Executive Coaching

What is Executive Coaching?

Executive coaching is aimed at improving the performance of high powered executives within an organization. Executive coaching is similar to sports coaching for high performance athletes. The role of the coach is to expose blind spots and challenge the executive to achieve greater levels of success than they could on their own.

Everyday, hundreds of executives seek the support and council of independent, outside, third-party executive coaches – often referred to as thinking partners. Unlike middle managers or front-line staff, executives are in a unique position at the top of their organization.

What Are The Benefits of Executive Coaching?

Benefits Experienced by the Individual

Here at Mainsail Executive Coaches, we interviewed a number of coaches and their clients to find out what the benefits are. Below is an incomplete list of benefits of executive coaching experienced by the executive.

  • Better communication with team members
  • Increased confidence
  • Better work-life balance
  • Quicker decision making
  • Better time-management

Benefits Experienced by the Organization

The benefits of executive coaching depends on the type of organization and the desired outcome of the coaching. In the case of executive coaching, the company benefits if the executive’s performance is improved by more than the cost of the coaching PLUS any additional improvements experienced throughout the organization based on the executives performance.

Let’s say for example, an executive earns $100,000 and the company invests $10,000 per year for their coaching. Can the coaching improve the executive’s performance by 10%, an amount equal to the investment? And what’s the multiple effect? If the executive manages 10 people, how much of their performance is affected by the executive coaching? Ideally, there will be benefits throughout the organization and the return on investment will be much greater than 100%.

According to the International Coach Federation Global Coaching Study performed in 2009, the median company return was reported to be 700% with almost one fifth of respondents reporting an ROI of at least 50 times (5000%) the initial investment.

Another benefit of hiring an executive coach is preparing for the future. For organizations facing generational change through retirement, succession planning is usually in the top 10 biggest issues keeping senior leaders up at night. The best succession planning systems include the current, as well as the future, criteria for success in these key positions. This takes forethought, investment of time and strategically connecting your people capacity to the future challenges the organization will face. The number of candidates ready for the next position determines the power of the pipeline.

Executive coaching can jumpstart and add diligence to the results of succession planning. Currently, 17% of companies are planning to devote more resources to executive coaching to improve their pipeline strength, according to the Conference Board (2017).

On the opposite side of the spectrum are organizations with young and inexperienced managers who are facing new challenges and needing development in key areas of their jobs. This is where executive coaching can act as a powerful lever to help augment and improve upon HR employee development and business training programs to provide custom developmental objectives and a path to growth for inexperienced executives.

Executive Coaches Are Experts In Human Performance

A common misconception about executive coaches is that they are business experts. While many executive coaches possess extensive business knowledge and experience, they need not be experts in your line of business to deliver quality coaching services. A commonly held belief among coaches is that you, the coachee, are the expert in your business.

As a result, many executives use their coach as a sounding board, a thinking partner, and an independent third-party who helps them stay focused on the most important parts of the business. In coaching, the learning and the change that people experience is much more impactful and sustainable when the coachee has come up with it on their own – when they discover it from within.

In theory, any executive could hire a suitably trained executive coach. In practice that doesn’t happen. Most executives want to work with someone who can relate to them, can understand the corporate environment, and has experience in a variety of personal and professional situations.

How Much Does Executive Coaching Cost?

When hiring an executive coach, it’s important to do the research to find the right coach for your professional needs and, naturally, the coach’s hourly fees are going to be factored into your decision. Companies who are familiar with executive coaching services typically set aside specific budgets for their top layer executives and directors to be coached and have a grasp of how much they are willing to pay for executive coaching services. However, those organizations who are new to the coaching realm may find it difficult to decide on a suitable price.

The coaching industry isn’t regulated and reliable information about executive coaching is scarce. And while the International Coach Federation (ICF) has created standards for certification, it doesn’t have any guidelines for coaching rates.

When it comes to price, the cost of hiring an executive coach can vary greatly depending on the coach’s level of experience, the length of the coaching engagement and who is being coached. 

What Kind of Training do Executive Coaches Have?

As mentioned, the coaching industry is not regulated, meaning coaches can have varying degrees of training from a long list of training institutes and online programs. When looking at an executive coach’s rates, their level of training is an important factor to consider.

In the 2016 ICF Global Coaching Study, which surveyed 15,380 respondents from 137 countries, a majority of coaches reported having taken formal training (99% of coach practitioners received some form of coach-specific training), with 89% receiving training that was accredited or approved by a professional coaching organization.

