What is Executive Coaching?

“Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential” – ICF


Executive coaching is a private and confidential partnership between a professional coach and an executive either in an organisational context or in a one-to-one engagement with the goal of personal and professional growth and development.

The coach helps the executive hone their leadership abilities, improve performance, and make better decisions. Also by using a whole person approach the coach’s focus can also include the overall well-being of the executive. Coaching that focuses on creating a work life balance can influence and benefit the executive’s team and filter through to the organisation as a whole.

At its core, coaching is defined by the ICF as:

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

This definition emphasises the collaborative nature of coaching and its focus on helping clients achieve their goals and dreams.

What is executive coaching?

What to expect with executive coaching

Executive Leadership coaching typically involves six or more one-on-one coaching sessions conducted by an external coach. Depending on the engagement and the executive’s needs, these sessions may continue over time and last for around an hour Additionally, some coaching clients might require team coaching to build high-performance teams, this could also involve group coaching, career coaching, and collaboration with the leader’s clients and other important individuals in the company.

Executive Coaching tools and techniques can range from personality assessments and goal setting to visualisation and neuro-linguistic programming. These techniques are designed to help clients better understand themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and their values, as well as to develop new habits and skills that will enable them to achieve their goals.

The benefits of coaching for individuals are numerous, including improved productivity, greater self-awareness, and a sense of purpose and fulfilment. For organisations, coaching can help develop leadership skills, foster innovation and creativity, and improve communication and collaboration between teams

Executive development often involves training programs to develop leaders and managers. These programs provide knowledge, models and frameworks, but it’s important for skills to transfer to the workplace. This is where coaching comes in. Coaching helps develop leadership skills and competency in the workplace, complementing the training program.

Developing Leadership Skills through Executive Coaching

Coaching can help with the transfer of training knowledge. This area is often where the return on investment (ROI) falls short.

Because simply receiving training may not always produce significant change, as the knowledge learned may not be applied effectively on the job. Coaching that focuses on developing skills based on the knowledge gained during training, using models and frameworks can be highly effective in the consolidation, application and retention of training knowledge.

Senior leaders often prioritise the development of leadership skills during training sessions due to their significant impact on business performance, which is a greater impact than that of managerial skills.

Studies show that Improved leadership skills have a positive impact on organisational culture by increasing direct reports’ motivation, enhancing their performance and team productivity. , increased productivity, and better decision-making result from effective leadership. Skilled leaders recognise the benefits of coaching for personal development.

Executive Coaching is powerful for personal and professional growth, and the International Coach Federation sets the standard for excellence in the coaching profession. Whether it’s helping individuals overcome personal challenges or organisations achieve their business objectives, coaching can lead to fulfilling and productive outcomes for all involved.

How Leadership Development is Carried out through Executive Coaching

Coaching expands a leader’s potential beyond their own perception and creates new opportunities for growth. The emphasis is on the coach’s belief in the leader’s potential, rather than solely on addressing problems with leadership. Coaching is crucial for achieving top performance as it raises the leader’s awareness and encourages accountability for taking action.

The goal of executive coaching is to improve self-awareness, develop new skills, and gain a deeper understanding of the business world. It complements training by prompting executives to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, leading to better decision-making and improved results. Behavioral psychology is used in executive coaching to help the executive view situations from different perspectives..

Although there are various coaching methods, their objective is to guide the leader towards a future-oriented mindset by setting specific developmental goals and identifying behavioral options. It is crucial for the leader to pause and evaluate the success of these options to facilitate constant learning. A clear understanding of the developmental objectives, which are usually included in a development plan, can help the leader proactively enhance their leadership style.

Coaches use questions as a powerful skill in coaching sessions. These questions aim to challenge senior managers’ thinking, raise self-awareness, and help them consider various perspectives on an issue.

Additionally, coaching can serve as a sounding board for executives to discuss their decisions, actions, and ideas, and reflect on the outcomes and emotions experienced by them or others in that situation. . Effective executive coaches are those who possess active listening skills, understand the leader’s unique perspective, and tailor their coaching style to each individual. By truly hearing and responding to a leader’s goals and vision, coaches can create success for both the leader and the team, while improving the coaching relationship overall. When leaders feel heard, they are more likely to communicate their vision effectively, inspire team members and create a positive company culture. This can ultimately lead to improved performance and success for the entire team.

