New Trend in Asia: C-level Executives Certified as Talent Coaches

Feb, 14, 2020
  • Large organizations in Asia are increasingly getting their C-level executives certified as talent coaches as a means to build a strong talent pipeline and train key talent more successfully.
  • Skilled coaching can make the difference between losing valuable talent and retaining competent employees with the potential to become C-level executives.

C-level executives with extensive professional experience are not necessarily adept at developing a company’s most talented employees. However, a growing number of C-level executives (such as CEO, CFO and COO) consider developing top talent in their organizations as an important part of their role. 

In the past four to five years in Asia, many executives are seeking talent coaching certifications to improve their ability to best support and foster the high-potentials in their organization. 

Evidence for this recent trend in Asia is available in Progress-U’s latest report, the State of Corporate Coaching Culture in Asia, which was based on answers from 236 companies. The report shows that companies, particularly larger organizations with over USD1 billion annual sales, are increasingly investing in getting their senior executives trained and certified as talent coaches, with 60% of senior executives receiving coach training and certification.

The role of an effective Talent Coach

Most C-level executives who are now trained and certified as professional coaches initially started coaching or mentoring talents without any specific training and felt that it didn’t have as much impact as they hoped for. They then realized that having extensive leadership experience doesn’t necessarily qualify them to be good coaches, and decided to get professional coaching training.

Without any training in coaching, C-level executives often have a distorted understanding of what coaching really means. Coaching is not advising someone one-on-one; in fact, a professionally trained coach almost never gives any advice at all.

Coaching is designed to establish clear development goals that are considered useful by the coachee and then to guide the coachee through reflective conversations application of appropriate tools to improve their thinking. As a result, the coachees realize how to make better choices and modify their behavior in order to reach these goals faster than if they were left to their own devices. 

Another role of the coach is to keep the coachee accountable for their commitments in a non-directive manner. An effective talent coach brings deeper self-awareness, a coaching mindset, extensive coaching skills, coaching processes and coaching tools to the table. This cannot be developed sufficiently in a two to three day program.

How to approach talent coaching

The research in the State of Corporate Coaching Culture in Asia report also shows that the closer coaching initiatives are linked to business objectives, the more likely they will result in a high return on investment. Likewise, during talent coaching, it’s important that there is clarity about the overall talent development strategy, how talent coaching by senior executives fits into this strategy, and what business objectives should be achieved.

For talent coaching by C-level executives to be successful, companies need to ensure that:

  • The C-level executives make a clear commitment in terms of time and resources to learn coaching on a professional level and to reserve sufficient time to coach the top talents.
  • The talents are made aware that they receive very valuable time from these busy executives and, as a result, need to take ownership of driving the talent coaching process.
  • HR supports the program and acts as a coordinator and moderator in case of any challenges during the roll-out. Ideally, there is also a simple contract between the talent coach and the coachee to formalize the structure, boundaries and commitments.

Case study

Take the example of a large US-based technology corporation with strong presence in Asia. Like most other companies in their industry, they had been struggling for years to build a strong talent pipeline that would cater to their fast-increasing need for successors for senior management.

Based on their positive experience overseas of getting C-level executives trained in professional coaching to support the development of younger key talent, the management decided to replicate this approach in Asia.

They started in Greater China, the region with the strongest growth and biggest challenge of retaining talented executives. Implementing this approach in this part of the world, a number of challenges had to be met, including the assurance of sufficient commitment from these leaders, and the avoidance of any friction between the talent coach and the line manager of the coachee.

To ensure that C-level executives would be committed to the process, management decided to invite them to take on this role on a voluntary basis. However, HR still had doubts if all those who volunteered would be sufficiently talented and determined to become effective coaches.

To tackle this question, company management decided to take it step by step.

The company arranged a short workshop held by their selected training institute to ensure that all those interested in becoming talent coaches would gain clarity on the learning outcomes and time investment. Six of the 18 initially interested executives dropped out after this workshop as they felt they could not make the necessary commitment.

The selected coach certification program was initially organized as four two-day workshops with assignments and follow-up activities after each workshop (at a later stage, 2 of these classroom workshops were cut down into 2 hour bites and delivered virtually through video conferencing). 

Participants were allowed to make the final decision on their willingness to study all four modules after completing the first one. This allowed the executives to find out if talent coaching was really suitable for them. Should they decide not to continue in their learning journey, they would still be able to apply some of the learning gained from the first module to hone their leadership skills.

Out of the 12 participants who completed the first module, nine decided to become internationally certified as a talent coach. After successful completion, the participants received the Registered Corporate Coach certificate issued by the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC).

The company had established processes to identify their most important talent, but HR ensured that the coach and selected talent were a good match. A “chemistry meeting” was organized between both parties before both would commit to working together. In case it did not work out, both talent coach and coachee could opt out and ask for being matched with someone else.

Companies that have certified C-level executives coaching top talent are more likely to achieve higher retention rates of valuable employees. Without coaching, the company risks losing valuable talent that have the potential to become C-level executives. Coachees are more ready to take on senior roles once the opportunity presents itself.


Charlie Lang
Charlie Lang
Founder and Chief Content Architect
Founder and Chief Content Architect – Charlie Lang is a C-Suite coach and a pioneer in the coaching industry in Asia Pacific.


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