What is executive coaching?

Everywhere you look these days it seems someone is talking about coaching.  If you do a quick google search on “what is executive coaching”, you get 146M results in under a second!  And yet, when I talk with people about executive coaching, there doesn’t seem to be a clear understanding or common definition of what is meant by the term.  So, what does executive coaching mean?

Well, the easiest place to start is to clear up what it’s not!  It’s not training or going to a class.  It’s not therapy or focused on past emotional trauma.  It’s not consulting, mentoring or advising where you are paying for an expert opinion. And, it’s not even like the coach you had in youth sports where you were told how to perfect your athletic techniques.  While all of those services have value, finding the right circumstances in which to use them is important.  Executive coaching is something different.

HR4D’s exec coaching process

Think of executive coaching as personalized leadership development – custom fit to you, what you want to develop and an effective way to accelerate your growth.  Good executive coaches know you are the expert in your life.  They help you uncover your unique approach to decision making, interpersonal relationships, problem solving and more.  Here are some things you should expect from your executive coach throughout the time you are working together:

  • Help you define your goals and get clear on what you want to achieve
  • Listen actively and closely to hear what you are saying and not saying
  • Ask you powerful questions that really make you pause and think
  • Use exercises and tools to help you think differently, reflect and reframe
  • Hold up a mirror and show you the good, the bad and the ugly
  • Help you gain new awareness that leads to actions and growth
  • Always work in service of you and your success

There are two more attributes about executive coaching that are very important.  First, coaching is confidential and having it any other way should be non-negotiable.  Everything you and your coach talk about in your sessions is confidential and should be shared with no one else.  Even if the coach was hired for you, by your company, this holds true!  Having a confidant like a coach provides you a safe place to talk about things you may otherwise avoid or don’t feel comfortable talking about with anyone else in the company – certainly not your employees, likely not your peers and realistically, not your manager who you may not feel comfortable talking to because s/he determines your performance review and compensation.

Second, the coaching is best when it is holistic and goes beyond just your current job.  While we can all talk about keeping work and home separate, the reality is that our home life and work life live inside us at the same time. It is impossible to have a nice, clean separation between the two.  Oftentimes, issues in one can spill over into the other.  Coaching is most effective when it encompasses your entire life.

Working with an executive coach can be very effective.  But, be sure you are hiring someone who meets your definition of executive coaching!

HR4D’s mission is to ensure our client organizations fulfill their visions, by adopting their goals as ours, creating solutions that are right for them, and making the people who hire us professionally successful.  Contact us to learn more!

Jennifer is a seasoned leader and executive coach with more than 20 years experience including as a Chief Human Resources Officer overseeing the HR and Communications functions. She is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation.