When companies hire executive coaches, they’re not trying to remediate or salvage a bad leadership situation. That type of coaching relationship often results in throwing good money after bad.

Executive coaching isn’t designed to turn ill-prepared leaders into competent leaders.

Companies are investing in results when they invest in executive coaching. Think about other coaching situations in life. You don’t hire a coach for the athlete who isn’t good at the game and has little interest in being better. You hire a coach for the athlete who shows tremendous promise and is capable of greatness.

Executive coaching often involves a significant investment of money and time, and companies won’t bother if they don’t think the executive client has what it takes to be an outstanding leader. But the simple act of hiring a coach doesn’t magically produce greatness. That requires commitment and hard work on the part of both the client and the executive coach.

Client Actions That Maximize Results

Clients should want to be coached and should be open to the coaching relationship. They should be fully prepared to devote time and effort to the exercises and practices they and their coach determine to be most important in their leadership development. That means they must “own” accountability for their part of the coaching process.

It’s best if the client has some say in choosing an executive coach. Good rapport and a good psychological “fit” are necessary for coach and client to work together well, and hiring a coach at random means luck will play a disproportionate role in this happening. Clients must be willing to block out time from their schedule to devote to coaching, and they must tap into their own vulnerability to learn both where their strengths lie and where there is room for improvement.

Executive Coach Actions That Maximize Results

The best coaches are willing to speak up right away if they don’t think there is a good “fit” with their potential client. They’re more interested in their client getting the coaching they need than they are in booking another client. One of the most important coach-client exercises is identification and clarification of goals, plus the creation of a plan for reaching them.

Executive coaches help clients to articulate goals and create plans to attain them.

Outstanding executive coaches know how to coax clients out of their comfort zone and how to treat their vulnerability with respect. They use proven assessment tools before, during, and after the coaching engagement to help stay on track and ensure that the coaching relationship delivers measurable results. And most great executive coaches follow up even after the coaching relationship has concluded, to help the client stay on track and continue to improve as a leader.

The following table summarizes the responsibilities of both client and executive coach that together help them get the best possible results.

Client and Coach Actions That   Maximize Executive Coaching Success
Client Actions Coach Actions
Own responsibility and accountability Help clients out of their comfort zone
Help in the coach selection process Help client identify goals, create roadmap
Commit and invest their time and effort Use assessments at multiple points in the relationship
Be willing to be vulnerable Follow up after the coaching engagement

Organizational Actions That Maximize Results

The business that invests in executive coaching also influences the results of the coaching engagement. Most organizations that are willing to make the investment in coaching want to do their part to get maximum results. They make the client’s peers, superiors, and direct-reports available should the executive coach need their input, and they make it clear that the client is authorized to devote time to the coaching process. Organizations want to demonstrate ROI on their coaching investment, and they must be prepared to do their part to ensure that it happens.

If executive coaching sounds like a lot of effort on the part of coach, client, and organization, it is! But coaching has proven itself as an exemplary tool for helping high-potential leaders excel through one-on-one work building strengths and addressing weaknesses.

I have been passionate about leadership excellence for decades, and I have seen firsthand how executive coaching can turn a good leader into a great leader.


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