Executive Coaching

Executive development is a critical aspect of all organizations and often one that is most overlooked. People come to coaching for several reasons: They could be “stuck” and can’t think of what else to do in order to move the organization forward; there may not be anyone at their level that they can have confidential conversations with, or they believe if they were to change/improve something within themselves, the greater organization would benefit. Maybe they are ready to do something different but are not sure what that “something” is. Perhaps they are looking for a change, a different perspective, or have important goals to reach. Executive or “business” coaching focuses on helping individuals go from where they are, to where they want themselves and their company to be.


Here are seven ways executive coaching benefits you as a leader:

  1. Heightened self-awareness
  2. Improved self-regulation
  3. Higher levels of empathy
  4. Boost in cognition at work
  5. Increased levels of motivation
  6. Better social skills
  7. Improved leadership abilities

Executive coaching works so well that approximately 1.5 billion dollars was spent on it just last year. Most of the larger companies across the globe employ coaches for upper management.

What makes executive coaching so attractive to CEO’s?

What is it that they hope to gain? In one study coaches were asked what was the main subject area for which they coached CEO’s, the answer overwhelmingly was “self-awareness.” Coming in second place were “interpersonal skills, listening skills, and empathy.” However, upon closer analysis of these skills and a portrait of emotional intelligence emerges. An increase in the former results in an increase in the latter, which is extremely important for the leadership positions of managers and CEOs.

FREE COURSE: take action on this strategy and enrol in our effective leadership email course. So, just what is emotional intelligence? It is “the ability to recognize your emotions, understand what they’re telling you, and realize how your emotions affect people around you. It also involves your perception of others: when you understand how they feel; this allows you to manage relationships more effectively.” In other words, your own emotional self-awareness serves as an aid to understanding other people’s emotions; furthermore, you respond with empathy to their needs. You can see why emotional intelligence is so crucial to leadership positions. One of the key traits lacking in upper management executives, according to a Harvard study, is empathy. Executive coaching, then, addresses one of the key elements to successful leadership, and one that is lacking. Let’s examine more in-depth the topic of emotional intelligence and how executive coaching boosts this essential quality and leads to a more productive workplace.

Components and Benefits of Emotional Intelligence

Executive coaches work with you step-by-step, bringing you to a greater self-understanding, enhanced self-management, and increased depth of empathy. Your executive coach guides you to acquire the basic skills associated with emotional intelligence. The following will outline several benefits of emotional intelligence on the workplace environment.


As mentioned above, one of the main areas coaches target is self- awareness. There is a good reason for it; self-awareness is the catalyst by which growth occurs. Without that first step of realization, people blindly continue doing things in the same way as usual. Imagine going through life having certain situations, people, or thoughts trigger responsive emotions in you and being largely unaware of them. Maybe you are aware that you had a “bad” day, but why and what went wrong? Discovering the answers to these questions often begins with understanding ourselves. People with high emotional intelligence are very aware of their own emotions. This awareness leads them to regulate their feelings.


Often times, awareness of one’s emotions brings about discipline to control one’s emotions. At the very least, the task of self-regulation is made more attainable. For example, imagine a scenario at work where you have to oversee a new employee and you face feelings of inferiority, but you do not recognize what your feelings are (you are not self- aware). All you know is that you feel uncomfortable, edgy, or uneasy when you deal with the person. Self- awareness is the first step in regulating your emotions and handling the situation with ease and comfort. Individuals with high emotional intelligence possess better self-regulation skills. Self-discipline is not limited to uncomfortable emotions. As your coach moves you along the path of greater self- control, you will notice an increased self-management in your professional life, too. You gain control over every aspect of your professional life and see improvements in time management, organization, and work-life balance.


Empathy is that special something allows people to feel how another individual is feeling. Chances are if someone empathizes with a problem you have, you feel it. Empathy is a powerful tonic that soothes the soul of the receiver. Empathy leads to understanding other people’s emotions and enhanced interactions with business colleagues and subordinates follows. Furthermore, people will easily be led by you and seek your counsel. Great leaders are empathetic. Rene Schuster, the former CEO of Telefonica Germany, expresses the relevance of it in this quote: “Empathy is not a soft nurturing value but a hard commercial tool that every business needs as part of their DNA.”

Boost in Cognition

When your mind broadens in one area, the tendency is for expansion overflow in other areas, as well. One of the key elements of emotional intelligence is the ability to view situations from other people’s perspective (hence, the empathy); when this occurs, your eyes are opened up to new viewpoints on many situations. In other words, a flexible mindset replaces rigid thinking. By exercising your brain, you boost cognition which will benefit your work in many ways.


Higher levels of motivation kick in as you start to see success. Who doesn’t feel a rush of adrenaline when their goals are getting accomplished? Once again it all begins with self- awareness; when people are self- aware, they discover intrinsic motivation, and with self-regulation, they channel that motivation in the right direction. It’s no wonder motivation is a crucial ingredient to being successful and happy. In the workplace, it is the driving force behind the difficult task, long hours, and seemingly impossible obstacles. Without motivation, you would have no workforce.

