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What is Executive Coaching?

Ten years ago, if you were given an executive coach it was a bad omen. The kiss of death.

You were under the microscope and potentially a dead man walking. This was your last chance to change.

So when your boss told you it was time for you to get a coach of your own but insisted there was nothing wrong, you clenched your jaw, buried your feelings and started to look for new job opportunities.

But hold on, that’s not how things work anymore.

The corporate world, and culture has changed drastically in the last decade. Practices that were experimental one-offs have become mainstream, bare minimums. Leaders aren’t being told to get coaches for their subordinates so they don’t get fired anymore. Instead, great leaders and executives are seeking out coaches and funding them on their own dime.

Why? Because those who play at the top of their game need someone to watch the game tapes back with them.

When you’re starting out just about anyone can give you that feedback. As you get sharper, faster and stronger, the people who can show up at your level become more and more scarce. Self-awareness is critical in all areas of life, including your career, but becomes imperative as you climb to the top of the peak where, like oxygen, the feedback is hard to come by.

And so we are now turning to coaches not just to support our problem HR cases, but more commonly to support the development of higher-level leadership skills, including navigating conflict effectively and managing diverse teams.

Leaders who embrace coaching increase their self-awareness and their ownership of their responsibility to an organization. They are also more likely to bring a coaching mindset back to the organization and increase their own leadership agility.

When we look at the leaders you look up too, the ones who have risen to the top, it likely included partnering with an executive coach as part of their strategy. Many, if not all, of the C-suite executives whose names you know best, leverage coaches to help them navigate challenging situations. This allows them to see their organizations from all angles and vantage points, not just their own.

What Is an Executive Coach?

The answer is that it looks different for everyone. Coaching is one of the most—if not the most—individually tailored practices in talent development.

To do it well it involves an honest, close, and confidential relationship between you and your coach. This isn’t a linear process. It’s a highly creative relationship, allowing you to access your gut, and inner guidance, with coach and client as partners choosing the experiences they’d like to have. The process includes giving permission for inner shifts to take place, and providing the wisdom and answers that best serve their goals. The coach is there to facilitate the process as the client uncovers their own brilliance and unlocks their infinite potential.

Executive coaching is an inquiry-based approach to professional development that encourages higher-level thinking to solve complex problems, in a sustainable way.

Focus is key. Executives have big, and at times too many goals for their lives and careers. Goals of their own, goals of their teams and goals of their shareholders. Narrowing in and focusing on less in a world of more can be challenging. An executive coach can be the objective outsider helping you navigate the facts and the feelings that they bring up and allowing you to skillfully navigate where to place your energy and attention.

Coaches can bring accountability, checks and balances and tools to the table helping you manage your energy so that you can go deeper, feel validated and push you to be the best version of yourself.

What’s the ROI on an executive coach?

I can’t promise you a specific number you’ll gain back, but I can tell you this:

Leaders that embrace a culture of coaching not only celebrate increased revenue, they also increase profits by lowering employee attrition as well as creating happier, loyal, dedicated team members who are excited about their work and who they work for. No business can grow faster than it's leaders. Support at the top can create an entire shift in how an organization shows up in the world, in how their employees see them, and in how invested the team is in not just their job, but the success of the whole.

The support of an executive coach, time and time again, proves to be the secret weapon that makes good leaders great.

Don’t wait until you’re in crisis, instead, focus on thriving.

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