Executive coaching has become a popular trend over the last few decades. It is now fairly common to see executives—particularly those who are new to their position—engaged in self-development work with experienced and savvy professional coaches.
The goal of these coaching relationships is to help the leader gain self-awareness and learn to set and strive towards their own career and development goals.
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Who Needs Executive Coaching?
Any leader, employee, or individual contributor can benefit from executive coaching, but it is generally offered to people in a leadership position in an organization. People like senior managers, directors, presidents and vice presidents, and C-suite members are most likely to engage in executive coaching.
Executive coaching can be especially helpful for people who are new to such leadership positions, aiding them in finding their way professionally and growing into the kind of leader they want to be.
The Stanford Graduate School of Business notes that executive coaching is often secured for:
- High potentials who need additional support to reach the next level.
- Managers who are valuable to the company but have key performance issues to address.
- Executives who have been recently hired or promoted and need to make an immediate impact.
How Does It Work Exactly?
With executive coaching, the goal is to provide a safe, structured environment in which the coach works to help the executive improve their self-awareness, clarify their goals, and facilitate learning and growth.
Executive coaching is, first and foremost, a relationship between the coach and the executive. Like the client-therapist relationship that drives growth in therapy, it is through this partnership that personal and professional development happens.
The goal is to provide a safe and structured environment where the coach works to help the executive improve their self-awareness, clarify their goals, and facilitate learning and growth. This is done through several activities and techniques, including:
- Gathering and giving feedback
- Identifying development opportunities
- Building awareness
- Facilitating solutions by asking powerful questions
- Setting goals and creating action plans
- Facilitating learning
- Supporting and encouraging over the long term
- Monitoring progress and holding others accountable, which is where performance insights and online coaching platforms come in handy
Executive Coaching vs. Business Coaching
Although there is some overlap between executive coaching and business coaching in terms of techniques used and the outcomes desired, the big difference is the focus.
In executive coaching, the focus is on the individual (the executive).
In business coaching, the focus is on the business (the organization as a whole).
Business coaches are often brought in to work with the CEO or owner of the company, and the goal is to spark positive change in the entire organization.
Executive coaches are those who work with an individual for the benefit of the individual. Of course, any self-improvement in a leader is bound to impact the entire organization positively, but this is a happy side effect of executive coaching rather than a stated goal.
14 Benefits of Executive Coaching
According to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the benefits of executive coaching include:
- Enhancing performance and increased productivity
- Improving morale
- Reducing turnover
- Attracting talent
- Increasing self-esteem and confidence
- Leveraging of talents
- Building new skill sets
- Increasing the likelihood that goals will be reached
A good executive coach can help you get a better sense of yourself and aid you in identifying and achieving your goals.
Aside from these more business-relevant benefits, many benefits feel more personal. Erika Andersen from Forbes identified 6 common positive outcomes that executives can expect from their coaching relationship. They will:
- See themselves more clearly (better self-awareness)
- See others more clearly (better awareness and understanding of others)
- Learn new ways to respond (new tools and techniques)
- Leverage their existing strengths (use your strengths in new ways)
- Build more productive relationships (work better with your superiors, subordinates, and teams)
- Achieve what they want (meet your goals and realize your dreams)
There are tons of benefits to a successful executive coaching relationship. Still, to boil it down to a single sentence, a good executive coach can help you get a better sense of yourself and help you identify and achieve your goals.
3 Examples of Executive Coaching Goals
So we know that executive coaching can help people reach their professional goals, and that they do it through a respectful partnership and effective communication.
But what do these goals look like? What are the goals that a person might set and work towards in executive coaching?
It depends on the person, of course, but there are some types of goals that you will often see in an executive coaching arrangement. These are some of the most common domains for coaching goals:
- Conflict management
- Business budgeting
- Building confidence
For example, if an executive is having trouble dealing with one of the employees that work for her, she might set a conflict management goal. The coach may help her identify and define it as something like, “More effectively manage my working relationship with X.”
For a self-reflection goal, a coach and executive may come up with a goal like, “Take the X Assessment and identify my strengths and weaknesses in this framework.”
If a client wants to work on their delegation, they might set a goal like, “Delegate 15% of my current responsibilities to my team.”
These goals are just examples. The goals an executive and their coach will work towards are highly personalized and come about through lots of discussion and deliberation in the coaching partnership.
Helpful Techniques and Skills for Your Sessions
If you’re interested in providing such services or running your own executive coaching business, there are a few key skills and techniques that it’s important to familiarize yourself with.
While there are tons of useful techniques for this kind of coaching, it’s important to master the basics first. The basics include:
- Assessment of the client (getting to know the client, their strengths/weaknesses, etc.)
- Goal clarification (helping the client identify and clarify their goals)
- Action/goal tracking (tracking the client’s progress towards their goals)
- Effective communication (including active listening)
These are four vital components of any coaching relationship. You need to understand the client and figure out where they want to get, aid them in clarifying and setting their own goals, help them move towards their goal and track their progress, and be able to communicate with them throughout the whole process effectively.
