What Is Executive Coaching? Explanation + Benefits

March 5, 2023


10 min read

What Is Executive Coaching - Explanation + Benefits

If you’ve never heard of it before, you might have some questions. What is executive coaching? Do you need it? What’s the best way to find a coach? What does it take to become one? We’ll answer all these questions and more in our comprehensive guide.

You want to succeed — and you want your organization to thrive. Whether you’re facing a particular challenge or just want to boost your skills and effectiveness, you can partner with an executive coach to get results.

Keep reading for some practical information on these aspects of this type of coaching:

  • What is executive coaching? How does it work?
  • The benefits
  • How to find one
  • How to become a coach

What Is Executive Coaching?

Executive coaching is a way to improve your self-awareness and inspire change.

Keep in mind that coaching is assistance in navigating through life. Coaches provide neutral, outside perspectives and accountability. So, executive coaching is a specific type of coaching that’s designed to help leaders manage people, teams, and organizations.

This is not mentoring; it’s not simply advice. Ultimately, executive coaching is about organizational performance. Of course, overall organizational success comes from individual and team effectiveness. So, this type of coaching can address matters at individual and team levels, with the understanding that it’s in the context of the entire organization and its goals.

Let’s say that you want to learn how to command more presence with your team. Or that you want to be more decisive. Perhaps you have trouble keeping people on your team. An executive coach can help with these types of issues.

You and your organization also can engage an executive coach for a specific matter you’re dealing with now or in the near future. Let’s say that your company is facing budget cuts. Or you’re switching to a completely different computer system. Maybe you’re seeking a new position or your organization’s president is stepping down. A coach can help you successfully navigate these challenges.

Typically, you’ll find that an executive coach can help you in these areas:

  • Leadership
  • Strategic management
  • Communication
  • Productivity
  • Career development
  • Well-being

What executive coaching isn’t

As briefly mentioned above, there seems to be some confusion on what this type of coaching is and isn’t. Part of this confusion is the fact that executive coaching is also used synonymously with other words, particularly counseling and mentoring.

Counseling is a service between an individual and a counselor where the counselor aims to help their client with their personal goals. For example, counseling can include things like helping you:

  • Improve your communication skills
  • Set realistic goals
  • Find solutions to problems central to you
  • Boost your mental health
  • Build up your self-esteem
  • Change your behavior

Mentoring, on the other hand, is a similar relationship dynamic between a mentor and a mentee where the goal is to help the mentee learn and grow. This could be in school or at work, and these relationships can be formal or informal

Mentors are kind of like role models. They can advise you on things like:

  • Setting career or academic goals
  • Advice on how to develop professionally or in the world of academia
  • Balancing work, school, and life

How Does It Work?

Usually, executive coaching consists of one-on-one sessions, supplementary resources, exercises, and assessments. Your coach asks you a lot of questions, and they probably get input from your colleagues and subordinates. They help you set goals, and they track your progress with scored assessments.

These coaches provide services on various schedules, but every two weeks is fairly typical. Often, a leader or an organization engages an executive coach for a specific term such as three months or one year.

What Is Executive Coaching - Explanation + Benefits 2

Executive Coaching Process

With regard to how it works, the executive coaching process is pretty straightforward on a surface level. There are six main steps that make up the executive coaching process. 

1. Find a coach.

The first step in the executive coaching process is finding someone (more details on that below) and making sure you’re compatible with each other. It’s totally OK if you don’t feel that you and the coach make a good match — It just means you’ll have to continue the search a little longer. 

Once you’ve found a qualified coach, make sure you completely understand their requirements and working arrangements. Each coach has different policies and it’s a good idea to be familiar with those. 

Your first session will involve going over your current goals and transforming them to set realistic goals. The coach will probably ask you questions about your personal, academic, and professional history to get an idea of who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish. 

2. Enjoy the executive coaching process. 

Once your first session is over, the journey of the executive coaching process begins. Depending on your coach, you’ll have anywhere from 6 to 12 executing coaching sessions, every few weeks. 

You’ll spend the time learning new things, getting (and applying) advice, and following your progress along the way.  

When you’re not actively in the session, you can expect to do things like: 

  • Experiment with new approaches and techniques you learn in the sessions
  • Keep track of your own progress for you to review during the live sessions

3. Wrapping up the executive coaching process. 

Your final session with your coach will involve lots of review. Together, you’ll walk through your progress, identify achievements and potential pitfalls, and discuss your plan going forward. 

At the end of the executive coaching process, you should feel more comfortable overall. You should also start seeing some of the benefits, too. 

Benefits of Executive Coaching

There are loads of benefits to using executive coaching. Your coach is a neutral outsider who cares about you and your organization. That’s a rare and valuable commodity! Just imagine what can happen when you take full advantage of that opportunity to learn and grow.

Individuals, teams, and organizations all reap the benefits of executive coaching. As an individual, you can go from feeling burned out and overwhelmed to enjoying effectiveness and contentment at work. Your organization can become more streamlined, conducive to employee satisfaction, and profitable.

The bottom line is transformation. This type coaching leads to a better you and a more effective organization.

