Executive Coaching

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Executive Coaching

Executive Coaching involves working with senior leaders (usually in a CEO or COO role, but occasionally in other management tiers) to help them navigate their challenges, grow and succeed in their roles. Whether it’s improving team dynamics, leadership capabilities or the leader’s own personal development, the results of executive coaching can be powerful and long-lasting.

Executives often seek coaching for professional and organizational reasons, including:

New Leadership Acceleration

Whether it’s a new VP, an incoming CEO or a high-potential leader being groomed to take on greater responsibilities, the transition from contributor to leader can be challenging and intimidating. Executive coaches help new leaders develop the skills needed to be successful in their roles, from navigating change and stakeholder feedback to prioritization and communication.

When a company hires an executive coach to work with a specific member of its leadership team, the process is called team optimization. Whether the team is an executive group or a specialized team, such as a sales team, a marketing department or a project team, this type of coaching can make all the difference in building effective and efficient teams that deliver great business results.

The right coach can provide a safe space where leaders can open up and talk honestly about what’s keeping them from performing at their best. Having an outside perspective helps leaders gain insight into their blind spots and gives them tools to overcome self-limiting behaviors and improve the way they handle conflict.

A well-qualified and experienced coach will also serve as a trusted advisor and mentor, ensuring the success of any strategic initiatives that the leader may be undertaking. Having someone to hold them accountable and help them stay focused on their goals is invaluable.


Many coaching engagements include some element of transference, a psychological phenomenon where a client forms a bond with a coach or therapist that resembles the relationship they had with a significant person from their past. Typically, this is positive, but when it’s negative it can result in damaging and toxic relationships.

In the Harvard Business Review article cited above, Garvin formed a positive transference with Nelson and began to see him as his “guru.” Unfortunately, if this type of transference is not monitored closely, it can lead to disastrous consequences. To avoid it, companies should make sure that all executives slated to receive coaching undergo a psychotherapy evaluation. This will help prevent coaches from training people who lack the requisite mental skills, such as planning problems stemming from a clinical depression that impairs their ability to think strategically. And it will help ensure that coaches do not gain a Svengali-like grip on both their clients and the CEOs they report to. Companies should also consider hiring independent mental health professionals to review coaching outcomes. This will ensure that coaches are not ignoring underlying problems or creating new ones, as they sometimes do. These safeguards can save many executives, and their companies, a lot of grief.