Secrets to Successful Executive Coaching


By Nancy Zentis, Ph.D.

The demand for Executive Coaching is growing and will continue to increase substantially through 2020.  Not everyone is suited for executive coaching and one of the biggest challenges an organization faces is finding a qualified Executive Coach.  Many coaches have experience in performance coaching, career coaching and outplacement coaching, but executive coaching demands a higher level of skills and experience.

According to a study at Stanford University, only two-thirds of CEOs surveyed have a coach, but every CEO surveyed wants one.  So why don’t more executives find an executive coach?  Most CEOs don’t know how to choose the right coach or why they need coaching.

If you are interested in becoming a successful executive coach, here are some important factors to consider:

Why do Executives Need Coaches? 

Leaders who pursue a coach often feel they’ve failed as a leader by asking for help. However, a successful leader knows their limitations and responds to opportunities to grow and develop themselves through coaching to advance their capabilities, improve interpersonal skills, advance their career, and solve critical challenges.

Here’s what you need to know to become a successful Executive Coach:

  1. Build strong relationships – Know the client, their business and their industry. Show interest in them, be curious about them as a person, build rapport and credibility with them as a confidant and advisor.  Establish trust and create a confidentiality agreement.
  2. Ask powerful questions – Find out more about them. What keeps them up at night, what are the burning questions they’d like answered. Ask if this is the question they’d like to be coached on and gain agreement.  Take time to explore the question by asking “what” questions to get them to think deeper about the challenge.
  3. Know your role – A coach helps the client solve their own problems through active listening and asking powerful questions. A consultant offers advice and suggestions.  A facilitator provides an opportunity to learn something new.  Focus 70 percent of your time in your role as coach, 20 percent as a consultant, and 10 percent as a facilitator.  It’s about them – not you!
  4. Recognize when they are ready to take action – Ask, where are you right now and what would you like to do about it? What obstacles stand in your way?  What thoughts do you have on your issue or challenge?  What could you do differently?
  5. Avoid solving their problems – Focus on what questions you need to ask that encourage them to take steps to move forward. What would it look like if you could handle this successfully?  What steps are you willing to take? If you were in the other person’s shoes, what would you do?
  6. Be present and fully attentive – Show that you are there for them and focused. Be mindful of your current frame of mind, quiet the little voice in your head.  Show that you are genuinely interested and care about them.
  7. Listen for opportunities – Focus on what the client is saying and feeling. Observe their emotions and non-verbal cues.  Ask, do you mind if I ask you a question?  You seem uncomfortable with conflict.  Is that true for you?
  8. Use every coaching session to improve your own coaching skills – Ask the client, what did I do that was effective in this discussion. What do you wish I could have done differently?  Use the same technique to debrief the coaching session yourself, by asking the same questions.

Are you ready to move forward as an Executive Coach?  Take the next step and register for our Online Executive Coaching Certification Program, beginning on August 27th, from 6:00 -9:00 PM EDT.  The ECCP program meets live, online via go to training for 8 months, for one 3-hour session per month.  Each session is facilitated live by one of our certified coaching facilitators.  Sign up today! 


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