While this number is encouraging, there is a difference between having executive coach training and having coaching experience. Those looking to hire an executive coach should take into consideration, not only the coach’s training, but their professional paid coaching hours. That is one benefit of hiring an ICF certified coach – they require coaches to have a specific number of coaching hours to qualify for the different levels of credential.

The ICF has three levels of credentials:

While it is not specified, it is likely that an ICF Master Certified Coach (MCC) will charge quite a bit more than an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) because of their level of training and experience (200+ training hours and 2,500+ hours of coaching experience).

What is the Difference Between Internal and External Coaching?

In the past, most executive coaching work was done with an external coach – someone outside of the organization who is hired to work with an executive. However, there has been an increase in companies opting to hire an internal coach to work with their managers, directors and top tier executives. So, what is the difference between the two and what are the pros and cons of both types of coaches?

There are benefits to both external and external executive coaching. One is not necessarily better than the other, but in certain situations one may be preferred over the other. According to Sherpa Coaching, internal coaches work at lower levels, while coaching engagements at higher levels are often reserved for veteran external coaches, which is mainly due to issues of objectivity and confidentiality.

The pros of internal coaching include a lower cost to the company, convenience, growth potential, consistency in approach and the lessened burden on management. However, there are a few potential downsides to internal coaching, such as a lack of trust, a limited viewpoint, time conflicts, role clarity, accountability issues and confidentiality. When the executive coach is employed at the same company, the individual being coached may not be able to open up to them fully for fear of judgement.

What is the Difference Between a Mentor and an Executive Coach?

As executives progress in their careers, it’s imperative they have the opportunity to get periodic guidance from a trusted mentor. A mentor can help pave the way to success by offering the wisdom they’ve gained, as well as giving critiques and feedback. While this is a much-needed resource, a mentor is not a coach.

The role of the executive coach is quite different; particularly when the anticipated outcome of working with a coach involves strengthening areas related to soft skills such as communication, conflict management (especially with peers or direct reports), leadership development (succession planning) or myriad characteristics the organization may require from their leaders.

Now that we’ve covered mentoring and coaching, here are a few of the things executive coaches and mentors do and things that don’t typically fit in their job description.

Mentor Executive Coach
  • They are subject matter experts (SME) on the business
  • They offer advice or guidance based on their experience
  • They have more loyalty to the organization
  • They don’t meet with mentees on a regular basis
  • They typically don’t sign any formal agreement regarding the engagement
  • They may not be subject matter experts (SME) on the business
  • They don’t offer advice or guidance
  • They focus on specific areas related to leadership attributes
  • They hold regularly scheduled sessions with the executive
  • They maintain a confidential relationship with the the executive

Is my Employee a Good Candidate for Executive Coaching?

Organizations that are unfamiliar with coaching tend to call in a coach for their most problematic employees. Often, it’s because the employee’s manager doesn’t have the time to manage the situation or isn’t sure what to do about it.

In some of these cases, it is possible that coaching can create some shift, but generally, the organization won’t find much benefit from coaching these employees.

Here’s what makes someone an excellent candidate for executive coaching:

  • They have true potential
  • They are motivated to grow
  • They are open to feedback

How Do I Find Executive Coaches for a Group of Leaders and Managers in my Organization?

We regularly get approached by Human Resource managers, Organizational Development managers, and Procurement specialists within medium to large corporation (100 – 10,000 employees) to find coaches for their executives, managers, and high potentials. With thousands of coaches in more than 50 countries, we can find the right coaches for your executives. It’s free to request coach recommendations for the leaders in your organization.

How Do I Find An Executive Coach for Myself?

The most important thing to remember when looking for an executive coach is to find one whose training, background and skills most closely match your specific goals. There are many coaches with many different specializations, and your ultimate success will largely depend on finding the coach with the best “fit” for your particular situation.

Because finding the right fit is so important, it’s critical that you not just hire the first coach you talk to. Instead, we recommend you speak with at least 2, and ideally 3 or 4, to find the one who you’re going to feel the most comfortable working with over a period of several months. Almost all professional coaches offer a free, 15 or 20 minute consultation to help you determine if they are the right coach for you.

If you’re ready for executive coaching, we can offer you a free executive coach recommendation. With this service, you tell Mainsail about your goals, background and budget and we send you a select list of compatible coaches to interview for a free consultation.

I’m Interested in Executive Coaching, but I Don’t Know Where to Start

Although executive coaches have been around for more than 25 years, many companies and individuals who could benefit from coaching are unaware of how it works. Here at Mainsail, we have been working in the coaching industry since 2007 and can help you determine if coaching is the right solution for your needs.

Speak to a Mainsail coaching expert today and get a needs assessment and recommendation for coaching services. No obligations. No charge.