Executive coaching can provide new frameworks and models for leaders to add to their collection of tools. These frameworks and models help leaders think about solutions to problems in an organised way.

Are the desired outcomes attained through executive coaching?

Do the results from executive coaching meet desired expectations?

According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), executive coaching greatly improves the effectiveness of executives and provides a sevenfold return on investment. In fact, a Fortune 500 company reported an ROI of almost 800% from executive coaching. Studies have also shown that executive coaching leads to increased productivity, better customer service, improved relationships with peers, higher job satisfaction, and better retention of executives.

The ICF conducted a study that revealed 86% of organisations experienced a return on investment from coaching engagements. Additionally, 96% of those who engaged a coach reported they would do so again.

The study identified both tangible and intangible factors contributing to these outcomes. The study revealed that coaching resulted in both tangible and intangible benefits. Tangible benefits included increased productivity, improved employee performance, cost reduction, sales and revenue growth, and higher employee retention and engagement. Meanwhile, intangible benefits included the development of leaders’ and managers’ confidence and improved communication, leading to stronger relationships with stakeholders..

Although the findings are impressive, it is important to note that the executive coaching industry has been steadily growing at a rate of 5.6% annually. This has resulted in an increase in revenue from $2,356 billion in 2015 to $15 billion in 2019 (Uta, I., 2019). The sustained growth of this industry globally indicates that coaching is an effective tool for skill development among employees ranging from vice presidents to team leaders. This is reflected in the improved performance of leaders and their organisations, as seen in the return on investment for coaching.

What qualities should I look for in executive coaches?

Executive coaching solutions can help in career or performance coaching, team development, and improving the leader’s decision-making abilities, all of which can have a positive impact on the organisation’s performance. It’s crucial for leaders and managers to understand the significance of selecting the appropriate coaching program for their career stage and circumstances.

It is important to carefully consider and research when selecting a coach for leadership development, as coaching plays a crucial role in this process. A good coach should help leaders increase their personal confidence and support them in their career growth.

You should also make sure that the executive coach holds an ICF credential as this will insure that the coach has enough experience as a coach and has met the high ethical standards and completed the gold standard in coach training.

An Effective Executive Coach will Nurture Trust and Rapport

To work effectively with an executive coach, it is important to have a strong interpersonal connection and a trusting relationship. Since your conversations with the coach will be confidential and collaborative, it is essential to establish a comfortable and open dialogue. Additionally, you should feel confident that your coach has your best interests in mind at all times, especially during potentially difficult or personal discussions.

Two business school professors at Harvard Baron and Hannon started to explore how exactly one creates an atmosphere of trust within a company. They wanted to prove that it was a company’s culture that mattered as much as its strategy.

They found that most companies cultures fell into five categories. Number one is the “star’ model, these companies hired from elite universities and gave employees huge amounts of autonomy creating A teams. The second category was the engineering model where it was the group that held the most sway in problem solving and approaching decisions- this was found to be the typical Silicon Valley start-up companies that allow for quick expansion. The third and fourth companies included the bureaucratic and autocratic companies. Cultures that evolved out of middle management decisions or from just one person where you do what I say, and you will get paid was the norm. The final category was known as the “commitment” model and was a throwback to an age where people happily worked for one company their entire life. Commitment CEOs believe that getting the culture right is more important than designing the best product.

Over the next decade Baron and Hannan surveyed all the different companies in each category. Most people assumed it would be the star teams that came out on top but unfortunately these companies created a culture of competitiveness and mistrust and a lot burnt themselves out quickly. They found that it was the commitment firms that came out on top. By creating a culture of trust employees wanted to stick around and therefore gave these firms a stronger advantage. Hiring an executive coach who takes the whole person approach will nurture trust and rapport and create a commitment model where you will be able to retain the best people.

An Executive Coach is full of Curiosity

When looking for a coach, it’s important to find someone who is both curious and passionate. A curious coach will ask questions and want to explore your perception of the world with you. A passionate coach is dedicated to helping you become the best version of yourself and facilitating your development. Ask potential coaches if they are passionate about facilitating people’s development and why, as their answer will likely reveal how much they value adding value to their clients’ lives and seeing them succeed.

