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What is an Executive Coach? A Comprehensive Guide

Article Categories: Executive Coaching
Leadership Articles | Executive Coaching | What is an Executive Coach? A Comprehensive Guide

by | Jun 29, 2023

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What is an executive coach?  Let’s explore. Have you been new in a role, wondering what to focus on, what your vision should be, and how to motivate and engage your overwhelmed and understaffed team?

Maybe you want that promotion to the next level, but you are concerned with how people perceive you and whether you can even do the work. You have gotten feedback you need more “polish and gravitas” to be ready for the next role.

Or maybe you’re delivering business results, but there are others who aren’t happy with how you are getting things done.

What do all these situations have in common?

Investing in executive coaching services could help someone in each of these situations. Coaching services can help someone find clarity, overcome obstacles and create a plan for what’s best next to reach their goals.

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How is executive coaching different from leadership coaching?

Executive coaching is a learning approach that fosters self-awareness, provides critical challenge and support, and helps create cognitive shifts that drive transformational change.

Executive Coaching is a subset of leadership coaching.

Both work with leaders throughout a coaching engagement on how to lead themselves and others. The vantage point in the organization differs. Leadership coaches may be working with an entry or mid-level manager around leading their team and the challenges of that.

Executive coaches or executive leadership coaches typically with business leaders who have more tenure and organizational responsibility, but often similar issues…. there is often no distinct difference in the kind of issues executive coaches work with in both leaders and executives, but more just the number of people affected by the leader’s decisions and behavior. Coaches may work both with the individual leader and their executive team. Whether you are a vice president or a newly promoted manager, coaching can help you grow as a leader.

What does an Executive coach do?

An executive coach helps motivated leaders who are open to change better lead themselves and their teams to achieve their goals. At its core, executive coaching is a form of professional development that’s designed to help you or your team function at your peak and improve team performance. It’s a customized, tailored-to-you leader development process. You don’t have to be an executive or C-suite leader to benefit from working with a coach. Coaches help their clients gain clarity on goals, gain self-awareness, and understand how their behavior is impacting others.

An executive coach and client partner together to create specific action steps over multiple coaching sessions that will help clients get where they want to go.

What will a coaching session be like?

You’ll first meet with your executive coach to to create both professional and personal goals, identify areas where you can improve your leadership skills, and then develop strategies for achieving success. Your coach will partner with you to create a customized plan that’s tailored to your specific needs and strengths.

You will have regular sessions with your coach who will help you with questions such as:

·      What are my goals?
·      Where am I now?
·      What’s getting in the way?
·      What do I need to do to make significant progress toward my goal?

Executive coaches support leaders and act as a sounding board to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. They also provide you with the tools and resources you need to overcome any obstacles that might be holding you back in your leadership development. All this happens within a confidential relationship so you can feel safe to explore your fears and experiment with new behaviors.

Coaching Goals for Business Leaders

Executive leadership coaching can take many different forms, depending on your needs and goals.

Some examples of goals for executives or other leaders could include:

  • develop better communication skills so you can effectively present and influence
  • become a transformational leader vs. a transactional one
  • develop leadership skills
  • lead strategically instead of tactically
  • make tough decisions
  • have difficult conversations and deliver challenging news and feedback
  • develop executive presence
  • navigate difficult situations and people,
  • optimize succession planning
  • motivate people and teams
  • transform individuals on a team into a high-functioning, high-performance team
  • obtain the business results you are charged with, in a rapidly changing environment
  • want to get promoted or leading a new business group
  • lead through crisis and stress
  • work across your global network, to drive results in diversity and inclusion
  • understand the company culture and what needs to change to reach organizational goals
  • work on challenging feedback and blind spots that are limiting your growth
  • improve emotional intelligence and relationship skills

Whatever your goals are, an executive coach can help you achieve them by providing you with the professional guidance and support you need to succeed throughout your executive coaching engagement.

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How does an Executive Coach work with clients?

An executive coach works with leaders to help them achieve their goals and improve their performance. They will find help you find time in your busy schedule for your personal growth and professional goals. They provide valuable feedback, advice, and opinions to help leaders develop their skills and overcome challenges. While a coach may share advice, they often don’t tell you what to do.

They’ll share resources and tools, but accompany those with powerful questions designed to help you draw your own conclusions and access your own base of knowledge and experience.

Together, you will create a development plan that is targeted that will help you achieve the goals you have for yourself, your people and your business.

Executive coaches are often experts in their field and have a deep understanding of the core competencies required for leadership. Many clients find it helpful to have conversations with several coaches to find the right executive coach for them. Executive coaches come from diverse backgrounds and experiences so it’s important to find one you connect with.

Role of an Executive Coach

The role of an executive coach is to help leaders focus on both their personal and professional growth. They work with leaders  to identify areas for improvement, set goals, and develop strategies to achieve those goals. The coach is a trusted business partner, helping you understand what’s going on below the surface as you lead yourself and others. At times, they will speak candidly into what behavior and patterns in you and your environment.

They bring both candor and empathy.

The coaching process will offer valuable feedback and advice to help leaders and teams improve their communication skills, decision-making abilities, and emotional intelligence.

