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What is Executive Coaching?

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If you are a senior leader, a high-potential employee, or an aspiring professional, you may have heard of executive coaching. It can be a way to enhance your performance, leadership, and career. You may have been offered executive coaching by your company and aren’t sure what it involves. So what is executive coaching, and how can it help you?

Executive coaching is a personalized and collaborative process that helps individuals achieve their personal and professional goals. Executive coaching can benefit anyone who wants to grow, learn, and improve. It can be especially valuable for those who face unique challenges and opportunities in their careers.

This article explains what executive coaching is, how it works, and what benefits it can bring to you and your organization.

What is Executive Coaching?

The International Coach Federation (ICF) define coaching as:

“partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) define coaching as follows:

“Coaching aims to produce optimal performance and improvement at work. It focuses on specific skills and goals, and may also have an impact on an individual’s personal attributes such as social interaction or confidence. The process typically lasts for a defined period of time or forms the basis of an on-going management style.

Although there’s a variety of definitions, there are some generally agreed principles of coaching in organisations:

  • It’s essentially a non-directive form of development focusing on improving performance and developing an individual.
  • Personal factors may be included but the emphasis is on performance at work.
  • Coaching activities have both organisational and individual goals, for individuals to assess their strengths and development areas.
  • It’s a skilled activity, which should be delivered by those trained in coaching skills.”

Executive coaching is a specialized form of coaching. It focuses on helping executives, high-level managers, and high-potential employees to increase their performance, leadership, and impact in their organizations.

Executive coaching is however distinctly different from other forms of professional development, such as mentoring, consulting, or training. Being a client-driven process the coach does not give advice, tell the client what to do, or impose their own agenda. Instead, the coach helps the client to discover their own solutions, insights, and actions. These being based on the coachees goals, strengths, and challenges.

Executive coaching is also a confidential and supportive process. The coach creates a safe and trusting space for the client to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It’s also an environment to receive feedback, challenge, guidance, and encouragement.

How Does Executive Coaching Work?

Executive coaching typically involves a series of one-on-one sessions between the coach and the client. The sessions can be in person, by phone, or online. The duration and frequency of the sessions may vary depending on the client’s needs and preferences. Usually they range from 30 minutes to 2 hours, and from once a week to once a month.

The executive coaching process can follow a number of different approaches depending on the ethos of the coach. One frequently used backbone process for coaching is the GROW model, which stands for Goal, Reality, Options, and Will. In each session, the coach and the client work together to:


Define and clarify the client’s goal. This could be a short-term or a long-term goal. It could be personal or professional. It could relate to dealing with senior stakeholders, promotion, taking on a new role, leaving a company and so on.


Assess the client’s current reality, including their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, achievements, challenges, and interferences.


Explore the client’s possible options, strategies, and actions to achieve their goal. Evaluate the respective pros and cons, feasibility, and desirability.


Commitment to the chosen option. And, plan the steps, resources, and support needed to implement it the chosen approach. Consider the measures, indicators, and feedback to monitor and evaluate progress.

The coach’s role in this process is to ask powerful questions, listen actively, reflect back, challenge assumptions, offer perspectives, provide tools and resources, and hold the client accountable.

What are the benefits of executive coaching?

Executive coaching can help individuals to achieve their personal and professional goals. It can create positive and lasting changes in performance, leadership, and career. Some of the benefits of executive coaching are:

Enhancing self-awareness and confidence

Executive coaching can help individuals to discover and leverage their strengths, values, and passions, and to identify and overcome their limiting beliefs, biases, and fears.

Developing leadership and communication skills

Executive coaching can help individuals to develop the skills and competencies that are essential for effective leadership and communication, such as strategic thinking, emotional intelligence, influence, and collaboration.

Navigating career transitions and challenges

Executive coaching can help individuals to plan and execute their career goals. For example seeking a promotion, a change of role, or a new opportunity. It can also help individuals to cope with and overcome the challenges and barriers that they may encounter in their career journey. This could include factors such as discrimination, bias, or lack of support. It can also be about how to best prepare for taking on a new role along with the new challenges that may be involved.

Creating a positive and inclusive culture

Executive coaching can also help individuals to contribute to creating a positive and inclusive culture in their organizations. Coaching skills can be used by managers to create a coaching culture. This can help ensure that diversity is valued and celebrated, and where everyone can thrive and belong. Executive coaching can also help individuals to become role models and advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to inspire others to follow their example.

How can you get started with executive coaching?

Please contact us if you are interested in executive coaching for yourself or for someone you know. You can also find more information about the services as well as testimonials and insights at

To read more about why Steven Cox is personally passionate about how executive coaching can empower minority groups at work please read the separate article on that very topic!

I offer a free 30-minute consultation, where we can discuss your goals, expectations, and questions, and see if we are a good fit for each other. I also offer flexible and affordable packages, tailored to your needs and preferences.

Executive coaching can be a life-changing and career-enhancing experience, especially for those who want to increase their performance, leadership, and impact in their organizations. I invite you to take the first step and reach out to me today. I look forward to hearing from you and working with you.

For more information

Check out the other coaching related blog pieces in the Insights section, or for more on Steven’s approach to coaching see the Coaching page.

There are a number of coaching accreditation bodies where you can learn more, these include: