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What Is An Executive Coach and How Can You Become One?

What Is An Executive Coach and How Can You Become One?

Executive coaching is a powerful way to improve leadership performance in the workplace. Learn how to empower high-level employees with this guide.


Learning is the cornerstone of all improvement. 

And in the workplace, constant professional development is crucial for success. The best executives and managers understand that learning should be continuous. But creating learning opportunities outside of a team’s day-to-day tasks is difficult — especially for a new executive. 

Companies can create learning opportunities for their employees — from individual contributors to upper management — by hiring executive coaches. These coaches share their expertise with leadership teams to improve business performance, achieve quicker results, streamline decision-making, and more. 

All of these lessons help managers and senior managers better guide and mentor their own teams into smoother operations and greater efficiency. But what is an executive coach, and why would you become one? 

What is executive coaching?

Executive coaching is a form of leadership development that involves one-on-one engagement between a coach and a senior manager or company executive. While career coaching is available to any level of employee, executive coaching focuses on high-level employees that typically have challenges around team dynamics (hiring, firing, performance), culture and company-wide performance. . This process provides executives with the professional guidance and leadership coaching necessary to be more effective in their position.


A successful coaching program doesn’t just focus on improving performance; studies show it also boosts executives’ job satisfaction and an entire organization’s effectiveness.

What do executive coaches do?

This type of leadership coaching covers everything from identifying and building competencies around workflows to improving an executive’s emotional intelligence for stronger interpersonal skills. But most executive coaches have four main tasks:

1. Acting as a support system

Having a coach by your side is like having a sounding board, a friend, and an experienced mentor all in one. Executive coaches must provide one-on-one support, help clients find motivation, and offer inspiration for struggling managers during their sessions.

Whether providing a shoulder to cry on, encouragement, or solutions to a complicated problem, executive coaches have the ability and typically, past experience, to help. This is especially valuable for those new to senior management. Coaching can help newer executives battle imposter syndrome and learn to navigate the challenges of managing other managers and large teams. 

2. Helping to find clarity

In times of distress, a second opinion from someone outside of a situation is invaluable. While they learn about a specific problem from your point of view, experienced coaches also recognize the broader themes of what you’re struggling with. Their understanding of the issue will help them provide objective but supportive advice while sharing a fresh perspective on the problem. 

In the creative problem-solving process, two heads are better than one. Executive coaches can help brainstorm solutions and draft actionable goals to navigate sticky situations or find a path forward when one isn’t obvious to you.

3. Assisting with decision-making

Making decisions grows easier with experience and knowledge. For new managers, both are hard to come by in the role’s early stages. That’s where an executive and professional coaching program can help.

Rather than relying solely on themselves or team members with less experience, managers can lean on their career coaches as they learn the ins and outs of executive leadership. Having someone to challenge assumptions and offer a fresh point of view will benefit the whole team, not just the executive. Even experienced leaders can grow from an accredited coach’s perspective on big problems.  

As executives gain more experience, they’ll be able to make decisions and implement changes quickly and with less stress. That means they’re learning how to get the results they need — thanks to your guidance. 

4. Sharing experience

When stepping into a new role, we’re often expected to take on new responsibilities. This lack of experience makes assignments daunting, but with the help of great leaders and mentorship from more experienced colleagues, the tasks become much more manageable.

This is no different for managers, executives, and other high-potential employees. While executives are still welcome to ask for help, it might feel strange to turn to the C-suite for guidance. And even if they already have the skills and competencies required to complete the job, having an unbiased mentor figure through a coach supports managers as they find footing on unfamiliar ground.


Reasons to become an executive coach

Executive coaching services may be helpful for clients, but what’s in it for coaches? Completing certificate programs, being certified by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), and building development plans are no easy feats. But they’re worthwhile if becoming an executive coach seems right for you. This may be the right job for you if:

  • One of your dreams is to help businesses grow and develop their team. Coaches need to be passionate about our work. Coaching requires significant time, effort, and monetary input, but love for the job and enthusiastic clients are strong motivators. Executive coaching may be a career path to consider if you enjoy collaborative problem-solving and sharing expertise to help others in business settings.
  • You had a successful experience as a manager and want to share your knowledge. While getting certified by a reputable organization is critical for demonstrating our qualifications, no theoretical knowledge can compare to real-life, hands-on experience. This is why our clients come to us.
  • You want to profit off your knowledge and experience. Consulting a textbook when we need information is one thing, but executive coaches provide the expertise, experience, and a second perspective all at once. This toolkit is valuable for business owners and executives, especially those newer to their roles who may be overwhelmed. Having an experienced guide at these times can be the difference between making or breaking project success.

How to become an executive coach

Now that we understand the benefits of executive coaching, how do we get involved in the process? Here are five requirements to become an effective coach for executives with an impressive portfolio:

  1. Demonstrate leadership experience in similar roles to the ones you coach. This lets your clients know you’re confident, capable, and successful.
  2. Display your executive coaching certification. Certifications provide a standardized benchmark of ability from respected organizations and show you’re dedicated to learning how to best help clients.
  3. Understand the business ecosystem and keep updated on trends and innovations. A great coach never stops learning to stay equipped with the most up-to-date techniques and supports. It’s hard to give advice on an industry you know nothing about, so be sure to research the businesses in your target demographic. 
  4. Learn about coaching skills, frameworks, and models. This will improve your coaching engagement and increase your confidence in both your client interactions and practices. What works for one client may not work for another, so a full toolkit is crucial to support all clients equally. 
  5. Teach and transfer skills and knowledge with ease. Excellent communication is a vital part of coaching at a higher level, so you must bring patience, empathy, and active listening to every session. But more than that, you need to be able to communicate your experience and suggestions to clients. Giving constructive feedback isn’t always easy, but it needs to be a coach’s strength to deliver results. 

Boosting an executive’s career

Executive coaching is a powerful tool for business leaders, stakeholders, and managers to improve their professional and personal lives. It’s also gratifying and fulfilling for coaches to watch their clients learn and grow.

Are you looking to boost your coaching business? Practice provides the resources and tools to take your coaching to the next level.

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