Tools for Executive Coaching
To expand on these fundamental aspects and give a few more detailed examples of the kinds of techniques that executive coaches can put to good use in their practice, here are 14 effective tools for any coaching engagement:
- The 5-minute pre-session check-in
- The SMART goal-setting technique
- Noting the “gold nuggets” after each session (e.g., the “most valuable takeaway”)
- Asking open-ended questions
- Writing down goals and action plans (preferably physically writing them out)
- Be fully present and focused on the session (i.e., be mindful)
- Follow up with the client and use ongoing feedback
- Coaching journal (have the client write in the journal between sessions and address it during sessions)
- “Homework assignments” to boost accountability
- The “GROW” model for goal setting and problem-solving (Goal, Reality, Obstacles, and Options, Way Forward)
- A shared to-do list to use together
- The “my goal is achieved” technique (asking a client to describe their perfect day once their goal is achieved)
- Treat every session as a chance to improve your own coaching skills
- Powerful coaching software
The professionals at Forbes’ Coaching Council have a few more recommendations of techniques that executive coaches can use with their clients. These recommendations include:
- The “3Cs Method” (offering each client the chance to Communicate with others, Collaborate together on a project, and Create something new)
- Creating a prioritization strategy (reframing projects and goals based on what matters most to the client (motivation) vs. what matters most to others (pressure/stress))
- Focusing on core values as an anchor (identifying and working from the client’s core values)
4 Best Executive Coaching Apps
There are tons of coaching apps and tools out there that you can leverage to boost your effectiveness as an executive coach. They weren’t designed for executive coaches specifically, but you can still find ways to put them to use in your coaching practice.
These are 4 of the best executive coaching apps for seasoned professionals and new practitioners.
|Name||The MasterCoach App|
|Price||Available on request|
|Good For||Business Coaching, Executive Coaching, Goal Setting, Progress Monitoring|
|Good For||Business Coaching, Executive Coaching, Goal Setting, Progress Monitoring, Reporting, Client Engagement, E-Therapy|
|Good For||Executive Coaching, Business Coaching, Fitness Coaching, Marketing|
|Good For||Executive Coaching, Business Coaching, Fitness Coaching, Marketing|
Executive Coaching Tools and Forms
You will likely want to come up with your own unique, personalized tools for your coaching engagements, but there are some resources available to help you get ideas or to provide templates for your own content.
The table below offers a look at a few of these tools.
|Tool||Type||Why It’s Awesome|
|Pre-Coaching Questionnaire||Assessment||You can use this tool (or create one like it) to get to know a client and understand their goals, strengths, and issues before you get started.|
|SMART Goal Planning Form||Worksheet||This worksheet aids your client set SMART goals (goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound).|
|Clifton Strengths||Assessment||Your client can take the Clifton Strengths (formerly known as StrengthsFinder) to identify their top strengths.|
|Job Performance Wheel||Assessment||Your client can use this assessment to rate themselves on several different aspects of job performance.|
|Business Coaching Toolkit||Toolkit||This PDF contains 30 coaching tools and exercises geared towards business coaching; not all will apply to executive coaching, but some of them will be helpful.|
Executive coaching is a big business, and one that can do a lot of good. Trickle-down economics may be unproven, but trickle-down improvement is not; when executives make positive changes to themselves and their work environment, the benefits will seep down into the ranks and spread throughout the organization.
Hopefully, you can use the tools and techniques in this piece to make your coaching process even more effective and efficient.
We hope you enjoyed this article. To put what you’ve learned into practice, take your coaching practice online by test-driving our executive coaching app.
Quenza is designed by coaches for coaches and contains everything you need to set goals, build activities, and structure your client’s coaching journeys from start to result so that you can motivate and engage patients for maximum goal achievement.
- ^ Stanford Graduate School of Business. (n.d.). Executive coaching. Retrieved from https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/alumni/volunteering/act/service-areas/executive-coaching#:~:text=Executive%20Coaching%20is%20an%20inquiry,%2C%20attitudes%2C%20skills%20and%20behaviors
- ^ Association for Talent Development. (n.d.). What is executive coaching? Retrieved from https://www.td.org/talent-development-glossary-terms/what-is-executive-coaching
- ^ Barr, K. (2018). Business coach vs. executive coach: Is there a difference? Retrieved from http://www.krissibarr.com/business-coach-vs-executive-coach-is-there-a-difference/
- ^ Andersen, E. (2017). 6 ways an executive coach can make you more successful. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2017/11/20/6-ways-having-an-executive-coach-can-make-you-more-successful/?sh=714f25cc63d5
- ^ Liska, C. (2014). Common coaching goals and techniques to achieve them. Association for Talent Development. Retrieved from https://www.td.org/insights/common-coaching-goals-and-techniques-to-achieve-them
- ^ Schuy, M. (2019). 14 effective coaching techniques and tools every coach should know. Clever Memo. Retrieved from https://clevermemo.com/blog/en/effective-coaching-techniques/
- ^ Forbes Coaches Council. (2017). 12 innovative tools and techniques every coach can benefit from. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/05/11/12-innovative-tools-and-techniques-every-coach-should-use/?sh=2d252f9a7a42