Collins | Coaching Can Be Key To Bettering A Business

Selecting the right company leaders for coaching and helping them identify the coach that will be most effective for them can accelerate performance, success and career trajectory. It can make the delivery of key projects more rapid and successful.

I have been using a career coach and/or trusted advisor for more than 20 years. To be always learning and working to achieve more in a changing world is part of who I am.

Former TV executive Geraldine Laybourne, known for her work at Nickelodeon and as a co-founder of Oxygen Media, talked about the important role her coach played in her career when she spoke to a group of WICT (Women in Cable Telecommunications) Chicago members in the 1990s. She was, and I expect remains, firm in her conviction that business professionals need someone to help them ask the tough questions and take the difficult paths that lead to success.

It was my short conversation with Laybourne after her presentation that pushed me to take the step I’d already been contemplating. I hired my first coach soon afterward and have continued to take advantage of having someone outside my work life help me to see the opportunities for professional success.

Who Benefits Most From Executive Coaching?

The November/December issue of MFM’s member magazine, The Financial Manager (TFM) includes a column from regular contributor Sarah Levitt. She writes that organizations tend to consider employing coaches for their employees in two situations. One category is under-performing people; they are hoping that outside guidance will turn them around. The problem with this approach is that, what should be a positive benefit, is often viewed as a punishment and turns out to be less beneficial than anticipated.

It is better, Levitt says, “to focus on your best and brightest, the leaders with the greatest potential.” That investment is bound to be the most productive. When companies focus resources on rising stars, the entire team benefits. Or, as Levitt says, “Your bench will be built from the inside.”


Improvement in one team or department can have a ripple effect. Teams can become more cohesive, trusting and efficient. This makes employee retention easier. In short, selecting the right leaders for coaching and helping them identify the coach that will be most effective for them can accelerate performance, success and career trajectory. It can make “the delivery of key projects more rapid and successful.”

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A friend of mine, now an accredited coach herself, once told me that she has used different coaches at different times in her career. I’ve done the same thing.

Levitt draws a distinction between coaches and what she calls “trusted advisers.” The later, she says, are primarily for the most senior managers in the company, someone like a division president or a CEO. These advisers serve as “a sounding board, a confidante and devil’s advocate.” Such advisers, says Levitt, typically come into play after the person is familiar with the role, and generally after the leader has worked with an executive coach.

What To Look For

Whether you are looking for a coach or a trusted adviser, selecting the right person for the job is key. Levitt identifies five criteria to consider:

Does it feel like a good fit? Trust is the foundation of a good coaching relationship. Without trust, it will be extremely difficult to move forward and see any meaningful results.

Look for business experience in addition to coaching expertise. Levitt believes that this becomes more important for senior managers. At the very least, she says, a coach must have a shared understanding of some of the challenges and pressures that face an executive.

The coach should have experience working at the employee’s leadership level. Do some due diligence to find out what the person helped his or her clients achieve. It’s also a good idea to ask them to work with the employee being coached to set objectives for the coaching engagement.

Will the coach tell the truth and challenge the employee to reach their highest potential with compassion? Levitt calls this both an art and a skill; she emphasizes that its importance cannot be overstated.

Finally, while it may be difficult to determine this, the best coaches are those who are always learning themselves. “Are they trying to get ever better at what they do so they can bring that back to their clients?”

Levitt closes by saying “use coaching or a trusted adviser to set the bar even higher for yourself and your team members across the organization.” She believes that leaders who show themselves as willing to set the bar a little higher, to continue to learn and grow, serve as great examples for their entire team.

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Further, she says, “The return on investment can be significant for an organization if it’s used well. Great leaders yield great results.” I wholeheartedly agree.

A digital copy of the November/December issue of TFM, which includes a copy of Sarah Levitt’s article, “Finding the Right Guide,” will be available on the MFM website through early January. I encourage you to take the opportunity to read this column and some of the other outstanding pieces from our contributors.

Upcoming MFM Educational Opportunities

If you are looking to develop a rising finance star in your organization, you should encourage that person to apply for the 2020 Steve McIntosh Scholarship to Media Finance Focus 2020. For the first time, MFM has committed to awarding two scholarships. Each scholarship will cover full conference registration; recipients will be responsible for all other expenses including travel and lodging. Applications are due no later than Feb. 14, 2020.

Eligible applicants:

  • Are currently employed by a media company.
  • Have five (or fewer) years of experience in the media industry.
  • Will not have celebrated their 35th birthday as of Feb. 14, 2020.

More senior media finance professionals will want to mark their calendars for the MFM CFO Summit — March 5-6, 2020, at the Pelican Grand Beach Resort, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. This is the opportunity for the industry’s finance leaders to exchange ideas and tackle issues that will shape the industry’s future.

Confirmed topics include: an update from the Federal Reserve; an equity analyst; a look at cybersecurity concerns for media businesses; the future of media; local advertising; podcasting; political advertising issues and outlook; leadership; and a CFO roundtable.

Registration is limited.

Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary, the media industry’s credit association. She can be reached at [email protected] and via the association’s LinkedInTwitterFacebook, or Instagram sites.

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