagged areas for improvement.
- Your company just had a phenomenal year and there is excess cash.
- The company is facing retention challenges and you are a valued employee – the company may be motivated to keep you satisfied.
- You are negotiating for more professional growth or more educational opportunities during a time when there is a salary or hiring freeze.
- When you have a supervisor that is a fan of executive coaching. (Your next boss may not be a fan!)
- When you want to take your career to the next level with coaching but your supervisor lacks the time and/or resources to help in this way in-house.
- If you have one of the above and one or more of these other factors, too:
- You suffer from imposter syndrome.
- You have low self-confidence or low self-esteem.
- You need to align your executive presence.
Face the Fear
People typically don’t ask for executive coaching during an employment negotiation — and here’s why:
- They worry they will lose the offer if they make the ask.
- They lack the confidence to make the ask.
- They are afraid the “ask” would be perceived as too demanding and would hurt their brand.
- They believe the “ideal time” would be after they accept the position.
A respectful request for executive coaching can create a “win-win” for both the employer and the employee. To help bring down your anxiety over the prospect of this, I can share that I have never had any client make that “ask” and lose the offer or hurt their brand in my 25+ years of executive coaching. Conversely, a majority of them receive exactly what they request.
Are you still apprehensive about making this request during an employment negotiation, thinking you’ll have better luck once you’ve settled into your role? That’s completely normal! However, based on my experience, I’ve observed that approximately 90% of those plans never come to fruition, resulting in a significant missed opportunity.
If you are worried about how others will perceive you when making this request, or that doing so will hurt your personal brand, consider a different perspective. Seizing this moment demonstrates your dedication to professional development and to approaching your new role with strength, confidence and adaptability.
Choosing a Coach
When searching for a coach, you may have the opportunity to work with an internal coach if your company employs one. Be mindful of working with an internal coach, especially if you’re a senior leader. Internal coaches work for the company, so your confidentiality may be at risk.
Even an external coach can be directed to hand over personal, confidential information about clients, but if they maintain ethical coaching standards and chose their integrity and the coachee’s trust over the paycheck from an organization, you’ll be in good hands. As an executive coach, if your engagements are not based on deep trust, you might as well be in another profession.
If you can negotiate with your company to pay for an external coach, it’s crucial to do your due diligence by considering a few different executive coaches and comparing their engagements. However, it’s challenging to compare coaches as each have their own unique processes – even if those processes share the same label.
For example, many coaches perform 360-degree reviews which combine self-assessment, peer reviews, and feedback from superiors and subordinates. However, the execution of a 360-degree review can vary significantly from coach to coach. Some coaches rely on online surveys to collect data, while others employ a more personalized, in-depth approach through individual interviews with key stakeholders. Those interviews will provide a deeper understanding of clients’ strengths and areas for improvement, especially when quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed for insights. Thereby providing both the coach and the coachee richer data to understand the exact behaviors that contributed to the coachee’s opportunities for development.
Navigating Budget Constraints
In an era of tightening budgets, it’s common to receive an initial response that denies your request for company sponsorship citing financial limitations. However, don’t let this discourage you. There are several strategic moves you can deploy to garner the necessary support:
- Personal Investment with Future Reimbursement: One approach is to take the initiative and fund the coaching engagement initially from your own pocket. When your employer witnesses the positive outcomes and enhanced leadership capabilities you’ve gained from coaching, they may be more inclined to reimburse you.
- Shared Investment: Offer to split the cost of the coaching with the company so that both sides are equally invested. It’s truly a win-win. The employer reaps the rewards of enhanced performance which delivers an organization ROI. And, the impact of a strong executive coaching engagement remains with your forever. A common refrain I hear from clients is, “I wish I had worked with you X years ago. The speed of my professional trajectory would have been exponentially faster.”
