what is an executive coach

What Is an Executive Coach and What Do They Do?

Executive coaching has become a trending topic of conversation among leaders, managers, and executives. Despite the growing conversation, five key questions continue to arise about executive coaching.

What Is an Executive Coach?

An executive coach is a professional whose primary role is to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and other measurable outcomes in corporations, organizations, and foundations. They typically work with management-level clients in confidential partnerships.

Executive coaches use coaching methodologies and techniques to help their clients “maximize their personal and professional potential,” per the International Coaching Federation, in a “thought-provoking and creative process.”

Executive coaches can use different titles, like Corporate Coach, Leadership Coach, Management Coach, Team Efficiency Coach, or Corporate Productivity Coach.

What Does an Executive Coach Do?

Corporate and organizational leaders seek executive coaches to support them in many key areas, including:

  • Effective communication
  • Efficient problem solving
  • Improving productivity
  • Eliminating procrastination
  • Leading with confidence

An effective executive coach will challenge their client with strategic questions that will stretch their client’s thinking and perspective. This process is designed to ignite fresh ideas, solutions, and insight to drive improvement in areas that the client seeks to explore.

The executive coach’s role is not to direct the action or tell their client what actions to take, as a consultant, teacher, or mentor may do. A good executive coach will keep their client’s goals in focus for their coaching sessions and leverage intentional questioning to identify their client’s strengths and empower them to maximize those strengths for increased momentum to achieve their goals.

Former Chairman of the ICF Global Board, Jean-Francois Cousin, shared in Forbes, “Executive coaches are sometimes leaders’ only unbiased and ethical partners. They create a safe space for them to be authentic, vulnerable, and wildly creative. And then, coaches dare to challenge leaders with candor and courage rooted in the utmost care for the well-being and holistic success of those leaders they are privileged to serve.”

This “unbiased partnership” supports the executive client directly and the client’s team and organization indirectly.

The Executive Coaching Process

1. The Coaching Contact

The coaching process will always begin by defining the goals of the coaching partnership, and a coaching contract will be discussed and agreed upon.

The coaching contract may include:

  • Length of the coaching partnership
  • Privacy terms about the information shared in sessions
  • Compensation structure
  • Session cancellation policy

Establishing the coaching contract will generally take place before the initial coaching session.

2. The Coaching Sessions

The coaching will most often take place in private 1:1 sessions that usually last between 20 minutes and 60 minutes. They can take place in person or virtually via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, or other video conferencing platforms. Sessions can also take place over the phone.

The executive coaching session will most often include the following:

  • Questions to gather pertinent information related to the goal 
  • Coaching techniques to offer new perspectives and new insights 
  • Intentional action plans designed by the client with the new information or perspective

Ultimately, the executive coach and client relationship is a partnership built to support the client and their aspirations in their organization. This partnership is unique for the reasons mentioned and can be instrumental to the executive client, their team, and the organization they serve.

Want to become an executive coach? Discover the iNLP Center’s Executive Coach Certification. You’ll get the skills you need to transform leaders and organizations from the inside out. The training is 100% online, self-paced, and accredited.

Jean O'Toole
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