What is Executive Coaching?

August 04, 2022 by Amanda Reill

What is Executive Coaching?

Executive coaching operates like a key that grants access to previously locked doors. Behind those doors might be assumptions, biases, and clashes of personality or motivation styles between team members, as well as blind spots that get in the way of success for both individuals and organizations. An executive coach’s job is to jump into the client’s passenger seat, and help them discover what those things might be and develop strategies to overcome them on their coaching journey.

Who hires executive coaches?

There are two basic categories of people that hire executive coaches: individuals seeking coaching to advance in their careers/improve their leadership skills, and organizations who are seeking coaching for their teams to do much the same, but collaboratively.

What is Executive Coaching?

Reasons individuals hire executive coaches:

Reasons organizations hire executive coaches:

  • Professional development
  • Development of leadership skills and communication
  • Change management
  • Navigating challenging seasons in business
  • As an added benefit to employees

What is executive coaching?

Executive coaching is an agent of growth and change in the life of an individual business leader, or team of leaders. Coaches may come from within the organization or could be hired externally. Internal coaches come with more extensive knowledge of the organization, while external coaches can help minimize blind spots and bias that can occur in previously established relationships. 

At the beginning of a coaching relationship, a coach will work with the individual or team to identify their goals. After the desired end result is clarified, the coach will put together exercises, tools, and powerful questions to help the client assess the root of the issues they may be facing. With this knowledge, skilled executive coaches help individuals and teams develop pathways to improve and enhance their productivity and capabilities so that they can meet their established goals. 

Executive coaching vs consulting

Executive coaching differs from consulting in that it stands on the premise that the answers lie within the client. Consultants typically have expertise in a particular area and are called in to extend their counsel to the team or individual. Coaches assist individuals and teams in solving their own problems based on their own latent capabilities. 

A case study

Bailey, a Chief of People, was tasked by her CEO to hire an executive coach to improve the leadership skills and teamwork amongst the executive team. She hired an external coach, Richard, who met with Bailey to assess the needs of their organization. 

Bailey shared that some employees were having trouble communicating with the company’s Chief Technology Officer, Steve. He was a genius when it came to the tech side of things, but working with people was not a natural strength. After meeting with Steve and sharing the idea of executive coaching with him, he was receptive and desired to improve his skills in this area. 

Additionally, the other executives on the team tended to work in silos and make important decisions without consulting the affected parties. Though each person was fully equipped for their role and all provided value to the team, they just weren’t communicating effectively.

Richard listened to Bailey articulate her concerns about Steve’s communication skills and the other executives’ siloed approach to decision-making. With this information, he helped her identify key goals for the growth and development of her team. First, he would meet one-on-one weekly with Steve to help Steve discover what might be getting in his way of effective communication.

Second, Richard set some time with the entire executive team to determine the source of the silos.

After eight weeks of working together, Steve and the rest of the team had uncovered insights about themselves that they didn’t know existed. Through Richard’s powerful questions and exercises, the team discovered how each of their personalities and core motivations both clashed and complemented one another. Together, they made a game plan for moving forward in a more collaborative and constructive way. 

Steve excavated long-held assumptions that were contributing to his lack of care for his team. Once he began to ask his team what they needed (support and communication), rather than assuming that “no news is good news,” his team began to see him as a three-dimensional human being who truly cared for them. He always cared for them, but now he realized how he could begin to show it in a way that builds team morale.

Executive coaching in the future

The executive coaching industry has almost tripled in the last decade. Business sites like Forbes and Fast Company are constantly publishing articles about the need for greater empathy and self-awareness in our business environments, and executive coaches are in a prime position to help companies reach those goals. The future for our workplaces is bright with executive coaches leading us forward.

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