Not all CEOs experience transference. Even so, coaches can easily expand their influence—from training to all-purpose advising—because CEOs don’t like to lose face. Company leaders understand what coaches do and often feel personally responsible for selecting them. As a result, they feel more accountable for their coaches’ successes or failures than they would if a psychotherapist were assigned to the case. In the same vein, when the CEO personally endorses a business plan, a number of psychological factors conspire to make it difficult to abandon that plan. Garvin was confronted with that situation when he authorized systemwide use of Nelson’s personnel development procedures.
Even when coaches adopt a more empirically validated approach than McNulty did, they still tend to fall into the trap of treating the symptoms rather than the disorder. That’s because they typically derive their treatments from behavioral psychology. Of course, behaviorism has been a great boon to psychiatry in recent years. Findings from this discipline have helped people enormously in controlling specific behaviors and learning to cope in particular situations. But treatments derived from behavioral psychology are sometimes too limited to address the problems that disrupt executives’ ability to function.
Sport psychology can be used to help understand what motivates athletes and what makes them perform better. Professionals in this field are very knowledgeable and compassionate regarding the challenges and pressures that most athletes face today. Athletes that take advantage of counseling from a sport psychologist will often be better contenders and have more fulfilling careers.
The popularity of executive coaching owes much to the modern craze for easy answers. Businesspeople in general—and American ones in particular—constantly look for new ways to change as quickly and painlessly as possible. Self-help manuals abound. Success is defined in 12 simple steps or seven effective habits. In this environment of quick fixes, psychotherapy has become marginalized. And executive coaches have stepped in to fill the gap, offering a kind of instant alternative. As management guru Warren Bennis observes, “A lot of executive coaching is really an acceptable form of psychotherapy. It’s still tough to say, ‘I’m going to see my therapist.’ It’s okay to say, ‘I’m getting counseling from my coach.’”
To best help their executives, companies need to draw on the expertise of both psychotherapists and executive coaches with legitimate skills. At a minimum, every executive slated to receive coaching should first receive a psychological evaluation. By screening out employees not psychologically prepared or predisposed to benefit from the process, companies avoid putting executives in deeply uncomfortable—even damaging—positions. Equally important, companies should hire independent mental health professionals to review coaching outcomes. This helps to ensure that coaches are not ignoring underlying problems or creating new ones, as Nelson did.
One study, conducted by Adam D. Galinsky and colleagues at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, found that increased power tends to make one more self-centered and self-assured, but not in a good way: The researchers found that power makes one “prone to dismiss or, at the very least, misunderstand the viewpoints of those who lack authority.” High-power individuals “anchor too heavily on their own perspectives and demonstrate a diminished ability to correctly perceive others’ perspectives,” according to Galinsky and his team, adding that, “As power increases, power-holders are more likely to assume that others’ insights match their own.”
Hypnosis is not a psychotherapeutic treatment or a form of psychotherapy, but rather a tool or procedure that helps facilitate various types of therapies and medical or psychological treatments. Only trained health care providers certified in clinical hypnosis can decide, with their patient, if hypnosis should be used along with other treatments. As with psychotherapy, the length of hypnosis treatment varies, depending on the complexity of the problem.