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What is Executive Coaching & How Does It Work?

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If the last time you had a coach was in your childhood Little League baseball team, it might be time to learn about a different type of coaching: Executive coaching. Executive coaching is for high-level professionals or high-potential professionals, and it consists of working with an external individual to develop the skills and competencies necessary to thrive as a leader. This article will clue you in to the concept of executive coaching and help you determine if an executive coach is a good choice for you. 

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What is Executive Coaching? 

Executive coaching is professional counseling tailored to high-achieving, usually C-Suite businesspeople to help them identify areas of opportunity to grow in their core competencies. Executive coaches partner with professionals to set goals and make behavioral changes that lead to better outcomes. Executive coaching can take on many different forms, but it’s typically done in a private, fairly formal setting.

How Does Executive Coaching Work?

Finding and working with an executive coach doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, executive coaching typically starts with an intake assessment between you and the executive coach to ensure you’re both a good match. The process then continues through a series of conversations to determine future goals, current challenges and desired career development paths. Coaching typically lasts for a few months to a year or until you or the coach mutually decide it’s time to end your engagement. You’ll meet with your executive coach regularly, usually monthly or bi-monthly, to check-in with them on your progress and address any outstanding issues since the last session. 

Related: 4 Leadership Traps That Prevent Accountability

Benefits of Executive Coaching

A major advantage of executive coaching is that it offers an outside perspective to help you see yourself and your career more clearly. Having a third-party to act as a sounding board is also highly beneficial when navigating complex situations involving other employees or stakeholders. A coach’s job is to listen to your concerns and work with you to develop healthy strategies for working through issues. This can look like your coach taking you through exercises or role-playing situations to help you get a better grasp on how you can be an effective leader. 

Executive coaches abide by confidentiality rules, so you can be sure you have a safe space to discuss work-related issues. Your executive coach will likely provide your manager or employer with periodic progress reports but will not divulge the content of your discussions. 

Finally, while executive coaches typically refrain from giving out advice, they do equip you with the tools you need to handle opportunities and challenges on your own. Developing the skills to manage your career independently will help you immensely when you want to take the next step into a higher or different role. 

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Related: Guiding Your Team Through Inevitable Setbacks

Should You Have an Executive Coach?

Even if an executive coach is offered to you free of charge, you still need to ask yourself if you’re ready to benefit from their services. Fortunately, you can take these steps to improve your chances of success when working with an executive coach:

Be Open to Feedback

Executive coaches are there to help you identify areas of improvement in your behavior or performance and empower you to develop the capabilities you need to make positive changes. In order to achieve these goals, your coach will provide you with feedback and constructive criticism. Being open to this is key to your success, as you’ll need to take the feedback and make changes that might sometimes be challenging or uncomfortable at first. 

Be Willing to Prioritize Your Coaching 

As an executive, you’ve probably already got a full plate. It can be easy or tempting to reschedule sessions or not devote your full attention to your interactions with your executive coach. However, you won’t get the maximum benefit out of having a coach if you don’t prioritize the opportunity. To combat this, practical steps such as scheduling sessions when you know you are available and setting your calendar to show you’re busy so others know not to disturb you. Additionally, be sure to complete any action items your executive coach asks you to do and come prepared to fully engage during your sessions. 

Be Committed to Achieving Your Goals

Arguably, you’ve been setting and smashing goals your whole career. You’re an executive, after all. It’s important that you act on the goals you set for yourself in conjunction with your executive coach. Work with your coach to develop realistic goals, whether they be for the next week, month, or five years. Your continued development as a leader is dependent on your commitment to reaching the goals you create to help you develop yourself as a leader. 

Related: The Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make in Communicating Their Visions

Key Considerations for Evaluating an Executive Coach

Good executive coaches are hard to find, so here are a few things to look for when finding your coach. 

Experience and Industry

A good executive coach should be able to work with a range of pupils, but it doesn’t hurt to find a coach who specializes in your field. The shared background will help you coach understand your work and your career on a deeper level. 

Communication Preferences

Do you prefer to meet face-to-face or is Zoom just fine for you? Do you want to have 30-minute or 90-minute sessions? Can you send emails and texts to your executive coach between sessions? These are all types of questions you should be asking to determine if your communication needs can be met by the executive coach. 

Reviews and Testimonials

A great way to learn about something is to see what other people are saying about it. Executive coaches are no different, and reputable ones should always be happy to provide you with references from past clients who have achieved success. 

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Is Executive Coaching Right for You?

As you continue to grow as a leader, executive coaches can provide an outstanding amount of support and guidance. B STATE has a plethora of resources for leaders like you looking to take their company and career to the next level.

Looking to learn more about leadership? Read B STATE’s blog!

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