Social Skills

Social skills make up the fabric of successful relationships, whether it’s in the workplace or elsewhere. Teams with high emotional intelligence, have an abundance of advanced social skills. They have excellent communication skills, which mean they can lead without coming across dominating; they negotiate effectively so that all parties feel like it was a win-win situation; they work well in teams, combining their leadership and negotiation skills to help accomplish the goal.

Better Leadership

Ability People with high emotional intelligence are better leaders, in part because of empathy. People under your leadership need to know you hear them, understand them, and more importantly, that you care about the situation. Colin Powell once wrote, “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or conclude you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” As your executive coach helps boost your emotional intelligence quotient, you see a positive impact on the workplace environment. Securing an executive coach boasts several benefits, but enhancing self- awareness, and hence, increasing emotional intelligence rates at the top. Why Coach? It’s rare for an organization to offer to coach to someone who doesn’t offer enormous promise and potential. For the uninitiated, the resistance to working with a coach is often rooted in not knowing what to expect. So, what should a manager or an executive expect from a coach? The coach as a map maker. Coaching helps people get from point A to point B. It sounds simple enough, but the exact terrain between the two points is often obscure. Eric Hehman is CEO and principal of Austin Asset, a financial services firm in Austin, Texas. When Hehman was tapped to succeed the founder as CEO, he turned to Larry Fehd of Human Performance Strategies for guidance. Fehd offered a blend of consulting and coaching. As a consultant, he offered a road map for Hehman’s successful transition as CEO and firm leader. As a coach, he held Hehman accountable while offering support and candid feedback. “My coach was always asking me, ‘So what are you going to do?’” Hehman said. “He wouldn’t let me duck when things got difficult.” The coach as a lamplighter. A coach is often the only person in an executive’s life who will hold the lamp high enough for the client to see beyond immediate commitments and goals. Sloane Perras, chief legal officer for The Krystal Co., has worked with several coaches over the years. “My first coach helped me deal with an enemy at work. I was able to understand my own part in the situation and to mitigate the effects of the drama. I learned so much from that situation that now I use my coach to facilitate and focus me on setting goals. If I didn’t have a coach, I would never take time out to think about my future and navigating my way forward.” The coach as a gap filler. A coach can help identify and close skill gaps. Most people have a sense for where they lack skill, but a coach can quickly get to the pain point. “Our executives ask for a coach when they realize that even though they are really good at some things, they may have a couple of edges to smooth out,” Clark said. Shawnte Mitchell is general counsel and vice president of human resources, legal affairs and compliance at Aptevo Therapeutics Inc. At her previous employer, she was offered a coach, Suzi Pomerantz of Innovative Leadership International, to address certain internal team challenges. “[Pomerantz] helped me define the things that were contributing to those challenges and sort out which of those things were mine.” She also helped Mitchell expand her awareness of how she connected with others. Mitchell learned how to moderate her communication to suit each person, and she said by using a coach she got to the next level more quickly and smoothly. The coach as a context builder. Every environment has qualities that may not be immediately apparent to the client. The coach will have experience from many different environments — and the benefit of an outsider’s perspective. Dorian Denburg was in-house counsel for a public corporation when she became president of the National Association of Women Lawyers. She said she immediately realized the not-for-profit environment was radically different from what she was used to. She was going to have to make some shifts. Her coach helped her understand the big picture and the importance of context. “Volunteers are driven by completely different motives than employees are,” Denburg explained. “I had a habit of rolling in and expecting people to keep up and jump into action. With this job, I had to learn to be more intentional about setting the stage to engage people.” She made the shift from leading through accountability and authority to leading through influence. The coach as a mirror. The coach will often be the only one to reflect brutal reality and remind the client who they are and what is most important to them. Ajay Jagtiani, a principal with Miles and Stockbridge, had just hired a coach to help him navigate the environment at his new law firm when he had a heart attack. He had planned to use the coach to adapt to the new culture, decode political factions and crush it on the way to becoming managing partner. The heart attack changed everything. “I was young enough to survive it, but old enough to appreciate it,” he explained. His coach challenged him to identify what was important and align his behaviours accordingly. With his coach’s help, Jagtiani redesigned his life. “I’ve been asked to join the senior partner ranks several times, but I’ll only consider it after my daughter is in college, and I have a year to support my wife in finding her next chapter.” For the first time, Jagtiani said he feels aligned. “I can feel the difference in the way clients trust me. They know what they see is what they get.” Coach as a champion for one’s best self. Coaches are trained to focus attention on what is working and on the client’s strengths. They will always challenge the client to go beyond what they think is possible. Austin Asset’s Hehman said his coach encouraged him to find his own voice, to form his own opinions, advocate for himself, and act on his ideas. “My coach challenged me to play bigger,” he explained. “He gave me permission to shine and step up.”


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