- Targeted Engagement or Virtual Workshops: If the financial commitment for a full-fledged coaching engagement poses a challenge, you can explore alternative options. Consider engaging an executive coach for a truncated engagement, focusing specifically on a key area of development that requires immediate attention. This focused approach allows you to benefit from the expertise of a coach at a lower cost to the company. Additionally, participating in virtual leadership workshops can provide valuable insights and development opportunities at a more cost-effective scale.
ROI of Coaching
It’s a challenge to quantify the precise monetary value of coaching benefits, but the impact of coaching is undeniably profound. Let’s explore how coaching delivers a remarkable return on investment (ROI) that extends beyond an individual’s leadership competency.
- Exponential Impact: When an individual commits to an executive coaching engagement, they not only improve themselves, they improve their ability to work cross-functionally, further emphasizing the value of coaching at the organizational, departmental and team levels. One person’s boosted performance has a multiplier effect on their team, peers and even their supervisor.
- Tangible Results: After a transformational coaching engagement, clients measurably improve their leadership competencies. For example, a third-party research firm found that our executive coaching program consistently enhances leadership performance with our clients showing an average increase of 63% in their targeted competencies. Still, you may face criticism from others who view coaching as mere “fluff” or limited to advice-giving, but by highlighting the tangible, quantifiable results and by showcasing the robust processes, methodologies and technologies employed in coaching engagements, you can dispel these misconceptions.
- Life-Long Transformation: A powerful coaching experience has a lasting impact on individuals, extending far beyond their immediate professional journey. Coaching empowers leaders to redefine how they lead, communicate and observe others. It equips them with improved resilience and the capacity to address challenges. Because transformative coaching engagements address and evolve deep-rooted beliefs and behaviors, leaders emerge with strengthened abilities that endure throughout their lives.
A Framework for the Request
As you plan to negotiate compensation for coaching, here is a framework to help you effectively make the request:
- Consider the timing. Remember, you should make the request when you have leverage.
- Research the company’s guidelines on employee training. That could range from a specific policy on the types of training covered including reimbursable and out-of-pocket expenses to no policy at all. However, that does not necessarily mean the company doesn’t encourage it.
- Craft your pitch and build your case. More than any other tactic, how you tailor and package your pitch to the decision maker (your supervisor, HRBP, etc.) impacts your probability for success. Familiarize yourself with the priorities and drivers that will spur them to a “yes,” then use that insight to shape your message. Seek the advice of your colleagues who have requested and received executive coaching at your firm to gather approaches that have worked successfully in the past. Enlist an ally or mentor to help you strategize.In your pitch, explain how executive coaching supports a strategic goal or addresses an issue facing you, your team or the company. While it’s helpful to detail the components of each coaching package under consideration, you should spend more time highlighting executive coaching benefits.Put together a package of material for the decision maker to review that includes a few recommended external coaches, costs and durations of engagement. Then bring your preferred choice of coach or coaching organization to the forefront and walk them through how you arrived at that decision. You could also Include the estimated ROI of coaching that lists the ways you see your leadership skills improving from the coaching. If you’re negotiating for a new position – whether internal or external – it might be helpful to describe the findings from a study by the Center for Creative Leadership that showed that roughly 38% to more than half of new leaders fail within their first 18 months. Then, sincerely express your desire for an effective and smooth transition and onboarding by partnering with a coach.
- Email the decision maker a request for an in-person or video conference meeting to negotiate the coaching. This should be a conversation, not a series of emails.
- Practice your pitch and produce answers to possible questions and objections that may be thrown at you.
- Remember, the biggest mistake is not asking at all!
If the timing isn’t right, your company lacks the funds to cover an executive coaching engagement or you lack the time to commit to weekly coaching sessions, consider JMA’s virtual leadership workshops. These workshops are tactical, transformative and individualized. They provide you with interactive apps to facilitate change and 15 follow-up short videos to make sure your learning doesn’t end with the workshops. They can be taken individually over two days or customized for an entire team, or organization.