Demystifying Executive Coaching

The growth of Executive Coaching has been steady over recent years, and 2020 has increased the number of people working one-on-one with a professional.  That’s not surprising given current circumstances and the fact that the results of Executive Coaching can be impressive.  But not everyone knows what it entails and why it works.  

What is it?

Simply put, executive coaching is the practice of business professionals working with a trained, certified coach over an allotted period of time to achieve objectives, develop leadership skills, work through challenges, define goals and gain clarity.  This is transformational coaching which focuses on performance.  

An executive coach doesn’t teach, or train, or even advise…. A coach objectively and confidentially listens, questions, probes, empathizes, challenges and guides his or her client to better self-awareness and improved performance.  Sometimes, depending on the goals of the client, assessment tools are used as a base to get started and to measure progress at the end of the coaching term.

Executive Coaching is not to be confused with Life Coaching. Life coaches help people achieve goals in their personal lives.

Who engages a coach?

Executive coaches are typically retained in two different scenarios….  

They work with organizations – large companies, small and mid-sized businesses,associations, agencies, non-profits, etc. Typically the coach is hired by human resources or a senior leader to work with the leader directly; with members of his or her team; or both.

Alternatively coaches are retained directly by individuals - professionals who choose to take it upon themselves to build their leadership skills or require guidance to work through a challenge; people who are looking for direction while considering a potential career shift; or entrepreneurs/consultants trying to grow their business.

It’s lonely at the top

Senior executives are often in a position where, as the most senior person in or their department, they have nobody with whom they can discuss issues, challenges and big decisions.  Discussing these matters with a coach can be a huge benefit.  But a good coach is more than just a sounding board.  They are able to increase their client’s self-awareness to positively affect behaviour, attitude, leadership and, ultimately, results.

Coaching through change

When the COVID pandemic first blindsided us, many people in the corporate world continued working, albeit transitioning to a very different model – the work-from-homekind.  Initially, they were thrust into this new structure practically overnight and it was cause for a lot of growing pains.  Over the months some of the wrinkles have been ironed out, but it would be naïve to think it’s going to be‘business as usual’ for everyone, now or in the foreseeable future.  Many executives, leaders and team managers continue to struggle with the necessary adjustments. Some admit to just “getting by”.  These types of circumstances are ideal for coaching.  

Not just for senior executives

Yes, it’s called Executive Coaching, but in fact anyone within an organization with managerial or leadership responsibility can benefit from coaching.  Excellent communication skills, strong relationships and a positive attitude are all key attributes managers and leaders need to get ahead. In the early days of coaching, executives primarily provided coaches for their team members asa remedial service - if there was an issue, challenge or problem that needed to be addressed.  Most certainly coaching can help in those circumstances, but it can also do so much more.  These days, if a senior leader sees that a team member has great raw talent and impressive potential, a coach can help to take them to the next level.  

Alternatively,any mid-senior level employee who believes he or she would benefit from external coaching, but whose organization isn’t immediately intending to engage coaches, could do so directly.  Others obtaining value from executive coaching are self-employed professionals looking for guidance through next steps in building their business, and those considering a career shift or looking for a new job.  (Professionals looking for practical career advice may want to consider engaging a Career Transition Consultant. More about that in my nextpost.)

When is someone ready for a coach?

Coaching can only be successful if the client is on board and open to all it has to offer.  The client needs to commit to being honest - it’s all confidential so there’s no excuse not to be!  And he or she needs to be prepared to bechallenged.  If they don’t open themselves up to change, then it can’t occur.

Finding the right coach

It’s important that the client feels comfortable with the coach they work with and that they establish a good rapport.  There should be at least one relatively in-depth meeting/call with the coach prior to committing to working together.  This allows them to get to know each other a little, discuss what the client hopes to gain from the coaching term and have any questions answered. Keep in mind that there are intensive training programs that provide formal and extensive instruction and testing to properly qualify someone to coach professionally. If you want to use a certified coach be sure to do your due diligence.

What isthe process?

Part of establishing the coach/client relationship and committing to the process is creating a time-frame.  A coach is hired to work with a client for an established length of time and frequency – either dictated by those in an organization who have engaged the coach for their employees, or the client directly, depending on the circumstances.  The frequency is typically an hour every couple of weeks  but that can vary. Whether it’s a relatively short time-frame or a longer commitment, Executive Coaching can help clients achieve their objectives, overcome challenges and define their goals.

Susan Rogers is a Certified Executive Coach, Executive Recruiter and Career Transition Consultant

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