4) Which coaching firms are the largest?                                               The Four Lords of Coaching


    The following gives an overview of the large psychology based management consulting firms. These deal with behavioral management, assessment and learning -- and executive coaching.


1) Personnel Decisions International (PDI Ninth House), The First Lord



    PDI has the smallest fiefdom (revenues estimated at $100 million, 2005), but the oldest coaching lineage in the U.S., primus inter pares. In 1982 it was the first U.S. firm formally to offer executive coaching. It also has the most royal leadership of the four Lords. Of the nine persons in senior management, six have PhDs. That is unusual for a U.S. company.  (In corporate America PhDs are not as rare as an oasis in a desert, but they certainly are not as common as the "grains of sand" MBAs either.)  Its 300 psychologists and consultants also mostly have PhDs. They are based in 17 countries, with German offices in Düsseldorf and Stuttgart, the latter with a team of sixteen (2010). 

    The website positions the firm as follows: "PDI is a secret weapon. . . a strategic investment, that brings a lasting competitive edge." The firm considers its client list confidential, although it does mention that it has provided services to 80% of the Fortune 100. The firm offers five main services: 



  •  Assessment and selection
  •  Leadership development
  •  Executive coaching
  •  Performance management
  •  Succession management


    It also offers Business Strategy Consulting.  However this service is quite different from the team engagements for strategy of a firm such as McKinsey: ". . . when you partner with a PDI Business Strategy consultant, you´ll gain valuable insight, tools and frameworks." Its website presents the most extensive offering for Executive Coaching of any of the Lords. A summary of it is given in Appendix I below.


2) Hay Group, The Active Lord




    On the one hand, the Hay Group is much smaller than the lords Aon or Thomas Watson. On the other hand, it is much more active in executive coaching than its larger rivals. The firm has 2,600 people working out of 86 offices in 48 countries, and had ca. $250 million in revenues, 2005. This psychology-based consultancy positions itself as working "with leaders to transform strategy into reality. We develop talent, organize people to be more effective and motivate them to perform at their best. Our focus is on making change happen and helping people and organizations realize their potential."

    The Hay Group is one of the world’s leaders in executive coaching. The website mentions a three stage process, as quoted below:


  • assessment – we use a variety of techniques – including personality and cognitive measures – to gain an understanding of each individual
  • feedback – our 360-degree feedback gives a clear picture of strengths and opportunities for development and is carefully crafted for maximum impact

  • development planning and implementation – we determine the specific steps that will improve performance and help the executive to realize his or her full potential.


    The Hays Group also has a certification program: "And our coaching training and accreditation program has unmatched credibility, based as it is on 60 years of coaching executives at some of the world’s most respected companies." (It is not, however, as prestigious as the Jonathan Swift certificate discussed on its subpage.)



3) Aon Corporation, The Lord of Size



    Aon is the 800 lb. gorilla lord of the group, with 36,000 people working in 500 offices in over 120 countries. In 2007 it had revenues of $7.5 billion. Headquartered in Chicago, Aon is a leading provider of:

    (1) risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage and

    (2) human capital and management consulting.

Although the major portion of its business concerns insurance, the HR portion is significant. (Previously it was run under Aon Consulting, which had roughly 7,500 employees and $1 billion revenues in the early 2,000´s.) Aon´s presence in executive coaching is indicated by the following quote from its website (highlighting added)(2010):


    "Human Capital Consulting Services

Using competency-based leadership assessment and development programs - including web-based leadership simulations, executive coaching, feedback-intense development workshops, and ongoing action learning - we help clients increase leadership retention and improve leadership effectiveness."


4) Towers Watson HR Consulting, The Lord-in-Waiting



    Towers Watson, headquartered in New York, is less than half the size of Aon, having "only" 14,000 people and 2009 revenues of ca. $3 billion. It offers advisory services about employee benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Towers Watson is a "lord-in-waiting," poised to enter the executive coaching market.  Interestingly its website does not yet (2010) specifically mention executive coaching, also not in the section "Leadership Development and Succession Management," which is where one would expect to find it. However when the firm (which has two Munich offices) enters this business, it will bring massive resources to bear.

