Coaching is a mainstay of corporate organizational development and has experienced a long evolution since its beginnings in the late 1950’s. Growth of the coaching industry was rapid in the 1980’s, when it was hailed as a management tool for improving work performance and for building teams.

In a 1996 Newsweek article, Thomas Leonard, considered to be one of the fathers of business coaching, estimated there were 1,000 coaches nationwide. In 1999, the first year that member numbers were recorded, the International Coach Federation (ICF) had 2,122 members. By 2008, ICF membership exceeded 14,000.

Executive coaching services are an extension of the coaching industry, and their growth in popularity can be explained by our modern-day business environment. Executives are required to manage greater complexity, risk, and pressure at a faster pace than ever before. In order to perform effectively, they need a way to accelerate learning, improve performance, and modify behavior accordingly. Of the executives who have worked with an executive coach, 93 percent reported that it was a positive, sometimes life-changing, experience.

Despite the preference by some business coaches to conduct their services by phone, clients express a strong preference to do so in person. Sherpa Coaching released a study that showed an overwhelming 96 percent of those who had worked with an executive coach say in-person coaching is the best.

Unlike stand-alone training programs that cover a particular issue or topic, coaching is an ongoing, consistent process that focuses on specific performance-related goals. As an Ivy Business Journal article expressed in 2000:

Coaching simply speeds up a process of change that would most likely occur anyway, if an individual had enough time. Without a coaching program that forces a client to focus and make time, people sometimes miss the real issues they need to focus on.

In 2004, a Harvard Business Review report summarized the reasons why executive coaching works:

  • Executive coaching engages with people in customized ways that acknowledge and honor their individuality. The essentially human nature of coaching is what makes it work-and also what makes it nearly impossible to quantify.
  • In most organizations, lasting change usually occurs slowly, one person at a time, gaining momentum as more people buy in.
  • To accelerate change and make it stick, they recommend systematically coordinating one-on-one coaching interventions that serve a larger objective.
  • There’s another advantage of starting at the top: once senior leaders have changed their behavior, it’s easier for them to influence the rest of the workforce to do the same.

Related to the executive coaching industry are CEO advisory groups such as Vistage International, TAB (The Alternative Board), and, more recently, online CEO groups such as These advisory groups use a peer CEO coaching framework to offer support and advice among their members. As such, the participants, themselves, are essentially CEOs helping other CEOs. In a way, it’s peer to-peer business coaching. There’s much to be said for this approach, since as peers, fellow CEOs can offer a beneficial “been there . . . done that” perspective. There’s a level of trust and belonging within these CEO peer groups that is difficult to gain in other ways. Business coaching has emerged as an industry that has proven its value. The model of bringing outside expertise and accountability to organizations and individuals within organizations works.

Six Disciplines Execution Revolution by Gary Harpst.

Coaching is one of the core tenets upon which Six Disciplines Execution Revolution is built on.