What is “executive coaching?” Can it help me?

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

“Executive coaching” is a popular search term – Google Ads estimates there are up to 10K searches, on average, per month. However, these queries are often combined with, or followed by, a question – “what is executive coaching?”

It’s a nebulous term, so let’s dig in.

Dr. Richard Kilburg defines executive coaching as follows:

“…a helping relationship formed between a client who has managerial authority and responsibility in an organization and a consultant who uses a wide variety of behavioral techniques and methods to help the client achieve a mutually identified set of goals.”

It’s a good definition that stands the test of time. But coaching itself has evolved over the years. What may feel familiar from your parent’s company’s on-staff coach is not as relevant today.

In the past, large companies would often hire coaches for remedial purposes – to “fix” executives who were failing in some way. Today, executive coaching comes in many forms, but one commonality is that it is typically developmental rather than remedial. Today’s coaches help executives achieve their professional, organizational and personal goals holistically – not merely help fix what’s not working.

Coaches’ shift to developmental work has made big companies widen their sights to focus on high performers rather than solely on underperformers. And companies are spending more money today than ever before on coaching for their employees. Coaching is a reward – a carrot – rather than a stick.

Many managers and executives are also choosing to independently hire coaches for themselves, not wanting to wait for their employer’s investment. These executives are investing in themselves. Take a look at this UnitedHealth commercial – it’s impossible to not feel like a rock star with an entourage of healthcare providers in your corner, following you around. That’s what it feels like to add an executive coach to your support network – a resource that can help you level up in all areas of your life.

So how do you know if coaching is right for you?

Let’s start with some reasons you should not hire a coach:

  • You are focused solely on external results, and are unwilling to do the internal work, e.g.: “I just want to get promoted, I don’t want to do any of this internal exploration. It’s too woo-woo.”

  • You’re looking for answers – a hero – rather than a guide who will help you discover the answers yourself.

  • Your manager told you to get a coach, but you’re not sure why.

In each of these circumstances, more introspection is needed before investing in a coach. Coaches guide, rather than prescribe; they won’t give you a “magic” answer, and they certainly can’t help without any willingness on your part to do the internal work. It’s similar to doing work with a therapist — growth is nearly impossible if you show up unwilling to do any self-examination.

Now on to the good stuff. There are myriad circumstances for which hiring a coach could benefit you.

Here are some of the biggest reasons clients seek me out:

  • You want support before or after a major transition – e.g. returning to the workforce after sabbatical.

  • You’re ready for a change, but you’re not sure what that change should be.

  • You need help validating or creating near- to medium-term goals (professional, organizational and/or personal).

  • You need help discovering or re-committing to your long-term goals (professional, organizational and/or personal).

  • You’re unsure how to get past stagnation you’re experiencing (professional, organizational and/or personal).

  • You’re experiencing an internal or external blocker that stands in the way of achieving your goals.

  • You need to overcome PTSD/low confidence from a bad job/bad boss/bad company.

  • You struggle with impostor syndrome, which sometimes gets in the way of goal achievement.

If any of these reasons resonate, a coach might benefit you.

One final push back I hear is this — “I’m not a CEO, CFO or CMO! So I’m not an executive and don’t qualify for executive coaching.”

Before you disqualify yourself unnecessarily, know that the term “executive” itself is broad. In this instance, it doesn’t only refer to the top three head honchos in your company. According to the International Coaching Federation, this type of coaching is geared toward:

“a client who is accountable for highly complex decisions with wide scope of impact on the organization and industry as a whole.”

Does this sound like what you do? You may be ready for executive coaching.

Working with an executive coach – especially one trained by an ICF-accredited institution – can be transformative. Haven Coaching can help — we take you from feeling adrift to finding the keys to your career haven.

If you think executive coaching could be right for you, connect with me directly!

Book a no-risk, free 20 minute consultation by clicking here.

Still have questions? Contact me at mariel@havencoaching.com.

Haven Coaching