    Naturally there are a good number of other firms that are candidates for Lord-in-Waiting such as Oliver Wyman.*



* Oliver Wyman www.oliverwyman.com was formed in 2007 out of the merger of Mercer Oliver Wyman, Mercer Management Consulting and Mercer Delta Consulting, the last of which focused on leadership. (As the common nominal denominator among the three entities was "Mercer" that this name was dropped after the merger seems an odd branding/PR decision.) The original Delta Consulting was founded by David Nadler, a Harvard MBA with a PhD in Psychology from the University of Michigan. He is (2010) the Vice Chairman of Marsh McLennon Companies (MMC), which acquired Delta Consulting in 2000. Oliver Wyman is a leader in financial services and general business consulting, and also offers strategy services. The firm has a staff of 3000 and in 2007 revenues of $1.5 billion.

    There is an interesting article in the German press:

"David Nadler: "Niemand hat die knallharte Wahrheit so nötig wie der Chef." 24. Mai. 2007 Executive Coach David Nadler von Oliver Wyman ist einer der 25 einflußreichsten Berater in den USA. In den vergangenen drei Jahrzehnten arbeitete er für 80 amerikanische Konzernlenker. Mit CAPITAL sprach er über die Gründen von Scheitern und Erfolg großer Unternehmenslenker und die häufigsten Fehler im Vorstandsbüro."  (David Nadler: "No one needs the blunt truth more than the CEO." May 24th, 2007) 

    The executive coach David Nadler from Oliver Wyman is one of the 25 most influential advisors in the U.S. Over the past 30 years he has worked for 80 U.S. CEOs. He spoke with Capital magazine about the reasons for success and failure of great business leaders and about the most common mistakes in the boardroom.



Appendix I

"PDI Coaching Services Guide"

    The following was created out of excerpts from the PDI Ninth House website (2010). It is an example of the wide range of services that may be offered by a large psychology-based coaching firm. Many of its coaches have backgrounds in industrial psychology. (Because Bridges services are focused on strategy, the background of its coaches is primarily in senior management.)


    Individual Coaching


    Systemic Coaching

. . . over 300 coaches in 17 different countries . . . a one-stop solution for coaching your leaders. We can even help you design, manage, and evaluate your coaching process.


    Dynamic Coaching

Effective Tools for HR/OD Professionals


    Individual Coaching Programs

Targeted Coaching

Coaching High-Potential Leaders

FS100 Coaching™—Fast Start in the First 100 Days

Coaching Expatriate Leaders

Coaching Women Executives

Fully Leveraging the Business Unit Leader Role

Fully Leveraging the Senior Executive Role


    Systemic Coaching

Coaching to Accelerate the Success of Key Talent Pools

We can help in two key ways:

Custom Design Services

Large-scale Solutions

PDI executive coaching teams . . . in 30 offices worldwide.

PDI coaches partner with you to:

    - Determine where coaching will have the biggest impact.

    - . . . determine who should be coached, on what topics and how.

    - . . .designing programs for maximum value,  leadership impact.

    - Make sure no time is wasted. Coaching is focused on the specific behavior and skills that need to change—no generic role-play or scenarios, no time wasted on unnecessary theory.

    - Implement state-of-the-art measurement systems to measure progress and the value of the coaching . . .



    Dynamic Coaching

Effective Strategies for HR/OD Professionals

. . . program to help HR, OD, and other internal consultants learn practical, powerful coaching skills.

This customized program, facilitated by some of PDI's top coaches, will help you:

    - have credibility

    - provide high-impact just-in-time coaching

    - sustain progress . . .

. . . three-day workshop . . . hands-on learning. . . focus on real-world issues. . .


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