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  • Writer's pictureShari Gibbons

What Does an Executive Coach Do? Your Guide to Unlocking Peak Performance

Updated: 7 days ago

Photo of an executive coach speaking to a client

The C-suite can be a lonely place. Leading a team, navigating complex challenges, and driving growth all while maintaining a strategic vision requires a unique set of skills and unwavering resilience.

Whether you are C-Level executive trying to get your first CEO position or an emerging leader climbing the corporate ladder, investing in your professional and leadership development is critical to stay ahead of your competition. That's where executive coaches come in.

But what exactly does an executive coach do? Beyond simply being a sounding board, effective coaches act as catalysts for profound personal and professional growth.

Here's what sets exceptional executive coaches apart:

1. Masters of Development: Adult Development Theory & Immunity to Change

Great coaches understand the nuances of adult development theory. They're familiar with the work of Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, particularly their groundbreaking framework, Immunity to Change. This framework helps identify the unconscious patterns and limiting beliefs that hold us back. Imagine a leader stuck in a cycle of self-doubt, imposter syndrome, or relying heavily on leadership skills that cause the most friction; an immunity to change coach can help them unearth the root cause and develop strategies to move forward.

2. Leading by Example: Coaches Who Invest in Themselves

You can't take a client where you haven't been yourself. The best coaches are dedicated to their own continuous learning and development. They invest in leadership development programs, coaching certifications, and ongoing personal and professional growth. Their own journey equips them to guide clients through challenging transformations.

3. The Power of Supervision: Coaches Who Challenge Themselves

Top-tier coaches don't operate in a vacuum. They actively seek coaching supervision. Supervision involves working with a more seasoned coach to hone their skills, address blind spots, and ensure they're delivering the most impactful coaching possible.

4. Adaptive vs. Technical Challenges: Knowing When to Guide and When to Empower

Executive challenges come in two flavors: technical and adaptive. Technical challenges have clear solutions (e.g., improving systems thinking skills). Adaptive challenges involve deeper, more complex issues (e.g., shifting a company culture). Exceptional coaches understand this distinction. For technical challenges, they provide guidance and support. For adaptive challenges, they use leading methodologies to empower clients to discover their own solutions, fostering self-reliance and long-term growth.

5. Coaching Readiness: Are You Ready for Transformation?

Coaching isn't a magic bullet. It requires a client's willingness to be introspective and commit to change. Before embarking on a coaching journey, an effective coach will assess your coaching readiness. This ensures both parties are aligned on expectations and goals.

6. Systemic Thinking: Addressing Challenges from a Broader Perspective

The best executive coaches are also trained in systemic team coaching. This approach incorporates a broader perspective, recognizing that the client operates within a complex system of interconnected elements (e.g., company culture, team dynamics, industry trends). By fostering systemic thinking, the coach empowers the client to not only address their immediate challenge but also consider its impact on the larger system. This leads to more sustainable and impactful solutions.

7. Relentless ROI: Your Success is Their Priority

The best executive coach is laser-focused on one thing: your return on investment. They develop tailored coaching programs designed to deliver tangible business results and significant personal growth. Metrics for success are established at the outset, and progress is tracked throughout the coaching journey.

Finding the Right Coach: It's an Investment in You

Executive coaching is a powerful tool for unlocking your full potential. By prioritizing these key qualities, you can identify a coach who acts as your trusted advisor, a guide on your path to peak performance.


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