What is Executive Coaching?

Most of the ‘big payday’ coaching I’ve done has been helping businesses support their executive leaders through executive coaching.  It’s often a dynamic coaching relationship with one of the ‘movers and shakers’ of the world.

In this video and discussion below I’m going to talk about what executive coaching is.

What is executive coaching?

Executive coaching is a dialogue and a process that is there to support results for the scope of an executive’s:

  • Performance
  • Results and achievement
  • Communication 
  • Development

Executive coaching is, as you would expect, coaching for an executive, and the results an executive would want from that process.

Below (and in the video above) I’m also going to cover:

  • 2:21 a certificate that you may need in order to do executive coaching
  • 3:54 How my organization runs executive coaching with the largest organizations on the planet
  • 6:51 Using Executive Coaching Within Corporate “Leadership Development” Projects
  • 7:17 How executive coaching has blurred the lines between coaching and consulting.

If you want to skip forward to any of these topics, you can click on the (above) time codes to skip to that part of the video.


01:11 Executives are leaders in their organizations.

Part of executive coaching is leadership coaching.  It’s a subset of executive coaching. 

An executive coach is going to likely provide leadership coaching for the executive that they coach.

That executive needs to lead people in their organization…  

  • to higher levels of performance.  
  • to follow through on what they need to follow through on. 
  • to produce results that wouldn’t get produced if that leader hadn’t shown up. 

The function of leadership is novelty.” 

01:48 The function of leadership is novelty.  

The function of leadership is for the leader to produce a new result for an individual or a team that they’re leading.  The leader needs to produce a result that their team wouldn’t have produced had that leader not shown up and actually led.

So… a great executive coach is a great leadership coach, too.

What is The Best Executive Coaching Certification?  Do I Need It?

2:21 There is a certification that’s needed in order to even be eligible to coach most executives working for Fortune 500 companies.  

ICF credentials (the International Coach Federation credentials) are the worldwide recognized standard in the world of coaching.  

Most governments and larger organizations recognize the ICF credential as the credential they require to hire a coach to work with their executives.  It’s “proof” the coach hired has the… 

  • Skills 
  • Achievement
  • Knowledge and abilities 

…to provide the level of coaching that organization expects and requires for their executives.  

…there’s a more than 50% chance the organization hiring you will expect that you hold an ICF credential.”

If you want to go work for the government as a coach, or you want to get hired to coach executives in larger organizations…

…there’s a more than 50% chance the organization hiring you will expect that you hold an ICF credential.

(NOTE: If you’ve been asking questions about ICF Certification lately, then you need to attend this webinar, called “ICF Credentialing & Coach Certification”. During the webinar, I’ll cover how you can gain an ICF Credential in a matter of months. Click HERE now to attend the webinar.)

If you want to learn more about ICF credentials, just go HERE to watch my interview with ICF that covers:

  • ICF credentialing.
  • the process to get your credential.
  • how to start your journey towards gaining your ICF credential.

Master Coach University also provides the type of training you need to gain different levels of ICF credentials.  If you’re interested, talk to us.

How My Organization Runs Executive Coaching With the Largest Organizations on the Planet

3:54 Let’s talk about how my organization (and my teams of coaches) run coaching projects for the largest organizations on the planet… where we actually coach their managers and executives.  

Generally we partner with training organizations.  

Training organizations are regularly hired by large corporations to come in and teach their executives… 

  1. Leadership skills 
  2. Management skills 
  3. Hiring skills

…all different kinds of “skill transfer”.

That’s why organizations hire trainers and training companies.  

04:38  Generally, when partnered with a training company, my team will run the follow-up coaching that’s needed after the corporate training itself.


Just because the trainer comes in and trains a group for two days doesn’t mean that those trainees are going to use what they’ve learned.  In fact, without any follow up, those trainees will forget most of what they learn within three to six weeks.

Coaching is required as a follow up tool to support the corporation’s return on that training investment. 

without any follow up, those trainees will forget most of what they learn within three to six weeks.”

05:17  Our coaches will come in and work with a large organization and the executives in that organization.  

Generally, we’ll follow a three step process with these executive clients:

  1. Accountability
  2. Discussion, Strategy, And Utilization
  3. Adjustment & Improvement

Step One: Accountability

We make sure, number one, that those executives are using what they learned. We hold them accountable for taking action on the learnings… for following through. 

