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Who Needs an Executive Coach—and Why?

by Lou Feldstein

The coach’s job is straight-forward: helping you, the client, achieve specific professional goals.

Let’s face facts. From the moment our eyes open after what is often not the best night of sleep, most of us are bombarded with thoughts reminding us of what is on today’s agenda, what remains to be accomplished from yesterday’s incomplete to do list, and what unanticipated events will occur throughout the day which will throw all the best laid plans aside.

The reality is that we seldom stop and pause these days, in large part because we don’t prioritize the time to do what we each need to do to be the absolute best professional we can be. 

I share this insight because just as the legal idiom teaches, “The one who represents themselves in court has a fool for a client”, so too, the leader who believes that they can address every problem they face alone is prone to be just as foolish. And yes, while having teammates and colleagues is crucial to anyone’s success, there is a real need to find a partner whose sole commitment is the leader’s individual success.  In today’s competitive, ultra-fast-paced, and complicated non-profit environment, that partner is best known by the title, “Executive Coach”.

What is coaching for?

Coaching is a real commitment to the self. When we commit to ourselves, we provide added value and enhancement to our teams and our organizations. 

Unlike a supervisor or a professional colleague, who also have their own vested interests, which may on occasion supersede yours, or a mentor, whose time is more limited and their reasons for mentoring more complex, a coach has one, and only one obligation—your professional success.

The coach’s job is straight-forward: helping you, the client, achieve specific professional goals. Different coaches may use different approaches and each have individual, distinctive styles, but their job is the same. 

Successful executive coaches:

  • Ask questions,
  • Challenge assumptions, 
  • Provide various perspectives, and 
  • Push their client to break down internal barriers. 

Executive coaches provide the necessary guidance to support and assist their clients to achieve their professional goals, so they can reach their fullest professional potential. Whether it is dealing with a specific issue, or the individual’s overall leadership and performance gestalt, the executive coach is engaged as your partner, or some may say, guide, in helping you maximize your skills, talents, and abilities. 

Sometimes session topics may emphasize the weeds, while other times, the conversation may identify cross-session themes which have restricted or limited the individual’s ultimate success. In every case, it is the coach who holds the mirror up, or assists the client in holding it up in order to reflect on how best to move forward in a successful and productive manner.  

Is coaching like therapy?

Now, to some this may sound similar to therapy—it is not.  Yes, there may be times when the underlying psychology of the individual clearly influences their professional performance, and sometimes psychological questions or insights can lead to a better understanding of the leader’s motivations and behaviors. To grow, and to attain higher and more satisfactory levels of performance, we sometimes must look back at who we are, who we were, how we became who we are. 

But the effective coach recognizes that the therapeutic process and goals of therapy are significantly different. In therapy, we may deal with the workplace, but with personal development as the highest goal. In coaching, we may reflect on our personal development, but only toward the end of becoming a more effective professional. 

Is coaching like mentoring?

Similarly, coaching is not mentoring. Although coaching conversation topics may overlap with mentoring topics, coaching provides a more holistic, integrated, thematic, long-term solution. Mentoring is an altruistic act provided by the mentor, which should and does have agreed upon time and resource limitations; a coach serves the client in a defined and compensated way, which allows for clearer expectations and mutually assured value. Mentoring is generally episodic, available when the mentor happens to be available; coaching is a regular practice, provided when the client needs or wants it. Mentoring may also have a networking quality to it, while coaching is more tightly focused on distinct goals.  

None of this is to suggest that mentoring isn’t extremely valuable—it certainly can be. Rather, the important point is that these two practices cannot be substitutes for one another.

Who has the time?

During these insanely crazy, non-stop and spatially blurred times, executive coaching provides perhaps the greatest of gifts and resources. In our world in which we all are pulled in multiple professional and personal directions and where the boundary between work and home is almost non-existent, executive coaching creates a respite for self-reflection, self-care, and pause. It provides a time in which we focus just on us—a time in which we are truly the center of the universe. Executive coaching bestows upon the leader the two resources which we should all admit are in short supply: the gift of time and the gift of reflection.

Who needs professional coaching? We all do. Now is the time. You will grow from it. Your colleagues will celebrate you for taking your growth and work seriously. And your organizations will profit from you receiving the support. Find a coach.

What should I look for in a coach?

That is a question we will address in another blog post soon.

About the Author

Lou Feldstein

Lou Feldstein is CEO of Dynamic Change Solutions and a coach for Leading Edge programs.

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