A Leader's Guide To Executive Coaching

For leaders about to embark on executive coaching, this article sets out a framework to get the very best from their coaching programme. read more...

Written By Kevin Watson

On June 29, 2016

A Leader's Guide To Executive Coaching

Jun 29, 2016Coaching Conversations

Kevin Watson

Kevin Watson

Director & Lead Coach

This post is aimed at leaders preparing to embark on executive coaching, encouraging them to take responsibility for their own learning and get the very best from the coaching relationship.

There is little written to which people can turn that is specifically for them to make sense of, understand and be a collaborative partner in the coaching arrangement.

Hence I’ve chosen to write this guide for anyone, of any profession, planning to engage with coaching where the focus is senior leadership development.

There are three reasons for preparing ahead of a coaching programme:

    • to empower you
    • to help you be open and honest in what you bring to your programme – coaches can only work with what is brought to them!
    • to actively involve you in all aspects of your executive coaching, to create a collaborative learning relationship

The Focus Of Executive Coaching

Executive Coaching exists to support the personal and professional learning of senior leaders and thereby contribute to the goals of their organisation.

The leader is always at the centre of any coaching arrangement. With the focus on learning, you take up a position of self-direction, where you will align your coaching programme with the working environment, business imperatives and personal leadership challenges.

In essence, effective executive coaches are facilitators, aiming to create the kind of collaborative relationship and the sort of learning environment that supports your agenda and sustains learning.


Does coaching work? Yes. Good coaches provide a truly important service. They tell you the truth when no one else will.Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric


Choosing the Right Coach

Choosing the right coach is vital to the success of any executive coaching programme. The relationship is, after all, at the heart of the process.

The aim is to create an effective partnership, one that provides a forum to stretch, challenge, explore and try out. To make this work, it is important to match up your needs with the skills, knowledge and experience of the coach, to help develop the quality of your thinking.

This may be determined by having an exploratory conversation with potential coaches about:

    • what skills he or she will bring to the relationship
    • what he or she wants from the relationship
    • any styles or personal preferences they may have

Subsequently, you can make an informed choice about who will be the best match, both in terms of their specific skills, background and experience, and also any preferences either of you may have. Do bear in mind that there are wider benefits of coaching that may emerge by working with someone with a different background and perspective!

It is impossible to predict how well you will get along before starting to work together and there is no ‘best way’ to determine a good match. But there are things you can do to make sure you are making the best possible decision when choosing your coach.

A good way to start when meeting with a potential coach is to clearly outline your goals for the programme and then get feedback on how he or she will work with you to achieve these.

Finding out as much as you can about his or her interests, personality and experience will help you make a useful and productive match. Practicalities like when they are available and how much time they will commit to you and the programme are also important considerations.

Deciding What You Want

In order to match your requirements to an appropriate coach, it is important to consider what you want out of the relationship. For example, you may want your coach to act as a sounding board, to challenge your thinking and to provide different perspectives.

Listed below are some of the areas in which an executive coach can provide support. Which are relevant to your needs? What questions can you ask a potential coach to help match them to your needs?

Personal Effectiveness

    • developing self-confidence, personal impact and influence
    • improving relationships with colleagues
    • dealing with conflict

Career Direction

    • helping to develop your career plan
    • working towards specific career objectives
    • developing and using your networks

Personal Development

    • becoming more self-aware
    • understanding personal strengths and weaknesses better
    • overcoming barriers to learning
    • improving problem-solving ability
    • challenging existing patterns of behaviour and thinking

You may also choose to work with an executive coach on specific skills such as presentation skills, commercial awareness, problem-solving and creative thinking.


Selecting the right person for the right job is the largest part of coaching.Phil Crosby


Useful Questions to Ask

Here are a few questions to ask a potential executive coach, to help identify his or her suitability for your needs:

    • What do YOU hope to get from this programme, as my coach?
    • Do you have a coach? What can you tell me about this?
    • What specific skills do you have that makes you a good coach?
    • What can go wrong with coaching?
    • What do we both need to do for this relationship to work well?
    • What specific skills do you have that coaching requires?
    • What about feedback – what’s the best way to do this?
    • How much commitment will you give to this programme?

It is right to recognise that even well thought out matches can end up going poorly, so it’s also important to know that you have the option of changing coach should the relationship not work for any reason.

Feedback at this point is critical, to help understand why the pairing didn’t work and what can be done to create a better match next time around.

Call to Action

Let me know if this has been helpful by leaving a comment below. Or, give me a call if you want to find out how you can start your own Leadership Coaching Programme.

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