Just found out that the latest issue of Fortune has an article about executive coaching for which I was interviewed. It’s also available online. The author, Vickie Elmer, asked me great, insightful questions, and I believe the article will be useful to folks who are thinking about whether or not to retain a coach.

One thing Vickie doesn’t really talk about much is why coaching has gotten so popular lately. She notes that the three most popular reasons for coaching are “leadership development, remedial performance improvement, and optimizing strong contributors.” That certainly lines up with the reasons we get requests for coaching (and in fact, it’s what I told her during the interview). But those needs have always been thereso why are coaches called upon so much more often these days to help address them?

Partly, it’s simply that people think differently about outside help of all kinds than they used to. In previous decades, for instance, it was a hush-hush thing to go to a therapistnow people talk about their therapists online at Starbucks! And along with that broad societal shift, the reputation of coaching itself has changed. As Vickie points out in the lead sentence of her story, coaching was “once seen as the last step for an executive about to fall off the ladder.” In the twenty-plus years that we’ve been coaching at Proteus, I’ve seen the average prospective coachee go from being primarily angry/worried/demoralized to being primarily hopeful/proud/excited. Of course, coaching can still be a little dauntingfocusing on yourself and your development and getting feedback about your performance isn’t something you do every daybut it seems that most people now see it as an investment the company is making in them. Which is accurate: coaching isn’t cheap. Companies definitely have to want to invest in the people to whom they offer coaching.

And that brings me to the main reason I believe coaching has become more popular; I think more and more organizations are realizing that their best and highest-potential people are truly valuable assets, and they want to fully leverage those assets. Companies are starting to recognize how important it is to their successespecially in times of high change and shaky economicsto have executives who manage and lead well, and who are loyal to the organization. And that offering people a competent coach is a great way to help build both loyalty and professional excellence.