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Executive Coaching Demystified

“I have a theory that it is not good to give people the truth. The thing to do is to help them to discover the truth about themselves for themselves” Maslow

Hey, James here from The Coaching Room, thanks for checking this article out. Once you have read it, I hope that you have clarity on what Executive Coaching is, and is not, and whether it is right for your personal and professional development compared to other avenues available.

To begin with it’s worth answering the question, what are the available avenues of personal and professional development?

Training – Are there general skills you want to develop for yourself?

Training is a skill-based process designed to teach, educate and instruct a person through a process in service of being able to perform a new set of skills. Training is useful if you would like to learn and develop a “how to” skillset or process that is relatively generic in its application to all (and nonspecific to you), for example sales training, customer service, new IT software etc.

Mentoring – Is there inside information you want to benefit from?

Mentoring is a process that involves a mentor giving specific advice; guidance and sharing his/her own personal story, view and approach to another. Mentoring is useful when you want to model and copy a specific person’s expertise and approach and benefit from the inside knowledge of someone who has “been here and done that” before. It relies on what has worked for the mentor also working for you.  

Therapy/Counselling – Do you have a remedial problem personally that needs fixing?

Therapy focuses on problems, their sources, symptoms, how people are dysfunctional. Therapy is useful if you require healing of hurts, re-parenting or resolution from the past and personal pains.

Consulting – Do you require expert advice for a specific issue/problem?

Consulting involves the skill of giving advice and using one’s own expertise in a given field to recommend a client on what to do next and potentially how to do it. It is similar to mentoring in that the balance of expertise for your work/business lies with the consultant, but different in that the expertise being shared is based on a specific issue/problem/requirement utilising an objective process that the consultant has expertise in.

Leadership and Executive Coaching (Executive Coaching is also synonymous with “Leadership Coaching”) around the world is typically considered to be (or confused with) training, mentoring, therapy/counselling and consulting. By the way… it’s none of these things. If you’re receiving Executive Coaching but your coach is in the business of advising, telling, fixing, or recommending, chances are you aren’t working with a coach, you are working with a trainer, mentor, therapist or consultant.

So you might wondering then, what is an Executive Coach? If it’s not the above, what is it?

Here is the simple answer – Executive Coaching is facilitating the access of an individual or team’s internal) and external resources to realising an agreed well-formed outcome or evolution.

But what does that really mean?

Coaching is facilitating (the act of making easy or easier) the access of an individual or team’s (people working together to achieve a common goal) internal (Thinking, knowledge, feeling, ‘attitude’ mind-body-emotion states) and external (time, money, support, other people, systems and environments) resources to realising an agreed well-formed (sensory specific with evidence) outcome or evolution (leading to new attitudes, learning and new choices in cognitive and behavioural flexibility).


How is that different from the other methodologies listed above?


Executive Coaching is generative, not remedial – Executive Coaching is not about “fixing problems” it’s about generating potential, excellence and peak performance on the inside (thoughts, feelings, beliefs) and outside (behaviours) of an individual or team, in the face of all of the business including its issues and it’s possibilities. Executive Coaching awakens, disturbs, challenges, and stretches a person/team to unleash more and more potential talents and possibilities. It is highly confrontative, direct, and explicit whilst being non-judgemental.

Executive Coaching is about facilitating your expertise, not the Coaches – Executive Coaching is about facilitating the client’s excellence, it is a dialogue of colleagues and involves inter-dependant roles. It’s about co-inventing the right solution with the client in real-time dialogue.  It’s about knowing what to do when, with whom, and why. It’s about being able to search for the why and how when something doesn’t work in the realisation that there’s a structure for it and finding that structure puts us in charge.

Executive Coaching is facilitation, not advice giving – Executive Coaching is a conversation that explores with non-judgement how a person or team performs a task, an emotion, a belief, a relationship, a business or a life. It’s a fierce conversation that gets to the heart of things, to the heart of a person’s frames of meaning, to their beliefs, world view, self-view, view of others, and it’s a conversation that invites heightened self-awareness and paradigm shifts. 

Executive Coaching is clean feedback, not evaluative – An executive coach listens in order to give the cleanest and purest feedback, sensory based feedback so that a person can see him or herself as if in a mirror. An Executive Coach sees, detects, and identifies patterns in behaviour and thinking and then offers insightful questions and explorations so that the person can see and discovers their own leverage points and make the changes they are ready to make.

So that’s what Executive Coaching is, now you may be asking do I need an executive coach? Here is a quick checklist to see if it’s for you.


Do you:

  1. Want a process that will help you to evolve by shifting your (or your teams) inner game, frames of meaning, underlying beliefs, values and thinking patterns, that govern your behaviours and how you relate to others and the world?
  2. Want an environment for that will enable you to facilitate your own evolution?  
  3. Have the ego-strength to face what is in the world?
  4. Show up as fully able to be an adult in thinking, feeling, accepting and responsibility?
  5. Not need “fixing” or any remedial solutions, but want generative change?
  6. Embrace change, want it, plan for it, get excited about it?
  7. Show up as proactive, open, disclosing and self-aware?

If you said yes to all of the above, then it may be worth your time having a conversation with an Executive Coach that meets the criteria in this article.  If so, there are many to be found and the search alone can be daunting. There is online executive coaching, executive coaching courses, face to face, group coaching just to name a few. Whatever avenue works best for you my most important recommendation personally is to meet and spend an hour with the coach you are considering working with before making any commitment. Most reputable coaches will offer a free consultation, the better ones will offer at least an hour so that both you and the coach can assess if you are right for each other.

If you made it to the bottom of this article you probably have a better understanding than most on what Executive coaching is, isn’t, who it’s for and whether it’s for you. That’s all for now, till next time, thank you for reading 🙂


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