What to expect from an executive coach

Anna Lundberg speaking to a client on the phone

An executive coach works with professionals, executives and high potentials to help improve their performance at work. At least, that’s the short version. In the past, an executive coach would be brought in to ‘fix’ an executive who wasn’t performing. Today, having an executive coach is more like a status symbol. In the past, an executive coach would have focused specifically on the work domain, as opposed to a life coach who would focus on the personal domain. Today, it’s impossible to separate the two. Let’s look at what to expect from an executive coach.

Who does an executive coach work with?

For an organisation to invest in a coach for an employee, that employee needs to be critical to organisational effectiveness. This might be…

  • a newly promoted leader who needs to transition smoothly into their new managerial role;
  • a high-potential performer who is being groomed for executive development;
  • or a leader who needs to deal with difficult organisational challenges.

Although companies are likely to hire coaches for their employees to focus on work priorities and results, it’s impossible to separate work from personal and conversations will almost inevitably spill over into the personal domain.

On the other hand, an individual can choose to invest in their own professional development and work with a coach independently of their employer. You might want to work on…

The individuals who will benefit the most of course are the ones who are highly motivated. They believe in the power of personal development and have a desire for continuous growth and learning. They are prepared to swallow their ego, question their existing behaviours and do what it takes to improve. They are what we’d call ‘coachable’ (because, yes, unfortunately, there are some who are not.).

What kind of outcomes might you expect from an executive coach?

The first, important, benefit of working with an executive coach is enhanced self-awareness. Understanding (and leveraging) your strengths, acknowledging (and working on) your weaknesses, and having an external perspective on how you might be perceived.

A second benefit is helping you to think differently. A coach can challenge your assumptions and help you break patterns to allow you to approach issues in a new and more effective way. “What got you here won’t get you there.”

And a third benefit comes with the external impact on your team and your organisation, as the work you do on yourself makes you a better leader. You might learn to trust and delegate more effectively. You will certainly increase your impact. And you’ll be more equipped to deal with challenges that inevitably arise.

The bottom line is that an executive coach – any good coach – can help you achieve your goals. That means helping you get clear on what you want, helping you figure out how you’re going to get there, and providing a support system along the way.

What does a typical coaching engagement look like?

The first step has to be choosing your coach, one that is credible and where there is a good connection. This is a personal choice and a critical one for the coaching relationship to be effective. Many coaches will offer a free discovery or ‘chemistry session’. You can also get a feel for them via the content they’re putting out, especially videos and podcasts.

You’ll start by setting the parameters for your work together, defining the number and frequency of coaching sessions and agreeing on your specific objectives. Those objectives may well evolve during your time together, but it’s important that any shifts be done intentionally so you don’t lose track of what you were trying to achieve.

A specific coaching session, whether virtual or in person, might look like this:

  • establish a coaching agreement and agree on the focus for the specific session;
  • define a goal or outcome for the session, which could be something tangible or more of a subjective feeling;
  • engage in the coaching process, which can involve exploration, questions, reflection;
  • identify and commit to specific action steps;
  • reflect back over the key insights from the session;
  • explore what might get in the way and how you can hold yourself accountable.

Outside of the sessions, your coach might also give you some ‘homework’ or exercise to complete ahead of the next session.

At the end of the coaching engagement, you’ll revisit your objectives and evaluate the effectiveness of your work together.

If you’d like to explore partnering with me as your coach, get in touch to tell me more about your goals.

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