What Is Executive Coaching?

Executive coaching is about setting objectives, questioning, listening, prodding, a little bit of ass kicking, rewarding and supporting. Any other questions?

OK, for those who want more detail, let’s explore this for a minute.

You can’t throw a rock in a crowd without hitting a few executive coaches. Some are wise old business veterans, and some haven’t paid off their student loans and attended a weekend seminar. Most, however, have a slightly different definition of coaching. Here’s what my executive coaching program looks like. If you don’t like it, throw a rock and find someone with a different definition.

I’ve been friends with some of the people I coach, but I’m not a paid friend. I want to help you achieve your objectives, not give you a back rub or have a beer when you have a bad day. (I occasionally drink beer with the people I coach but have yet to give a back rub.)

We start with objectives. What do you want to work on? Why will the significant investment you make in coaching (unless you want a cheap coach — you know, the one who’s still paying off his student loan) help you be a better leader and businessperson? Those objectives may change over time, and we’ll work through some urgent issues, but our conversations must lead somewhere and provide a return on investment — for you, me and your organization.

I don’t do life coaching, though we’ll talk a lot about life. Nor do I do marriage counseling, though we’ll talk about your spouse, partner and family. If you think the world is out to get you or you can’t trust anyone, see a psychologist. If you want to run a kick-ass organization, improve your leadership skills, or have a thought partner to help you think through the tough issues, look for a seasoned executive coach.

Can everyone benefit from a coach? No. Only if you want to change. (See “You Cannot Be Helped”)

What’s the process like? See paragraph one. How often? As often as is required to meet your objectives and not waste our time. I don’t do hourly coaching. I want you to achieve your objectives, and we’ll find a meeting cadence that works for both of us. By the way, I don’t care where you live; we’ll meet primarily face-to-face, because that’s how people communicate best. You may come to me, or I may go to you, but the phone, video and email will be secondary tools, not primary. 

How long will this take? As long as it takes. Most of my clients are with me for a year or more. We get many wins along the way, but substantial change takes a bit of work.

Is it fun? Sometimes! I like to laugh and be around others who do as well. We work on very serious stuff, but we’re going to have fun while we work. Not all the time, but part of the time. Some of it’s just hard work. If you’re averse to this, you might find a paid friend.

One of my favorite clients said to me, “I’m a much better CEO because of our work together!” From my perspective, that is what executive coaching is.

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