Individual benefits of executive coaching

Here are just a few of the individual benefits of executive coaching:

  • Awareness: Your coach brings in different perspectives, elicits feedback from others, and helps you see blind spots.
  • Decision-making: The more accurately and thoroughly you’re aware, the better decisions you make.
  • Sounding board: Your coach is a good listener. They’re also experienced in providing effective feedback.
  • Motivation and encouragement: Your coach works with you to set goals and track your progress. They keep you accountable and provide a gentle nudge or a kick in the pants when you need it. They also celebrate your small and big victories with you.
  • New thinking and behavior patterns: Your coach gives you new ways to think, new things to do, and new ways to do old things.
  • Confidence: Through your coaching relationship, you grow in your awareness, skills, and behavior. You see positive changes and results. You receive encouragement. All of this builds your confidence, which, in turn, feeds back into your performance.
  • Leadership development: Because you’re receiving executive coaching, the focus is on your leadership skills and influence. The small changes all add up to improved leadership abilities.
  • Career enhancement: The growth you experience makes you more valuable in your workplace and in the workforce at large. You’re building marketable skills that set you up for promotions or other new opportunities.

Organizational benefits

Individual growth trickles out and down to your team and organization as a whole. Organizational benefits of executive coaching include happier employees, better employee retention, and improved productivity. It’s the snowball effect, ultimately leading to higher overall organizational profitability and impact.

Executive Coaching Development

The actual process is often referred to as executive coaching development — the process that allows the relationship between the coach and individual to develop and grow.

As the relationship continues, you should be able to see trackable progress from where you started after a few weeks of coaching. Executive coaching development leads to the aforementioned benefits, from increased productivity at work or school to improved awareness and open-mindedness. 

Executive coaching leadership development

In terms of executive coaching leadership development, workplaces can use it to improve an employee’s skills and effectively better the organization as a whole. For example, executive coaching leadership development can aid the workforce in gaining confidence, making good decisions, and building their portfolio.

Executive coaching leadership development involves aspects like:

  • Getting and using feedback for improvement
  • Creating a foundation for accountability
  • Knowing the right questions to ask to find solutions to current problems
  • Fostering attitudes of lifelong learning
  • Tracking leadership development progress
  • Providing support in specific areas
  • Identifying good opportunities for personal and team development 

How to Find Executive Coaching Opportunities

Finding executive coaching opportunities usually involves finding an executive coach. Each coach is different, so look around to find one who fits you and your organization well. Get to know your candidates. Watch their videos. Read their bios. Check out their client list.

Many of these coaches have specialties, so take that into consideration if you want help with a specific situation such as handling personnel issues, navigating change, or dealing with financial matters.

Consider their accessibility. You might want someone in your area, or it could be fine as long as you can connect with them virtually. Figure out their personality, values, and style. Some executive coaches are more hands-on. Some prefer to take a holistic life-work approach.

Your budget is also a factor. Coaches generally charge by the hour, anywhere from $150 to $650 per hour. Their rate depends on their experience and expertise.

When you’ve narrowed down your list of prospective coaches, get in touch and ask the questions you need to make sure it’s a good fit.

Executive coaching certification

An executive coaching certification is an affirmation of a coach’s skills, qualities, and capabilities. There are multiple executing coaching certification programs that coaches can complete, including: 

  • Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP)
  • Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH)
  • Continuing Coach Education (CCE)

However, not everyone can participate in these programs. Some executive coaching certification programs have prerequisites for people who want to complete the course.

You’ll want to find out your coaching candidates’ credentials. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) provides certification on three levels:

  • Associate Certified Coach (ACC)
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC)
  • Master Certified Coach (MCC)

The difference is essentially the amount of paid coaching experience they have. MCC is the highest level, with at least 2,500 hours of experience.

How to Become an Executive Coach

Certain skills and traits will help make you a good coach. These include insightfulness, strategic thinking, and emotional intelligence. Executive coaches ask good questions, and they know when, where, and how much to push their clients toward change. Of course, an excellent coach has leadership experience that’s broad and deep enough to sufficiently inform their coaching.

To be a successful executive coach, you’ll want to get certified. That requires a certain amount of training and a demonstration of your knowledge and skills. Here’s more on how to become an executive coach.

Why Does It Work?

Executive coaching works because it leads directly to visible improvements, boosted productivity, and more employee satisfaction. Research backs this statement, too. 

The results of this type of coaching speak for themselves as well. For example, this type of coaching allows a workforce to:

  • See other perspectives and ideas
  • Become (and stay) motivated 
  • Set and meet realistic goals
  • Feel valued and appreciated 
  • Be held accountable for overall improvement
  • Feel confident making good decisions 

Executive Coaching Tools

Companies and individuals can also use executive coaching tools to supplement. 

One such tool is Yoodli. Yoodli is a communication coach app that uses generative AI to analyze and improve your speech: one of the goals of executive coaching. 

When you upload a video of yourself speaking, Yoodli will evaluate your speech for things like: 

  • Your speaking pace
  • How many filler words you use
  • Your word choice, including any weak words
  • Non-inclusive language that could be offensive 

These are just a few of the metrics Yoodli tracks. Because Yoodli functions as a speech coach, it’ll give you specific, actionable tips on how to better yourself as a communicator. 

For example, if you happen to use lots of filler words, Yoodli might suggest slowing down and consciously thinking about what you’re going to say before you try to say it. This AI communication coach can also identify places that you can reword to make it clearer, among other suggestions. 

Yoodli pairs perfectly with executive coaching and allows you to improve on your own time. You can learn more about it and how to use it during meetings below:

Yoodli pairs perfectly with executive coaching.

Wrapping Up

We’ve taken a good look at these issues:

  • What is it? How does it work?
  • The benefits of executive coaching
  • How to find one
  • How to become an executive coach

Whether you’re a leader looking for an executive coach or considering becoming one, we hope that you’re now further down the road to making an informed decision. Either way, exciting changes are in your future!


Start practicing with Yoodli.

Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.

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