By Diane E. Lewis, Globe Staff, 11/26/2000
When an executive coach suggested that Bob Garland change his speaking style, the senior manager for Deloitte & Touche was taken aback. The idea that a veteran with his experience needed to liven up his onstage presence seemed preposterous.
Why should I have to do that?" Garland wondered. "I'm a good speaker already. I've given 300 to 400 speeches over the last 20 years."
But the national managing partner of assurance and advisory services changed his mind after a role playing session with coach Kathy Lubar, cofounder of The Ariel Group in Cambridge. By working with Lubar he realized how cerebral his speeches were and, well, downright boring.
A year later, Garland is both a better speaker and a convert: He now requires that his management committee participate in coaching sessions to learn how to communicate more effectively with their staffs and prospective clients.
Teaching company brass how to loosen up and be more human is not the only reason companies turn to executive coaches. Employers are also retaining coaches to assist with everything from pre-IPO road show presentations to helping despotic managers with potential control themselves and their tempers.
Coaching is now often a prerequisite to promotion, an intense leadership training course for talented people who need assistance smoothing a few rough edges. Typically, the coachee is a chief executive, a division head, or a highly regarded employee earning a minimum of $100,000 to $250,000 per year.
"Employers are really seeking to sharpen the leadership skills of high potential individuals," said Betty Bailey, practice leader and senior vice president of the New England division of Manchester Consulting. "So, they are hiring individuals to head executive development. This person is in charge of helping to create the next leader."
When Manchester Consulting surveyed 200 companies this year, it found that 59 percent offer coaching to managers and top executives,
up from about 29 percent a decade ago. Eighty-six percent hired a
coach to sharpen the leadership skills of high potential employees, 72
percent used one to correct behavior problems that interfered with
performance, 64 percent wanted to ensure the success of newly promoted
managers, and 58 percent wanted to help technical employees gain the
leadership skills needed to work with a broad range of people and
Many coaches hold degrees in business management, or industrial
psychology, but not all. Ariel Group's Lubar and her cofounder, Belle
Linda Halpern, are trained actors who teach buttoned-down executives
how to relax, tune in to their emotions, and become more at ease
"Some people are born with the desire to be big, to be seen and
noticed," Halpern said. "They have natural charisma. Others are
bombastic and take up too much space. We believe presence can be
developed, and we believe that there is a way to make other people
feel listened to and heard."
The Ariel Group charges $12,000 for a two-day coaching program,
with two facilitators, or $1,500 per month to coach an individual for
an hour each week. The company also sends individual coaches to
special events where they help executives prepare for special
presentations and combat stage fright.
Lubar recently worked with a woman who was terrified of speaking in
public, but public speaking was a part of her job. The client insisted
that Lubar sit backstage with her. "We worked on breathing techniques
and did basic meditation and deep breathing," Lubar said. "We also
worked on visualization, and I suggested that she imagine being in
Not all executives are eager to be coached. Deloitte & Touche's
Garland was skeptical about changing his speaking style - until he saw
himself in action.
"Bob Garland was a pretty dry speaker," recalled Lubar. "He was an
accountant and auditor, very numbers-oriented, very blunt. And he
spoke in a monotone, with no drama or flare.
"At the same time, he was very confident and comfortable with
himself. So, I encouraged him to tell stories about his family, to use
props and metaphors. We prepared by doing Shakespeare, by role-playing
The technique worked. Garland, whose firm grades its managers on
their presentations on a scale of one to six, had routinely garnered a
four. Now, he says, his ratings are higher.
"I thought I was a good speaker," Garland said. "Now, I realize
that was not the case at all. What I've learned is that only 15
percent of an effective speech is content-related. The rest is
delivery, style, and emotional involvement."
More companies are also hiring coaches to help managers cope with
difficult employees, maintains Mel Epstein, founder of Leverage
Thinking, a management consulting firm in Cambridge.
Ten years ago, such workers were cast adrift in the first wave of
layoffs. Nowadays, with unemployment hovering at 2.4 percent in
Massachusetts, employers are more interested in ironing out conflicts
than handing out pink slips, Epstein said.
"Coaches are in demand," he noted. "Paradoxically, greater
skills are required from managers because of the economy. Companies
want to hold onto people, not lose them. So, managers who can work
with problem employees are valued and coaches are being hired to help
develop those skills."
Patricia Hirsch. MCC, MBA, RN