An Excellent Executive Coach is Outcomes Focused

When engaging in coaching, the objective is to enhance leadership skills and achieve better outcomes for both people and business. Therefore, a qualified executive coach should use effective coaching methods to help you develop your leadership style and achieve specific outcomes like improved influence, a stronger leadership presence, or a better business culture. By focusing on outcomes, the coaching process becomes more solution-oriented and less focused on defining the problem.

Executive Coach as Leader

When searching for an executive coach, it’s important to find someone who has relevant experience, coaching skills, and necessary qualifications. Look for someone who has expertise in executive coaching and leadership, as well as a background in leading people and teams to draw from.

To be an effective executive coach, it is crucial to have a deep comprehension of human behavior and its underlying dynamics. With this knowledge, the coach can ask relevant questions and communicate in a way that helps the leader gain better understanding and insight during their conversation. Although there are various qualifications for executive coaching, this understanding is essential.

An Executive Coach Demonstrates Skills in Listening Actively

To be a good coach, it’s important to have excellent communication skills and be able to read body language. A big part of coaching involves both listening carefully to what is being said, as well as what isn’t being said, in order to ask relevant questions and help people think things through. Understanding a person’s body language is also key to asking the right questions in the right context.

Accountability Partnership

It’s important to have support from your coach not only during sessions but also throughout the coaching assignment to make progress in your development. When your coach believes in your efforts to change or try something new, it helps build your confidence as a leader.

What are the benefits of coaching for me?

To help you decide on a coach, here are some questions to consider:

  • Can the coach help you reconsider and evaluate your approach?
  • Do they. hold an ICF credential?
  • Will they guide you to discover more effective or innovative methods to achieve success?
  • Can they help you see things from different viewpoints?
  • Will they encourage you to make necessary changes to your approach?
  • Can they enhance your self-assurance in trying out new things?
  • Will they challenge your thinking or decisions?
  • Do they coach you with a whole person approach?
The Whole Person Approach to Executive Coaching

The whole person approach to executive Coaching

This entails a one-on-one interaction between a coach and an executive to facilitate a learning process that will lead to personal and organisational growth. In recent years, there has been an increased focus on the Whole Person Approach to Executive Coaching, which is a coaching method that goes beyond the corporate and professional aspects of an individual’s life.

The Whole Person Approach to Executive Coaching recognizes that executives’ overall well-being, which includes their work-life balance and emotional intelligence, is crucial to their personal and professional growth. Coaches take into account the executive’s personal life, their core values, beliefs, emotional intelligence and psychological health, among other factors that can influence their work performance. This approach aims to create a holistic approach to coaching that considers the executive’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being to achieve a more effective coaching experience.

Coaching for work-life balance is one of the key concepts of the Whole Person Approach to Executive Coaching. Work-life balance refers to a state in which an individual can balance their professional and personal life effectively. Achieving work-life balance is especially important for executives as they often have high workloads, high responsibility, and multiple demands on their time, which can lead to stress and burnout. Work-life balance helps to increase productivity, enhance job satisfaction, and reduce the risk of job burnout.

Coaches coach for work-life balance, by identifying the executive’s unique needs and values and working together to set realistic goals that will help them maintain a better balance between their personal life and work. This can include setting healthy boundaries, re-prioritizing, and delegating tasks where possible, exploring ways to maintain mental and emotional health, and finding ways to unplug and recharge.

Thought Coach is different to other executive coaching as we believe that to get the real results from a leader and the team there are many more factors involved aside from just coaching for performance.

We believe in the Whole Person Approach to Executive Coaching and recognise the importance of coaching for emotional intelligence and work-life balance as a keystone in achieving overall individual and organisational success.

Executives that work with our coaches will know that we prioritise this approach. Coaching in this way will give the executive the opportunity to achieve holistic well-being, better productivity, lower burnout rates, and more fulfilling work experiences.


Executive Coaching is a complex and multi faceted profession that is results orientated. This guide has shown what executive coaching is and how it can benefit you.

Keep these aspects in mind while choosing a coach. If you’re interested, feel free to reach out and learn more about how Thought Coach Executive Coaching Services can assist you.