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What is executive coaching? The definition, benefits, process & why even good leaders need coaching

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.

Unleashing the full potential of an organization demands skilled leadership - but even great leaders can become stagnant in their growth.

While hiring experienced or employees with specific skills may seem like the obvious solution to improve gains, there’s another, more effective solution: executive coaching.

Executive coaching is the most effective way to accelerate the performance & ability of any level of leader looking to adapt and grow along with their rapidly evolving world.

Whether you feel like you, your team, or the capabilities of the leaders you support are failing to reach their full potential, executive coaching can accelerate the skills & behaviors needed to achieve your business objectives and  sustain peak performance. 

What is executive coaching?

Executive coaching is a professional development experience for individuals in leadership roles that’s designed to help leaders enhance & accelerate the development of their leadership skills - from decision-making, to scaling & leading their teams - in order to achieve specific professional goals & company results. It’s a highly personalized and confidential engagement tailored to the unique needs & circumstances of the individual leader and their specific needs.

The leadership competencies that executive coaching focuses on are in four key domains:

  • Leading Self
  • Leading Others
  • Leading The Organization
  • Leading Implementation

The executive coaching process involves a collaborative relationship between the executive and coach, the coach typically being a professional with extensive success in leadership positions along with years of coaching experience, utilizing regular one-on-one sessions during which they discuss challenges, explore solutions, and track progress toward the executive’s goals.

As this type of coaching requires a significant financial investment, the coaching process should also utilize tools & technology that can measure the impact of the coaching engagement.

Why is executive coaching important?

Executive coaching, also sometimes referred to as leadership coaching, is a critical component of any thriving organization.

Even the most talented & accomplished leaders in senior leadership roles can struggle to continuously evolve, develop and refine their skills, and remain at peak performance year after year.

Executive coaching ensures ambitious leaders continue to grow & evolve their skill sets year after year.

What are the benefits of executive coaching services?

A leader can expect several things from executive coaching engagements:

Gain powerful new insights & perspective

Through executive coaching leaders can uncover blind spots, identify strengths & weaknesses and gain greater self-awareness, helping them develop a more effective approach that’s better aligned with their goals but more importantly - the needs of their team & organization.

Set & achieve measurable goals faster

Executive coaching works by helping business leaders identify their objectives, create an actionable development plan & most importantly - hold them accountable for making progress toward those goals.

This accountability helps leaders stay focused, save time, costly mistakes, and achieve goals faster

Develop lasting leadership skills & capabilities

An executive coach provides specific feedback & support to help leaders improve critical leadership capabilities like communication, decision-making, and delegation, helping them become more effective in their role, build stronger relationships with their team, and create a more positive & productive work environment.

Ongoing support & guidance

The right executive coach will act as a trusted advisor providing guidance, feedback & support whenever needed to help leaders navigate challenges, overcome obstacles and continue to grow & develop in their roles & personal life.

Furthermore, the right leadership coach and firm will ensure that your coaching investment is backed by data including impact and ROI of the executive coaching engagement.

Why All Leaders Need Executive Coaching

Regardless of the experience level or position within an organization, all leaders stand to see huge potential upside engaging in an executive coaching program.

Executive Coaching is especially valuable for leaders:

  • Facing challenges outside their skillset
  • Looking to rapidly accelerate their growth
  • Transitioning into a new, unfamiliar leadership role

In addition to these points, executive coaching programs can help all levels of leaders:

Develop strategies & approaches to face new challenges

Leaders facing new challenges benefit from coaching because executive coaches will help them develop new strategies & approaches for their new challenges. Coaches can help leaders identify blind spots, act as a sounding board, and help them gain new insights into how to overcome their new challenges for massive organizational impact & personal achievement.

Accelerate personal growth

Leaders looking to rapidly accelerate their personal growth benefit from coaching as executive coaching is a crash course on the entire spectrum of leadership, helping them to first understand the core 28 fundamental leadership competencies.

Based on these core competencies, coaching services can help leaders identify areas for improvement but most importantly develop an actionable plan to increase their core competency skills, soft skills, and how to achieve their objectives.

Transition into a new role smoothly

Finally, leaders transitioning into a new role benefit from coaching as executive coaching services can help them navigate career transition more effectively.

