What Is Executive Coaching?

What Is Executive Coaching?

As an executive or a senior manager, you may have a chance to hire an executive coach at some point in your career. Whether your company has offered you a chance to work with an executive coach, or you are seeking out one on your own, you likely have some questions about executive coaching. Here are a few key things to know about the process.

What Executive Coaching Is

Executive coaching is focused on improving behaviour and performance in the workplace. More specifically, executive coaching is designed to help executives and senior managers (often high potential employees as well). It is a form of tailored learning for business professionals.

An executive coach is a qualified professional that works with clients to help them unlock their potential, clarify goals, achieve development objectives, and gain self-awareness.

It’s important to note that an executive coach is not a therapist or a consultant (although many executive coaches have a background in therapy or consulting). Generally, an executive coach refrains from solving their client’s problem or giving them business or financial advice.

What Executive Coaches Do

An executive coach provides a supportive sounding board for their client. They help their client achieve clarity, they ask them questions, provide them resources, and challenge their assumptions.

An executive coach does all of this to help their client solve their own problems—on their own. In some cases, an executive coach may provide advice, but only with the client’s permission. To help a client establish development goals and gain self-awareness, an executive coach conducts confidential interviews and often administers and helps interpret behavioural and 360° evaluations.

What It Takes to Become an Executive Coach

Many ex-HR practitioners, retired executives, therapists, or consultants go into executive coaching.

But, coaching is an unregulated industry in most countries, so anyone can call themselves an executive coach. 

Because of this, we have made sure that all of our coaches meet specific criteria. For someone to become an Upskill Coach, they need to have a coaching diploma or certification that’s certified by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, the International Coaching Certification, or Association for Coaching.

Moreover, they need to have a minimum of 300 completed coaching hours and 6 years of leadership experience working with businesses, professionals, and public sector organisations.

Who Hires Executive Coaches

Not so long ago, corporations hired executive coaches to help them “fix” executives that have been failing at their job. Today, most companies see executive coaching as an investment in their high potentials and top executives.

There is no longer a stigma to having an executive coach. In fact, in many places, having an executive has become a badge of honour.

While it is more common for the human resource department of a company to recommend an executive coach to an executive employee, business owners or CEOs can hire their own coaches.

A coach can greatly help executives that are getting groomed for larger roles or newly promoted executives that are facing some challenges (usually involving employee relationships). Executive coaches also get hired to help leaders resolve interpersonal conflicts and correct behavioural problems.

When To Hire an Executive Coach

Even if your company hasn’t offered to get you an executive coach, here are a few reasons why you still might want to hire one yourself:

You are already good, but you know that it takes a bit extra to become great.

You should hire an executive coach that’ll encourage you to achieve your maximum potential in the same way that athletes seek out top coaches in their field. Your executive coach will make demands of you that will continuously stretch your abilities and your performance.

Moreover, they will motivate, challenge, and push you to achieve those demands. A good executive coach will always hold you accountable for the goals you have agreed to achieve.

You would like some support while you are moving into a new, more senior role.

As you lack in-depth knowledge of what it takes to succeed within your new role, you may be particularly vulnerable in the first few months. An executive coach can help you hit the ground running.

You want to see yourself more clearly.

Accurate self-awareness in leaders is highly correlated with profitability and organisational effectiveness. Yet, most of us don’t know how to properly cultivate self-awareness, even though it seems very simple.

People prefer to work under business executives who see themselves clearly and don’t have a problem with sharing some of their perceptions. If you start working with an executive coach, they will share their perceptions of you, based on your interactions with others.

But, more importantly, they will teach you skills to see yourself more clearly. They will show you how to healthily question your assumptions about yourself.

You want to see others more clearly.

A leader may be keeping poor performers too long because they think they are better than they actually are, losing good employers because they do not recognise and support their capabilities. A good coach will also teach you how to assess others more accurately.

What got you here won’t necessarily get you further in your career.

The capabilities you have are undoubtedly part of the reason why you have gotten that promotion. But the skills that served you well as a mid-level employee won’t necessarily help you as a more senior leader.

You may need to shift your mindset and add new skills to your “leadership toolkit,” such as the ability to inspire and direct others.

What Else Can an Executive Coach Help You Achieve?

  • Driving a team to deliver
  • Time management
  • Stakeholder management
  • Gravitas and executive presence
  • Influencing or communication skills
  • Any areas of core leadership competencies you want to improve

When Not to Hire an Executive Coach

As hinted, some companies hire executive coaches for the wrong reasons. A company or an executive shouldn’t hire a coach if:

  • Executing coaching is a last-ditch attempt to “fix” a failing executive employee.
  • They are looking for consulting or business advice, or, in other words, someone to solve their problem for them.
  • The executive doesn’t believe they need to change and they are not interested in feedback.
  • The executive’s manager is the one who should be working with the executive employee (hiring an executive coach is not a way to outsource challenges).