Executive Coaching explained

Executive Coaching - Toolshero

Executive coaching: this article explains executive coaching (leadership coaching) in a practical way. The article starts with the definition of this term, followed by information about the power, different stages and benefits of this form of coaching. Enjoy reading!

What is Executive Coaching?

Kate, a successful executive at a technology company, faces a new challenge. She was recently promoted to a senior leadership position, but feels overwhelmed by the responsibilities and expectations placed on her. Looking for guidance and support, she decides to turn to executive coaching.

Through one-on-one sessions with an experienced executive coach, Kate gains valuable insights, develops new skills and builds the confidence she needs to excel in her role. After a year, she looks back on the period. With the guidance of the coach, she managed to successfully meet her challenges, improved her leadership style and achieved her professional goals.

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The definition of Executive Coaching

Executive coaching is a tailored professional development process aimed at improving the skills, performance and overall effectiveness of (future) executives.

It involves a partnership between an experienced coach and an executive, with the aim of unlocking the individual’s potential, clarifying goals, developing leadership skills and achieving desired results.

Through stimulating conversations, feedback and interventions, executive coaching supports leaders in increasing self-awareness, broadening their perspectives and improving their decision-making skills.


Executive coaching originated in the late 20th century, mainly within the corporate world. In the beginning, it was mainly used as a way to address performance issues or to help leaders who were struggling.

Over time, the focus shifted to personal and professional development, enabling executives to leverage their strengths and overcome challenges. As the field evolved, executive coaching became more widely adopted across industries such as government, education, and non-profit organizations.

The power of executive coaching

Executive coaching has many benefits for busy leaders and executives. These coaching programs are specifically aimed at improving performance and focus on the strengths and weaknesses of individuals.

When leaders need personal and professional development, they hire a coach to guide them through the executive coaching process. Executive coaching programs focus on leadership development, improving leadership skills and achieving higher levels of performance.

Coaches work closely with executives in one-on-one coaching sessions, leveraging the expertise of professional coaches trained and certified by recognized organizations.

An example of such an organization in the United States is the International Coach Federation (ICF). These organizations and coaches use different coaching techniques and methodologies, such as performance coaching, to support leaders in their growth process.

One of the main objectives of executive coaching and coaching in general is setting goals, both for the short term and the long term. Coaches focus on helping leaders clarify their goals and make concrete plans to achieve them.

Through conversations and interventions, coaches guide executives in identifying their strengths, addressing weaknesses and leveraging their capabilities to reach their full potential.

Coaching sessions provide a safe space for leaders to explore new perspectives, increase their self-awareness, and improve their decision-making skills. This process enables them to develop effective leadership styles, overcome challenges and adapt to changing business environments.

In short, executive coaching is a powerful tool that empowers busy leaders, such as vice presidents, to enhance their leadership skills, achieve higher levels of performance, and boost their professional development.

Below you will find leadership skills that can be improved with executive coaching:


  • Improving verbal and written communication skills
  • Active listening
  • Understanding non-verbal signals

Emotional intelligence

  • Developing self-awareness
  • Developing empathy
  • Dealing with emotions


  • Improving critical thinking
  • Developing problem-solving capacity
  • Learning to make informed decisions

Strategic thinking

  • Developing long-term vision
  • Develop understanding of market trends
  • Learning to align strategies with organizational goals

Influence and persuasiveness

  • Improving the ability to influence and persuade others
  • Building consensus
  • Effective negotiation

Collaboration and team building

  • Improving build-up skills
  • Leading high-performing teams
  • Promoting cooperation and resolving conflicts
Change management

Coaching and mentoring

  • Improving skills in coaching and guiding team members to stimulate their growth and development

Innovation and creativity

Situations in which Executive Coaching is valuable

Below you will find some examples of situations in which Executive Coaching can be used.

  • When a newly promoted executive has difficulty adjusting to expanded responsibilities and needs guidance in developing leadership skills
  • When a leader is dealing with communication issues and needs help improving interpersonal skills to build stronger relationships with team members
  • When an executive wants to improve strategic thinking and decision-making skills to deal effectively with complex business situations
  • When a leader needs support in managing work-life balance and stress to maintain well-being in the face of demanding work demands
  • When a talented employee is being prepared for a leadership position and would benefit from personalized coaching to accelerate development

The Stages of Executive Coaching

Executive coaching usually consists of several stages that make up the coaching process. The process aims to support the leader’s growth and development.