Executive coaching can help leaders understand their new role and the specific skills needed to succeed in their new role, allowing new leaders to laser focus and develop the exact skills needed to earn the respect of their peers faster, build stronger relationships with their team members, and establish clear goals & performance expectations.

Even successful leaders need executive coaching

Why do even successful leaders and managers need executive leadership coaching you ask? There are so many reasons even successful business leaders still need executive coaching:

1) Break bad habits

Even successful leaders have bad habits or patterns of behavior holding them back from consistent peak performance. An executive coach will help them identify these bad habits and work to break them, which can lead to even greater success.

2) Stay humble

Success can go to a leader’s head which can lead to overconfidence and arrogance. Coaching can help a leader stay grounded & focused on continuous improvement. Overconfidence and/or arrogance rarely help team performance.

3) Fresh perspective

When leaders are successful or see a series of successes it can be easy to become complacent, stuck in a rut, or re-iterating above - arrogant. Coaching can help leaders gain a fresh perspective and see new opportunities for growth & innovation.

4) Avoid complacency

When leaders become too comfortable in their role, they may start to overlook important details or lose sight of their goals. Coaching can help successful leaders stay focused, challenge themselves, continue to grow & strive for excellence.

5) Develop emotional intelligence

While leaders may have strong core skills, assertive character and expertise in their field, they may struggle with emotional intelligence which can severely impact their ability to lead effectively.

Executive coaching can help leaders develop their emotional intelligence by providing feedback on their communication style, helping them recognize & manage their emotions while improving their ability to empathize with others.

6) Team performance

When leaders become more emotionally intelligent and more technically proficient, they’re better equipped to create a positive work environment for their team members leading to improved morale, higher levels of engagement but most importantly - better results for the organization as a whole.

7) Navigate complex political environments

In many organizations leaders must navigate complex political environments to get things done. Coaching can help leaders develop strategies for building alliances, managing conflicts & communicating effectively in politically charged situations.

8) Challenge assumptions & biases

Even successful leaders have blind spots. Coaching can help leaders become more self-aware of their assumptions and biases, and provide a safe space for them to work on these blind spots, challenging their assumptions & exploring different perspectives.

9) Enhance creativity & innovation

Leaders who’ve been successful in the past can find themselves stuck in a rut, relying on the same strategies & approaches that worked in the past. Working with executive coaches can help leaders break out of their comfort zone, think creatively & develop innovative solutions to complex problems.

How does executive coaching work?

The executive coaching process typically involves several stages. See below:

The executive coaching Process from A to Z

1) Detailed intake process

First, leaders should choose a firm that has multiple executive coaches to choose from and has a detailed intake process designed to understand leaders needs and help them find a coach that fits their specific needs.

Once potential coaches have been identified, leaders should meet with at least three coach options to find the not only the right executive coach in terms of skills, but one who is a fit both in relevant skills & personality.

2) Leadership assessments

After intake and choosing the right coach, the engagement typically begins with an assessment of the leader’s competencies using a 360 assessment or other leadership competency assessment tools.

A 360 degree feedback identifies the unique personality traits & aspects of a leaders personality that are helpful to or hindering a leader’s performance.

These assessments sets the benchmark for coaching engagement. Interviews and personality assessments can also be a helpful way to gather and support 360 data.

3) Building rapport & trust

Next, the executive coach & leader need to build rapport and establish a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. This involves establishing clear goals and expectations for the engagement and identifying the leader’s strengths, weaknesses & areas for improvement.

4) Plan of action

After the leadership assessment and building rapport, the executive coach and the leader work together to develop a plan of action. The plan of action involves identifying specific strategies & tactics that the leader can use to achieve their goals and overcome any specific challenges they may be facing.

An executive coach may use a variety of tools & techniques, like assessments, role-playing, and feedback, to help the leader develop new skills & behaviors.

5) Data-based support & guidance

But most importantly, throughout the engagement, the executive coach provides ongoing support and guidance to the leader based on data. This may include regular check-ins, feedback sessions, and additional coaching sessions as needed.

Using this data the executive coach can help the leader stay on track and accountable for making progress toward their discussed & agreed upon personal and organizational goals.

