Who Needs An Executive Coach? 

 November 15, 2017

By  Tamara Davidson

Did you know that executive coaching is now heavily sought after? Seeking help is no longer considered a sign of weakness, actually, having a coach is often a status symbol and can demonstrate your organisations investment in you. So who needs an executive coach? Athlete's, CEO's, politician's and even musicians have a coach these days. Shouldn't you have one too?

The answer is no. Hopefully this post can help you decide if this kind of coaching is right for you. Or whether it's right for your employees. Then you can make the best decision to further the growth of your key people.


Firstly, if you are still not 100% sure what executive coaching is. Then check out our post here, titled What is Executive Coaching.

Essentially, the role of an executive coach is to facilitate a leaders growth. Executive coaching should be used like a powerful prescription drug. That is to say, it works best under certain conditions. You wouldn't prescribe powerful medicines to someone that didn't need them. It would be expensive, not to mention the possible negative side effects. It's best to be deliberate when prescribing executive coaching to your leaders, to ensure you gain a good return on your investment.

Well then, who needs executive coaching, and who doesn't? Here some things to consider prior to hiring an executive coach.

How valuable is this person to the success of your business?

Is this person's performance and potential, driving the success of your business? Or do you think this leader will drive the success of the business in the long run? Executive coaching can be expensive and time-consuming. It should be reserved for people who are critical to your business's success. This includes everyone at C-level. And those who are working their way up in the business. E.g.

  • Business owners
  • Department heads
  • Technical experts
  • High-potential young leaders
  • Team leaders

How expensive and time-consuming is executive coaching, you ask? Executive coaches hourly rates and skill levels can vary greatly. However, be prepared to pay a good coach what you would pay a specialist. If you think this is excessive, consider this... Your coach requires the experience and expertise to quickly grasp a leader's situation. As well as challenge the assumptions and choices of the leader. And be able to bring credible, new ways of thinking to the table.

Delivering this to your shining stars is not a simple task. Think about the influence an executive coach can have. It would not be wise to choose just any coach. The coaches skill level should at least match the executives. And of course, they should also maintain a consistent level of integrity.

What challenge is the executive experiencing right now?

People, relationships, communication and behaviour change are what our coaches know best. If your executives are struggling with managing themselves. Or if they're struggling to engage others in the workplace. Then you have just found the perfect conditions for coaching.

So, finally, who needs executive coaching? We can't cover all potential situations in this post. However, here are some scenarios that would benefit from coaching.

  • An executive seeking the best way to relate to their board of directors.
  • A leader stepping into a new role.
  • Any leader that is learning how to manage people.
  • An executive who is now managing employees who were once his or her peers.
  • If a leader is isolating people, or having problems resolving conflict.
  • The executive is struggling to move forward due to their own leadership style.
  • A leader held back from their full potential, as they don't know their blind spots.
  • When a technical expert that is unable to communicate effectively with the team.

Whatever the scenario, there are many challenges that leaders face in their roles. Remember, we are human. Even the most successful leaders can find themselves really challenged from time to time.

Given these points, it's important to realise the following. Whatever the challenge is, an executive coach is not a consultant. Even if a coach has technical or functional expertise. We suggest you steer clear of asking their advice on your latest business proposal. Nor are they an extra pair of hands or 'back up' for a weak leader. A good coach will hold space for an executive to solve his or her own problems. Self-reliance, not dependency, is the goal of executive coaching.

How willing is the executive to work with a coach?

Willingness is the key to success in coaching. The executive must be willing to change. Otherwise executive coaching may not achieve outcomes. To pressure someone into coaching is like asking a child to clean their room. The child obliges and cleans their room. Then in time, their room is a mess once again. Whilst it's not impossible, it is an uphill battle. This would be a waste of valuable time and resources for the business.

You will know if the leader is ready for coaching by asking a few questions. For example:

  • Do they want to work with an executive coach?
  • Does the leader have a history of growth under the guidance of teachers and mentors?
  • Is the executive realistic about his or her own strengths and challenges?
  • Does the executive take responsibility for their personal actions and outcomes?

What are the alternatives to coaching?

Too often, management and HR departments look at coaching as a fix all solution. Sometimes it's beneficial to consider alternatives.

There are many ways to facilitate executives to grow as leaders. It may be that the leader needs higher-level mentoring from their own manager. It may be that they require further training on a particular subject. There are many ways for an employee to reach their next level of development. We here at Modo like to facilitate this growth. Yet, even we must acknowledge that coaching isn't always the answer.

The most overlooked alternative is attention in the form of compassionate interaction. Sometimes, effective communication with their own manager can set a leader on the right path. Other times, all a leaders needs is a stronger relationship with their peers. Coaching has become more available in recent years. Meanwhile, managers are abandoning their own coaching obligations. And instead, turn their struggling executive over to a professional.

Sometimes the problem is beyond what the manager can handle. Thus, engaging with an executive coach is a good decision. However, this isn't always the case. Sometimes the manager would rather not deal with the issues at hand. So they abdicate the responsibility, without addressing the issue. In this case, coaching may be valuable for the manager as well as the executive.

Who will support the Executive?

The executive's manager must fully support them through the coaching process. This applies, even if all conditions are right to engage with an executive coach. Without support, coaching can result in poor outcomes, wasting the businesses resources.

Think about it. When an executive has made the decision to engage with a coach. They are willing and seeking to change. As they work with the coach, their thinking and behaviour begins to change. This is often a difficult and challenging process for the executive. What happens if the management team become skeptical of the process? Or if the executives colleagues become hostile towards the changes the executive is making? Well, the executive is now experiencing resistance as they try to embody these changes.

Coaching works best when the executive's environment strongly supports their growth. This ensures a smoother transition for the leader to step into their highest potential. When the conditions are right, executive coaching can be one of the best investments a business can make. However it is not a cure for every challenge an executive is facing.


  • Above all, understand the challenges that the executive needs to address.
  • Remember a coach is not a consultant, it's about self-reliance, not dependency.
  • The best coaching scenario, is one where the executive wants to be there!
  • Coaching is not a fix-all for organisational problems.
  • The business needs to support the executives growth.
Without delay, contact Modo today to discuss if executive coaching is for you or your team.

Tamara Davidson

Tamara Pickard is an Executive Coach, Trainer and a Managing Director of Modo Coaching and Training, with many years of experience leading large organisations. Tamara is a certified Meta-Coach, Master NLP practitioner and experienced Enneagram facilitator, and her passion is to facilitate people to discover and actualise their highest potentials in their personal and professional lives.

Tamara Davidson

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