1. It's a perk, not a punishment. "At one time coaching was seen as remedial," says executive coach John Baldoni. "But more and more it's a badge of honor, because as more CEOs talk about being coached, it's seen as a perk. It's also couched as a developmental tool, so even when there's an issue, it doesn't mean [someone] is a poor performer. It's just others see that they can be a better performer if they address the issue."
2. It all hinges on the client-coach relationship. Executive coaches say you have to have some chemistry to make the relationship work. You have to trust your coach and have confidence in his or her experiences and expertise in order to feel comfortable speaking openly about issues. "It's like a doctor or an architect -- try the relationship on for size. You have to click with that person," adds Suzanne Fairlie, founder and president of executive staffing firm ProSearch.
3. It's not a magic cure-all. Clients should identify areas where they want to improve, but they should also understand the limits of coaching, says Larry Bonfante, CIO of the U.S. Tennis Association, an executive coach with his practice CIO Bench Coach, and author of Lessons in IT Transformation: Technology Expert to Business Leader. "I've had people who want me to wave my magic wand or sprinkle fairy dust over them, but it doesn't work that way," Bonfante says. He says it's more about bringing a C performance up to a B, or a B up to an A.
4. It's a business arrangement. Alan Guibord, founder and chairman of The Advisory Council in Salem, N.H., says coaches generally use contracts to specify pricing, objectives and the frequency of meetings. They also generally offer details of how they approach coaching, explaining how they assess their clients and measure success. Guibord and others say it's important for coaches and clients to agree on such terms up front.
5. It requires a personal willingness to change. "The only way that coaching can be successful is [if] the person being coached [is] open-minded, humble and willing to accept advice," says Guibord. "That's a hard part for everybody."
Shiozaki worked with a coach a second time after she became CIO at Thornburg Mortgage in Santa Fe, N.M., in 2007 (the company is now known as TMST). She hired -- and paid for -- the coach to help her keep herself and her team focused as the company dealt with the fallout from the 2008 economic collapse.