An interview with Eileen Springer by Daniel Schwartz, Partner specializing in Employment Law at Shipman & Goodwin Law Firm
1. So Eileen – what IS Executive Coaching nowadays?
Simply stated, executive coaching is coaching people to arrive at their own solutions so that they are committed to the outcome. Executive coaches are contracted as needed to facilitate the success of employees who are preparing for their next role, who are part of a high-potential development program, who require performance coaching or need support as part of their on-boarding to a new role. The needs vary, but it is most commonly an investment reserved for highly valued talent.
In my practice, I am seeing an increase in small to mid-size companies who partner with me to coach their newly promoted managers, who are managing people for the first time. With the scarcity of talent in the workforce these days, high-growth companies cannot afford to wait to promote the best talent. They are promoting the best talent to management quickly, and providing the support of a coach to ensure success with their leadership development.
2. I realize companies may find utility in an executive coach. What about individuals? What are situations when an individual ought to consider one?
Career and executive coaching are becoming much more prevalent as an individual investment. Professionals are turning to coaching in higher and higher numbers. Career advancement often requires having a plan, especially at the more senior levels. Often a professional will face a pivotal moment in their career when they realize that what they did to get to where they are, is not what is required to get to the next level. It’s at that juncture when I typically receive a call.
Executives are operating in an increasingly complex environment, where they may rely heavily on experts in finance, legal, marketing, technology, etc., and need to balance many priorities in short periods of time. Managing teams, boards, meeting deadlines and staying competitive can lead to stress and feelings of loss of control. Pressures of corporate life, regardless of level, can impact people differently. Some professionals thrive in fast-pace challenging environments, while others find it unsatisfying. These are examples of when individuals look for executive coaches – they may want to reach important goals and advance, or they may want less stress and better balance. Whatever the reason, when individuals are motivated to work toward change, they find support and a thought partner with a coach who is focused on their individual agenda.
3. As we’ve talked about privately, you’ve had a long background in Talent Acquisition working at major companies. What are some trends you’ve seen recently in that area?
Oh yes, the trends in Talent Acquisition have changed a lot since I started! Clearly technology and social media have completely changed recruiting tactics and the way people look for jobs. The irony is that while the current unemployment rate as of March 2019 is 3.8%, you would think it would be easy for job seekers to find employment, and for employers to find talent. The real is truth is; it depends! For job seekers who are highly qualified for professional roles, such as engineers, finance and accounting professionals, software developers and salespersons, they are likely to find jobs quickly. For many professionals, they may be one of hundreds submitting a resume online for every one job positing.
So yes, while it should be a “candidate’s market”, good talent is often searching for a job longer than they should be because they are relying too heavily on online applications. Companies typically struggle with getting through all of the resumes that are submitted, or they have automated systems that rule out strong candidates if one “pre-qualifying question” is not a match. This dynamic often leads to jobs remaining vacant for longer than necessary. Companies who invest the time to write accurate and appealing job descriptions, and carefully match the qualifying questions in their job posting systems, are more likely to attract the best talent and maintain a good reputation with job seekers.
Hiring managers typically rely on recruiters to screen resumes and initiate first round telephone interviews. Many large companies have resorted to recorded video interviews for early interview rounds. This allows them to see the candidate in a video at a time convenient for them. They can collaborate with other reviewers in their company to decide who to bring in for next rounds of interviews. For candidates who are comfortable with technology and have practiced being recorded, this can be advantageous. For others who do not present well or stumble on a response to one question (there are no do-overs with the recording!), it can be challenging.
Understanding how to format a resume for key word searches and cover letters for easy customization are important for today’s applicants. Identifying the right job boards, setting up job alerts and researching target companies are all an important part of the candidate’s experience in today’s job search.
4. Getting back to career coaching, I would think that there might be a market for people newer to the workforce too, like college graduates?
That’s right! When I first started my coaching practice, I actually conducted a focus group with a group of young adults in their twenties and their parents. I was interested in learning if young adults and their parents thought there was a gap in the market for career coaching, and I learned that there was. I discovered that parents were often disappointed with the career services offices on college campuses, and were seeking more support for their children’s transition from college to work.
Parents viewed career coaching similar to how they thought about providing private college advisors who helped with the college application process. Parents of millennials remain involved, both financially and emotionally, with their children later into adulthood now. In the past year, I have had over a dozen clients who are in this category, and it has been very rewarding. I recently completed research on the topic of “The Preferences of Millennials in Coaching” and identified eight unique preferences and circumstances:
Ongoing parental involvement
Desire for expertise in a coach
Frequent contact / accessibility with a coach
Recognition of the importance of work / life balance
Need for a safe / confidential environment
Customized for them
Flexible communication modes
Desire for structure
5. We’ve seen a real change the last two years as the #metoo movement continues to make an impact in the C-Suite. How can companies think about coaching its executives in this area?
While there are coaching and educational opportunities related to this movement, the meaningful impact is when change is represented at the top of the organization. Whether it is a change of behavior of senior leaders, or a change of leaders, companies are seeking support from coaches and leadership experts to proactively train their leaders to set the right tone.
An exciting change that I am seeing this year is the significant increase in support for the accelerated development of female leaders in companies. There is increased interest in providing coaching to high-potential females, who are preparing for their first roles in the C-suite. Additionally, there are several new organizations emerging that are supporting women in business, providing formal mentoring and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and corporate executives. I have recently started coaching a cohort of C-suite women at just such a place; Chief, a women’s peer networking group in Manhattan.