How to maximize the impact of your coaching initiative

To maximize the impact of the executive coaching experience leaders need to be fully engaged & committed to the process.

This means being open to potentially brutally honest negative feedback & being willing to try new approaches.

It’s also important for the leader to be honest and transparent with their coach, sharing their challenges & concerns openly so that the executive coach can provide the best possible support & guidance.

This level of intensive training takes leaders out of their comfort zone, leaving them feeling extremely vulnerable so the rapport & trust stage between coach & leader is paramount to success.

How much does executive coaching cost?

The cost of executive performance coaching varies depending on several factors including:

  • The duration of the engagement
  • The frequency of the engagement
  • The specific services provided
  • The number of leaders being coached

While the cost of executive coaching services can vary wildly it’s important to view executive coaching as an investment in leadership development & the success of an organization’s leaders.

Organizations must ensure they have the capability and systems to track & measure the impact of the investment over time as the engagement helps achieve organizational goals like increased revenue, reduced turnover & improved customer satisfaction, among many other benefits.

Measuring the impact of leadership coaching and your coaching investment

Measuring the impact of executive coaching services can be challenging but there are several approaches companies can use to evaluate the effectiveness of their coaching investment.

Drawing from the Kirkpatrick model leadership coaching success should be measured by the following criteria: 

Level 1: Reaction of the participant (Satisfaction) – How they thought and felt about the coaching experience

Level 2: Learning – Degree of self-reported skill development and sustained behavior

Level 3: Transfer (Impact) – Degree of observable skill improvement and impact to business

Level 4: Results – Effects on the business resulting from the participant’s increased performance

Level 5: ROI – Correlation between skill development and core business results, such as KPIs

Additionally, leadership coaching when deployed successfully and tracked appropriately should drive the following:  

  • Higher performance reviews
  • Higher promotion rates
  • Higher engagement survey results
  • Higher business impact 

2) Gather feedback from the leader, team members & other stakeholders

Feedback can be collected through surveys, interviews, or other methods. By gathering feedback before & after the engagement the company can assess changes in the leader’s behavior and the impact of those changes on the people around them.

3) Use coaching assessments

Assessments provide hard data. By comparing the results of these assessments before & after the engagement with the executive coach, the company can gain insight into the impact of the coaching on the leader’s personal development.

Executive leadership coaching can transform your organization

Mentorship just isn’t enough. Leadership coaching can transform a company in a multitude of ways.

Besides on an individual level and influencing leaders to make better decisions, improve performance, increase overall productivity, for the organization as a whole coaching can:

Create a positive & productive work environment

When leaders are more effective they build stronger relationships with their team members, foster greater collaboration & innovation and create a culture of trust, respect & engagement, leading to higher levels of employee morale, satisfaction & retention.

Identify & develop future leaders

By investing in coaching for current leaders, organizations can identify high-potential employees & develop their leadership capabilities, helping to create a pipeline of future leaders who are equipped to drive the organization forward and achieve its long-term goals.

Adapt to change & stay competitive

By developing leaders who are agile, adaptable & innovative, organizations can respond more effectively to changing market conditions, new technologies & evolving customer needs. This can help the organization stay ahead of the curve & achieve sustainable success over the long term.

According to a study by the International Coaching Federation, coaching clients who worked with a professional coach with a seasoned executive coaching career reported positive coaching impacts including significant improvement in: communication skills, self-esteem, self-confidence, productivity, individual & teamwork performance, business management strategies, onboarding into new professional roles.

Compared to other types of business coaching and career coaching, by investing in executive coaching, CEOs and business owners create a culture of goal-oriented accountability and understanding which can help organizations drive better results, achieve their goals, and create a culture of continuous learning & improvement.

Contact Skyline G Today

From seasoned executives to those just starting their careers, for leaders looking to become better versions of themselves and manage a successful organization, executive coaching may be the missing piece of the puzzle.

If your team or organization might benefit from engaging in our executive leadership coaching services and working with a master certified coach from our global network of leadership coaches verified to not only have the leadership experience, but the professional coaching skills to help your c suite and top leaders skyrocket their skillset, contact us today. Invest into the future of your organization with leadership development trusted by the most successful companies in the world. 

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