While the specific stages may vary depending on the coaching approach and the individual’s needs, the common stages involved in executive coaching are outlined below:

Phase 1: assessment and objectives

The coaching journey begins with an assessment phase in which the coach and leader work together to gain an in-depth understanding of the leader’s strengths, weaknesses, and areas of development.

Tools that can be used in this phase to collect data for support:

Based on this assessment, the coach and the leader together set clear and achievable goals for the process.

Phase 2: building the coaching relationship

In this phase, the coach and the leader establish a strong coaching relationship, based on trust, openness and confidentiality.

They establish the coaching agreement, including the frequency and duration of the coaching sessions, methods of communication and mutual expectations.

The coach creates a safe and supportive environment in which the leader can freely explore challenges, discuss aspirations, and engage in self-reflection.

Phase 3: exploration and self-discovery

This stage involves deep exploration and self-discovery.

The coach uses powerful questioning techniques and reflective exercises to help the leader gain clarity about his or her values, beliefs, and assumptions.

They help the leader understand behavior patterns, thought processes and emotions that influence his or her leadership style.

This self-awareness enables the leader to make conscious choices and adopt new perspectives.

Phase 4: development and action planning

Once the leader has gained insight into him or herself, the coach supports the leader in developing a tailored action plan.

This plan describes specific strategies, behaviors, and skills that the leader will work on to achieve the desired goals.

The coach helps set realistic timelines, identify potential obstacles, and explore resources and support systems that can further the leader’s development.

Phase 5: skill building and implementation

In this phase, coaches focus on building skills and implementing the action plan.

The coach provides guidance, feedback, and other resources to help the leader develop and put into practice new skills.

They can use role-playing games, simulations, or real-life situations to enhance the leader’s abilities. The coach supports the leader.

Benefits of Executive Coaching

This article has discussed the benefits of executive coaching in detail. Below you will find the three most important advantages explained once more.

Improved leadership skills

Executive coaching helps leaders develop and improve their leadership skills.

Through personal guidance and feedback, managers can:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of their skills and personality style at work
  • Improve their decision-making skills
  • Develop effective communication and interpersonal skills

This often leads more confidence and ability in leading teams and achieving success for the organization.

Improved performance and results

Executive coaching helps to improve performance and achieve desired results.
By setting clear goals, working on strengths and weaknesses, and receiving support and accountability, leaders can optimize their performance and achieve greater success.

Executive coaching focused on performance also helps leaders to:

  • Identify and overcoming obstacles
  • Exploit their strengths
  • Discover their full potential

Personal and professional growth

Executive coaching promotes personal and professional growth. It offers leaders the opportunity to reflect, gain new perspectives and challenge their assumptions and beliefs in a safe environment.

Through self-reflection and exploration, executives can expand their leadership skills, develop a growth mindset, and cultivate resilience. This leads to increased confidence, adaptability and the ability to navigate complex business environments.

These benefits of executive coaching contribute to the development of leaders. This allows them to excel in their roles, drive organizational growth, and create positive impact within their teams and beyond.

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Now it’s your turn

What do you think? Do you recognize the explanation about executive coaching? Have you ever hired a coach or participated in an executive coaching process? What specific challenges or goals do you think an executive coach can help you with? Or how can you as a coach assist an executive? What do you think are the benefits of business coaching? Do you have other tips or comments?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Kampa-Kokesch, S., & Anderson, M. Z. (2001). Executive coaching: A comprehensive review of the literature. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 53(4), 205.
  2. Lai, Y. L., & Palmer, S. (2019). Psychology in executive coaching: an integrated literature review. Journal of Work-Applied Management.
  3. Levinson, H. (1996). Executive coaching. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 48(2), 115.

How to cite this article:
Janse, B. (2023). Executive Coaching. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero: https://www.toolshero.com/management/executive-coaching/

Original publication date: 07/04/2023 | Last update: 07/29/2023

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Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.


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