Executive Coaching

Executive Coaching is an inquiry-based approach to personal and professional development that is aimed at creating awareness, generating action, and facilitating learning and growth.

It focuses on improving performance by helping individuals to develop and sustain new perspectives, attitudes, skills and behaviors.

Executive Coaching involves:

  • Gathering and giving feedback
  • Identifying development opportunities
  • Building awareness
  • Facilitating solutions by asking powerful questions
  • Setting goals and creating action plans
  • Facilitating learning
  • Supporting and encouraging over the long term
  • Monitoring progress and holding others accountable

Executive Coaching is not:

  • Telling, teaching, or giving advice
  • Counseling, therapy, or consulting
  • Correcting mistakes
  • Managing performance
  • Solely focused on fixing problem behaviors
  • Mentoring

The benefits of Executive Coaching include:

  • Enhancing performance and increased productivity
  • Improving morale
  • Reducing turnover
  • Attracting talent
  • Increasing self-esteem and confidence
  • Leveraging of talents
  • Building new skill sets
  • Increasing likelihood that goals will be reached

Project Definition

A typical executive coaching engagement is about 6 months in duration, but can be anywhere from 3-12 months, depending on the situation. The greater the change that is needed, the more coaching is required.

Executive coaches are often brought into organizations to work with:

  • High potentials who need additional support to reach the next level
  • Managers who are valuable to the company but have key performance issues to address
  • Executives who have been recently hired or promoted and need to make an immediate impact

Project Process

Executive coaching engagements typically follow these steps:

  • Intake and assessment (including 360 feedback)
  • Goal setting
  • Ongoing coaching and skill development
  • Measurement of results

Confidentiality and Trust: The most important elements in a coach/client relationship.


The coach is accountable to the client (the individual being coached), the client’s direct manager, and human resources (if applicable, as HR is not always involved in the process). The single most important element of the coaching is confidentiality between coach and client. A coach should never reveal the content of their coaching conversations to the client’s manager or any other party without the client’s prior consent. The coach may, at times, facilitate three-way conversations between the coach, client, and the client’s manager.

Support of the client’s manager is key in the coaching process. Clarifying goals and performance expectations with the manager up front is extremely important (Step 2). Also, the coach may do the follow-up feedback to measure improvement (Step 4), or the client’s manager may choose to do this part.

Helpful Hints

The client needs to be a willing participant in the coaching process.

by Rebecca Zucker, MBA ’94