Executive coaching may be regarded differently by different people. While there may still be some people for whom the concept of “coaching” may carry connotations of remediation, for the most part, this outdated idea has fallen by the wayside. Executive coaching is assisting top executives, managers, and other identified leaders to perform, learn, stay healthy and balanced, and effectively guide their teams to successfully reach desired goals and exceed individual and corporate expectations. Enabling leaders to unlock and unleash their full-potential so they bring greater value and abundance to the people and entities they serve.
When today’s executive decides on executive coaching for themselves or perhaps it is recommended by the Board of Directors (in the case of a CEO), the connotations are almost always positive. It says on behalf of the organisation, “We believe in you and your ability to do great things. We’re willing to invest in executive coaching so you can fulfil your potential and we can all enjoy the benefits.”
Excellent coaching doesn’t come cheap, and no organisation is going to make the investment in a top executive coach for a person they don’t believe in, or hope to be rid of in a year or two. Basically, if your company wants you to have an executive coach, you can take it as a vote of confidence that they think you’re capable of great things, and they hope to keep you around for the long term.
Bringing in a coach represents a certain kind of risk to an organisation. An executive coach is expected to be unbiased, and free of favouritism, and this level of honesty can sometimes create sensitivities among the executive team. But most businesses recognise that investing in their leaders produces a positive, lasting return on investment. Here is what you can expect from executive coaching, whether you’re the executive, or you represent the business interested in investing in executive coaching.
Coaching Needs for Executives at Different Life Stages
It only makes sense that the thirty-ish executive who has zoomed up the career ladder has different coaching needs than the 50-year-old who has been in the industry since college. Often, but not always, the younger leader needs more nurturing and more directness, while the older leader is often more aware of deficiencies that need to be addressed.
A study I completed for my MAPPAP Degree of 56 executive coaching relationships covering the period of 2016 through 2018 examined executive scores on personality and emotional intelligence tests, interviews with their superiors, and case notes. The average length of the coaching engagement was six to 12 months, and there were slightly more male coaching clients than female.
The study found that regardless of gender, younger executives (in their thirties) had lower levels of self-reflection than older ones, and the changes they underwent were less dramatic than the changes of older executives. Younger executives responded to specific guidelines and concrete recommendations, but they were less likely to wonder why those guidelines and recommendations were necessary.
Interestingly, the study found that executive behaviour during executive coaching differed by age rather than generation, which is consistent with previous research describing the ongoing maturation that goes on throughout adulthood. I identified three factors that I believe account for differences among younger and older recipients of executive coaching:
Younger executives often have a self-perception of being a “winner,” and are likelier to think of coaching as a perk of being at the top.
Younger executives had more difficulty recognising nuances of human behaviour and were more likely to use “black-and-white” thinking, like “There is a single ‘best’ idea that should prevail.”
Younger executives were likelier to believe that there is one right way to do things, while older executives were more willing to try different approaches.
Who Uses Executive Coaching?
Clearly, many organisations use executive coaching, with most of the biggest enterprises now using coaches. Who is it for? Executives who want to:
Strike a better work-life balance
Open up new career opportunities
Become a more effective leader
Making coaching work requires that organisations and the people running them prioritise coaching. Executive coaching should never be treated as an afterthought or an “extra,” but as an essential part of developing maximum leadership potential. At the same time, it’s important that companies not overuse coaching or think that coaching is capable of solving deeply entrenched organisational (or personal) problems. Coaching can be remarkably powerful, but it can’t do the impossible.
What Are the Benefits of Executive Coaching?
While specific outcomes of executive coaching depend on the goals that the coach and client set at the beginning of their work together, many more overarching benefits have been reported by clients and companies that have used executive coaching. Among the benefits of executive coaching are:
Greater empathy and emotional intelligence
Flexible thinking replacing rigid thinking
Higher levels of motivation
More effective leadership
In addition, many coaching clients indicate that they come away from their coaching engagement with better social skills, a growing professional network, a better reputation online, and a better non-work life as well. The specific improvements that a coaching client should expect as a result of coaching will have to do with their goals. In addition to helping the client develop those goals, the effective executive coach will devise ways in which progress toward goals can be measured.
For example, if an executive has difficulty delegating tasks, the coach may interview several people who report to the executive to define the scope of the problem, help the client define what “better delegation” means and how it can be measured, and then follow up at the end of the coaching engagement to measure progress toward that goal. The following diagram illustrates the benefits that both coaching clients and their organisations can expect from executive coaching.
My Philosophy and Strategies for Executive Coaching
The most successful executives aren’t investing in executive coaching when they ask for my services – they’re investing in results.
Over my decades of experience as an executive coach, I developed the Emotional Intelligence Executive Coaching model. With my clients, I create a six to 12-month immersive leadership coaching journey that leads to business results and personal growth. I want my clients to unleash their full potential, so they can be the best possible leaders they can be.
Not only do I use my Executive Coaching model to strengthen clients’ inner-core and outer-core characteristics, I also certify other executive coaches from around the world in this process. As a result, my clients are able to realise four game-changing outcomes that serve them well in business and in their lives in general:
These four qualities are the seeds that lead to sustained greatness and a positive, lasting legacy as a leader. The process begins with a meeting between the coaching client and the sponsoring executive team to discuss the goals of the coaching relationship and gain context and background information. I also discuss the proposed road map of how we will get there, and what type of schedule to expect.
At this point, I spend the rest of the day with the executive client so we can get to know each other as professionals and human beings. The purpose of this time is to build a foundation of trust and rapport. Using my general observations, a structured, in-depth interview, and objective assessment tools, I assess the client’s inner- and outer-core capabilities. With most clients, I also schedule in a day of shadowing, where I observe them at work, on calls, and in meetings.
The next step in the coaching relationship is helping the client create their own Core Purpose Statement that they envision themselves living by. This statement captures the essence of the person and the leader the client wants to become, which qualities they must develop in order to do so, what they want to accomplish, and the contributions they want to make. These statements must be defined with utmost clarity, because they affect every other phase of the coaching relationship.
Ongoing performance coaching, support, and guidance from me, along with frequent interaction with stakeholders and constituents helps the client measure the progress they are making toward the goals of their leadership development plan.