培训一度被视为挽救职业生涯的最后一招，但目前针对高层人才的培训正在成为主流。除了新近加入公司的高管要接受培训之外，刚刚升职的部门主管由于要领导比之前多得多的下属，同样需要培训。“领导力培训是眼下最热门的话题，”五点钟俱乐部（Five O’Clock Club）的总裁凯特•温德尔顿如是说。由于需求旺盛，该机构已经把旗下部分再就业培训及生涯培训教练转变为管理者培训教练。
根据美国管理协会（American Management Association）于2011年7月进行的调查，参与调查的公司中接近半数会对升职或调职员工进行培训。50%的公司仅对中高层管理者提供培训，另有38%的公司实行全员培训。同样根据该次调查，培训有3个主要的用途：提高领导力，改进工作表现，巩固已有优势。埃里卡•安德森说，“培训就如同生意上的私人教练。”她是《战略性思维》（Being Strategic）一书的作者，同时也是多位媒体主管的培训教练。
When Ryan Harris, 44, started working with an executive coach two years ago, he knew he needed to delegate more work and act more like a strategist. The top human resources exec at a New York City-based health company saw his challenges as "managing up and managing sideways." So, on his own initiative, he began meeting with his coach, Nancy Mercurio, about once a month. Since then, Harris says, he has learned to focus on results and approach more experienced executives with confidence. "He's become a more effective leader who holds people accountable," says Mercurio. So much so that he's sold his boss, the CEO, on offering company-paid coaching to other senior executives.
Once seen as a last-chance effort to turn around flagging careers, coaches for top talent are going mainstream. They're being brought in for newly hired senior executives, as well as for newly promoted department heads who suddenly must manage many more people. "Leadership coaching is the hottest thing these days," says Kate Wendleton, president of the Five O'Clock Club, which has turned some of its outplacement and career coaches into executive coaches because demand has been so strong.
According to a July 2011 American Management Association survey, almost half of participating companies use coaching to prepare individuals for a promotion or new role. While half of companies provide coaches to midlevel or senior staff only, 38% make them available to anyone. Coaching's three most common uses, according to the AMA survey: leadership development, remedial performance improvement, and optimizing strong contributors. "A coach is like a personal trainer for business," says Erika Andersen, author of Being Strategic and coach to many media executives.
Most coaches meet with executives in person or by phone, either every other week or once a month for about a year, though they increasingly are available for emergency consults. At WellPoint (WLP), the $58-billion-in-revenue health insurance giant, about one-fourth of the senior leadership works with coaches, says Judy Wade, executive talent director. Typically Wade recommends a few, and then the individual chooses the best match. Hiring a coach "is an investment in people who we see as very solid performers," says Wade, who is taking coaching classes herself.
It's okay to ask for a coach rather than wait for someone to offer you one. But if you want your company to pay -- at $200 or more per hour -- you should make a business case just as you would with any other budget item, Andersen suggests.
Does coaching actually work? For all its popularity, companies are still struggling with how to measure its effectiveness. Some use 360-degree-feedback before and after sessions to look for changes in behavior or relationships. Others rely on evaluations from both the subject and his boss. The biggest mistake, says Charles Feltman, a leadership coach in San Luis Obispo, Calif., is expecting immediate results. Another huge error: not taking the experience seriously or cutting short or skipping coaching appointments.
Another challenge is making sure that you have the right match. One-fourth of respondents in a 2009 AMA-Institute for Corporate Productivity research survey say they have terminated a coaching relationship. Indeed, Ryan Harris's first coach was a bust, in part because their backgrounds and perspectives were too similar.
Mercurio, however, has proved invaluable. Now when he's in executive staff meetings, Harris is willing to lay out the drawbacks to an idea, even when he knows his CEO favors it. He's restructured his department and set performance standards and timetables; when one person couldn't meet them, he terminated the employee -- something he would have delayed in the past. "[Mercurio] has helped my career by leaps and bounds," he says. "I'm certainly more effective as an executive."