Many times, I have been asked by clients and friends, “What is executive coaching?”.   A simple and straight answer would be the International Coaching Federation (ICF) definition  “coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”.  This definition is elegantly simple, but it is packed with many complexities.   Two of those complexities, especially when coaching CEOs and other high-level executives are related to the driver/objective and the length of the engagement. 

Let’s talk about the driver/objective of the engagement first.  When people initiate a coaching engagement it usually falls into four categories.  The one I am most familiar with is Coaching in response strategic moves, specifically managing critical talent, top leadership, CEO succession planning.    

The next complexity is regarding the ideal time of the engagement.   

Executive Coaching as a limited-time intervention.  Whether is three or six months; many coaches present their work as having a distinct period. They clarify that this is an intervention, albeit a very positive one, but an experience that is time-limited.  

Executive Coaching as a competitive requirement.  This type of coaching relationship is similar to a relationship with an athletic coach. This is my personal sweet spot.  In athletics, at the highest level, as long as you wish to stay in the game, to be at the top of your performance, you continue to appreciate the value of a coach. You need to continue receiving the benefit of feedback about style and form based on the coach’s observation. That is the way the athlete continues to improve in an environment where they know fully well that someone else will run faster or jump higher each year, unless they make contestant improvements.   

Coaching high level executives isn’t much different. They have a demanding group of stakeholders who expect performance to continue to increase year after year, quarter after quarter, month after month. The only way this can be achieved is to continue to become more and more efficient, more and more effective. And one of the ways that effectiveness can be increased is through the constant feedback about style and form that the executive coach provides.   

What are your thoughts on this?  I would love to hear your from you.