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The Ridler Report : 7 Trends in Executive Coaching

The Ridler Report, an annual survey of executive coaching trends, has built a strong reputation in recent years so I was eager to get my hands on this year’s findings.  You can download the full Ridler report for free but, for busy folk, here is my own take on the top 7 headlines and take-aways.
The survey quizzed buyers of coaching across 145 different organisations asking questions such as:-
  • What qualities do you most value in coaches?
  • How are you using team coaching?
  • How do you balance internal and external coaching?
  • For what purposes do you use executive coaching?

Ridler report executive coaching

After working with Ian on the topic of challenging coaching for the past five years, I was especially interested to read about the qualities that buyers find most valuable in coaches. The top two characteristics are:-
  • Ability to insightfully raise coachee’s awareness of ingrained patterns of behaviour (83%)
  • Ability to provide challenging feedback (82%)
These characteristics have risen up the rankings in recent years which begs the question – why? The Ridler report cites the reason for this as that ‘sponsors of coaching have become more demanding and sophisticated in recent years.’ I would agree with that and would add that this could also be a trend that is being driven by wider societal shifts. In the wake of the global financial crisis, there is a legacy of intolerance towards arrogant, old-style, often male leaders who are stubbornly clinging on to outdated heroic leadership styles. Coaches are increasingly being expected to call out these behaviours and challenge the underlying beliefs that drive them.
Further into the Ridler report, other findings that stand out are:-
  • A steady growth in the use of team coaching is expected, particularly at the senior levels
  • A similar, steady growth in the use of internal coaches is expected driven by cost-efficiency
  • Yet 85% of the most senior executives still prefer an external coach because of their independence, coaching expertise and greater inclination to challenge prevailing assumptions
  • There has been a significant increase in the use of coaching for senior people who are identified as under-performing – 15% in 2011 up to 31% in 2013
  • Coaching was ranked a more highly rated form of senior leadership development than a business school programme across 6 out of the 7 criteria tested in the questionnaire.
Overall, the Ridler report paints a picture of a coaching profession that is emerging from the recession in rude health. This bullish assessment was also picked up by a recent FT article – ‘High Flyers want Coaching’ [no longer available online]. It seems there are many exciting opportunities ahead to make a difference with executive coaching skills. However, for external executive coaches in particular, it seems the nature of our work may be changing. The shift from working in a predominantly supportive style with individual middle managers to working in a more challenging style with senior leaders and their teams is one that we will need to respond to with courage and wisdom. Nevertheless, that is also a measure of the potential that remains untapped. Thank you to those behind the Ridler Report for providing such valuable food for thought.