Step Two: Discussion, Strategy, And Utilization

We also facilitate conversations around what they learned. That way they can drive the memorization, or the ability to understand and appreciate what they learned in training… even more deeply.  Sometimes just talking about something helps you to understand it and appreciate it even more.

Our coaches help to facilitate that process.  

05:55 We’ll also strategize with executives on successfully utilizing what they’ve learned.  More utilization leads to higher skill sets.  

Without our coaching, these executives may not gain any new skills from their training.  Just because they have the knowledge of something doesn’t mean that they’ve gained any skills or a level of mastery yet.

06:11 For instance, if a client has learned some aspects of management and communication, maybe they understand it theoretically, which is great…


We’re going to hold them accountable for practicing what they learned…

Step Three: Adjustment & Improvement

… and as they practice it, they’ll have challenges…

…Sometimes the approaches won’t work.  They’ll use the learnings, but they’ll ‘fumble the ball’ a little bit. 

Our coaches can work through the answer to the big question: “Where did things get stuck?” 

  • Was it your mindset?
  • Was it your delivery? 
  • Was it something that went on with other individuals you worked with? 

And then, the coaches likely follow up with ‘next action’ questions, like:

  • What do you need to learn from this experience?
  • How are you going to change it next time?
    • so you’ll do things better?
    • so you’re at another level of performance?

And then, of course, these adjustments and improvements become new actionable items those executives are accountable for following through on, and the whole cycle repeats itself!

Using Executive Coaching Within Corporate “Leadership Development” Projects

6:51 There are also higher level development projects that our team is hired to work with large corporations to facilitate.  These projects could last over a year or more.  

In these ‘leadership development’ projects, each executive, individually, can work on 

  • their skills
  • their development 
  • their mindset 

Usually, we go pretty deep in these larger time-frame development projects, to the point of grooming an executive for the next promotion, or to support a potential succession plan.  

Maybe a few of these clients are C-Suite material!

How Executive Coaching Has Blurred The Lines Between Coaching and Consulting

7:17 Coaching is an inquiry process.  

The coach is not there just to provide knowledge and expertise.  They’re there to ask powerful questions and facilitate a discussion that supports that executive in their performance, achievement, and results. 

The corporation that hires you doesn’t care about your definition of coaching or consulting… “

07:37 However, a lot of times, executive coaches will provide consulting within the coaching process that they facilitate.

Executive Coaching vs. Consulting
The realm of executive coaching can contain consulting.

Strictly speaking, providing “consulting” is not exactly coaching… 

…but there’s nothing wrong with providing knowledge (or teaching a little bit) inside of the executive coaching process.  

This extra ‘consulting can make an executive coach even more valuable to the organization (or executive) that hired them.  

08:04  More large executive coaching firms are looking more like consulting firms.

Is this blurring the line a little bit between true coaching and what consulting is?”

Is this blurring the line a little bit between true coaching and what consulting is?

Probably… it is, to some extent. 

Regardless, I think adding some education and consulting to your coaching is a great help to the corporate and executive realm. 

Consulting organizations are highly respected, and needed, and are paid a pretty penny by large corporations.  If executive coaches could bring in those kinds of dollars, then it’s well worth it to navigate the waters between coaching and consulting.

08:51 The corporation that hires you doesn’t care about your definition of coaching or consulting… 

That corporation cares about getting the business results they want.  

That’s why they’re hiring you. 

If you bring a little consulting to the table, that’s going to raise that company’s esteem for you, not lower it.

I hope you got some value out of this discussion today about executive coaching.  

I also have a question for you:

Do you think it makes a difference to pair an executive with a coach to support them?  Why or why not?  

I’d love to hear your feedback, so make sure that you leave a comment with your thoughts or questions.

By the way, you can watch the entire What is Coaching series HERE, where I cover all of the different definitions within the domains of personal and professional coaching:

Also, I created an entire playlist of executive coaching videos, where you’ll learn more about the type of coaching my team uses with our executive clients and businesses:  Check ‘em out HERE:

By the way… you’re invited to claim your FREE step-by-step “ Master Coach Blueprint” video toolkit. Just go  HERE now to get your  master coach blueprint videos.

Jeffrey T. Sooey
Dean, Master Coach University
Founder, Coaches Training Blog community

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