A Guide to executive coaching: The leadership edition

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George C. Mazzella
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, The Suite
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At some point in your career as a leader, you may have an opportunity to hire an executive coach.This high-level coaching can provide a great opportunity for development, but how does it work exactly? Here are 10 things you need to know about executive coaching before you make the commitment.


What exactly is executive coaching?

An executive coach is a leadership/management expert that works with individuals (typically executives, but companies have seen the benefits coaching can have all employees) to help them improve their leadership skills, set better goals, and achieve their leadership development objectives.Talented leaders who wish to “unlock their potential” often find coaching the accelerant they needed to take their careers to the next level. They are not consultants or therapists and usually ask questions to help executives clarify and solve their own problems (think Socratic Method).


What do executive coaches do?

Simply put, executive coaches act as a confidential and supportive sounding board to their clients.They ask questions, challenge your assumptions, help you achieve clarity on difficult decisions, and yes, sometimes, if requested, they will give you advice.


How does someone become an executive coach?

Unfortunately for many of us, becoming an executive coach isn’t that hard. In fact, just about any retired executive, ex-HR or training personnel can call themselves an executive coach nowadays. A quick browse through social networks and you will find dozens of people advertising their services and their “guaranteed program” (if you see that, run as fast as you can the other way). As there is no required certification to practice as an executive coach, almost anyone can call themselves one. That’s why, if you are thinking about hiring a coach, you need to know how to assess them first.


Who typically hires executive coaches?

In the past, executive coaches were brought in to come in and fix underperforming or “broken” senior leadership.Today, coaching is often sold to employees as a perk and is used to level up talented employees in preparation for a more senior mandate.

While executives have the ability to hire their own coaches (usually other CEOs whom they respect), more often than not companies will recommend a specific coach to an executive as apart of the company’s internal executive development program. The “coachee”could be newly promoted (transition coaching), find themselves facing new challenges,or undergoing training for a larger role. And yes, in case you were wondering, coaches are still used to correct behavioral problems.


What is the typical process for coaching?

While some coaches may use different approaches, executive coaching normally involves a series of steps,starting with client intake, leadership assessment, objective planning, andthe main course, development strategy. Once a development plan is locked in,the coaching will include a series of periodic check-in’s followed by touch bases with the employees managers and/or peers. So when does the coaching end? Typically, a coaching engagement will last 6 to 12 months, but can be ended whenever either party feels that the goals they set out to achieve have been reached.


Does coaching remain confidential?

Any reputable coach will keep what their clients tell them in strictest confidence. That said, if your company is paying the tab, there may be some information that can be shared. Get ahead of this and ask your coach directly what level of confidentiality you can expect.


Where does executive coaching take place?

Face-to-face is the norm, usually at your office or  mutually agreed location. However, recently (especially during the Covid pandemic), virtual coaching has risen in popularity.


How much does an executive coach cost?

Executive coaching is a $3 billion-per-year industry worldwide, and, as the Harvard Business Review estimates, the median rate for an executive coach costs $500 per hour.Many coaches will choose to charge their clients upfront for a 6- or 12-month engagement; however, some will work on an hourly basis for a higher rate.


When shouldn’t you hire an executive coach?

There are others, but these are the top 3 reasons someone shouldn’t hire a coach.

Where to find your executive coach

Today, there are a plethora of ways to find an executive coach. You have google, social sites,company lists, etc. The hard part isn’t finding a coach, it’s finding a good coach (for Suite Members, we work vigilantly to assess and vet the coaches we hire to help our members). Most coaches operate independently and so word-of-mouth referrals are your best bet for locating them (as many of the best coaches don’t advertise). Finding one won’t be difficult, but selecting the right one can be. So remember that chemistry is the most important part.

Here are several resources for locating an executive coach, including:

If your organization provides coaching services, it’s definitely worth a try. It can be the push you need to reach your true leadership potential.

Have any other questions on coaching? Contact us
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George Mazzella Headshot
George C. Mazzella
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, The Suite

George is the CEO & Co-Founder of The Suite. He founded The Suite in order to fundamentally change the way executives manage their careers.  Prior to founding The Suite in 2019, George spent several years in the executive recruiting space where he was fortunate enough to advise some of the world's leading VC & PE backed businesses on talent.

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