Types of Executive Coaching

Executive coaching helps in many areas:

  • Performance Coaching: This type of coaching focuses on improving performance and achieving specific goals.
  • Business coaching: Business coaches help you optimize how you run your business, identifying tools and resources that can help your entire organization meet their biggest challenges.
  • Leadership Coaching: Leadership coaching focuses on developing leadership skills, such as communication, motivation, and team building. This can be important to help improve relationships with direct reports.
  • Career Coaching: A career coach can help leaders with a role/career transition, promotion or with job search. Career coaches can help you understand yourself, your goals, what drives and motivates you as well as your skills and experiences and how you might use them in your next role. They also can help you navigate your resume, LinkedIn, interviewing, networking, offer negotiation and more.
  • Life Coaching: Life coaching focuses more on your personal life, personal development, work-life balance and overall well being. However, since we can’t separate our selves at work from our selves outside of work, life and leadership coaching sometimes happen in the same coaching engagement.

Both internal and external coaches can be found offering different levels of support. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the authoritative body for professional coaching and provides guidelines for professional coaching standards.

Executive coaching is a valuable tool for leaders who want to improve their skills and achieve their goals. With the help of an experienced coach, leaders can overcome blind spots, develop empathy and compassion, improve communication skills, and achieve personal and professional growth.

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Benefits of working with Executive Coaches

As an executive, you are always looking for ways to improve your performance and increase your self-awareness. Executive coaching can help you achieve these goals.

Here are some of the many benefits of executive coaching:

Increased Self-Awareness

An important benefit of executive coaching is increased self-awareness. A survey of 75 members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council rated self-awareness as the most important capability for leaders to develop. Coaching provides space for self-reflection to help you gain clarity on what matters most, where you want to go and how you want to grow.

An executive coach can help you identify your blind spots and gain a better understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. This can help you become more self-aware and make better decisions.

Transformation happens from the inside out as we first understand ourselves and then understand how we are impacting others. Through coaching, you can also learn to develop your emotional intelligence, empathy, and compassion, which can help you build stronger relationships with your team members. Many clients also report coaching has helped them gain a different perspective on their situation, as well as giving them necessary skills for their challenges.

Better Communication Skills

Effective communication is essential for any leader. You need to be clear in what you say and write, especially as you are working with other senior leaders. Executive coaching can help you improve your communication skills, including your ability to listen, ask questions, and provide feedback.

This will help you build stronger relationships with your team members and achieve better results for your organization.

Enhanced Leadership Skills

Finally, executive coaching can help you develop your leadership skills. Our behaviors need to grow and evolve as we move up through an organization. Marshall Goldsmith, a leading executive coach wrote a book title “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” There’s truth in that statement.

To continually build on your success, you need to understand how to leverage your strengths and then how to enhance your leadership skills, to lead both yourself and others. The executive coaching process can provide valuable benefits for both you and your organization. Whether you are looking to improve your performance, increase your self-awareness, develop your communication skills, or enhance your leadership skills, an experienced coach can help you achieve your goals and reach your full potential.

Choosing an Executive Coach

If you’re looking for an executive coach, it’s important to choose one who is qualified, experienced and has a coaching approach that can fit will with your personality and leadership style. Our checklist of 22 questions to ask an executive coach can help you select the coach best suited to your needs.

In addition, here are some factors to consider when choosing an executive coach:

Compatibility and Trust

You’re going to be working closely with your coach. It’s important to choose an executive coach who you feel comfortable working with and who you trust to provide valuable feedback and advice. Look for a coach who is authoritative, empathetic, and compassionate, and who has excellent communication skills.

Additionally, consider the coach’s approach to coaching. Some coaches use a directive approach, while others use a more collaborative approach.

Experience and Expertise

Choose an executive coach who has coaching experience with leaders in your industry or field. Look for a coach who has a track record of success and can provide references or testimonials from satisfied clients. Additionally, consider the coach’s areas of expertise. Some coaches specialize in leadership development, while others focus on crisis management or organizational change.

Many executive coaches have experience interviewing key stakeholders to help you get feedback on your strengths and blindspots.

Credentials and Certifications

Look for an executive coach who has the proper coaching certifications and credentials. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the most recognized and respected accreditation body for professional coaches. An ICF certification ensures that the coach has completed rigorous training and has demonstrated a high level of proficiency and ethics in coaching skills. When choosing an executive coach, it’s important to take your time and do your research.

Look for a coach who has the knowledge, skills, and experience to help you create goals and partner with you to achieve them. With the right coach, you can develop the skills and confidence you need to succeed as a leader.

Let’s Talk

If you want to develop further, and faster, consider hiring a coach to help you and other top leaders on your executive team grow your business and develop your organization. Bridgeline coaches will bring professional experience and coaching expertise to your toughest challenges.

Originally authored by Wende Gaikema, MBA, PCC.

<a href="" target="_self">Wende Gaikema</a>

Wende Gaikema

Specialties - Emotional Intelligence, Executive Presence, Self-Confidence, Personal Branding, Relationship Management

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