What is the difference between an executive business coach and a leadership coach?

Coaches – we all need them in our lives. Small business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs, managers, and other high-ranking individuals in leadership positions within a business are no exception. You might be thinking, why do I need a coach? Look how far I have made it on my own! To be a business owner or high-level executive you have to be a driven and self-motivated person, to begin with. You have had success in your career without a coach thus far and you might be thinking coaches are only for people with “problems” in their leadership or interpersonal skills. Maybe you think an executive business coach is expensive and worry about whether it is a worthwhile investment of your time and money.

These common questions and fears surrounding hiring a coach are misguided. Think about high level elite and professional athletes. They all have coaches and no one ever questions why they have a coach and whether it is a good return on investment for them. In fact, an athlete WITHOUT a coach is suspect. Skilled coaches, whether in sport or business, offer guidance, perspective, and support that can boost the performance of an already high performing leader. In fact, according to a Hay Group Study, upwards of 40% of Fortune 500 companies work with an executive coach. It is all about finding the right kind of coach who is the right fit for you and your business. 

What is Executive Business Coaching

What is an executive business coach? They are a qualified professional who works with executives or other high potential employees within a business to help them gain self-awareness of where they are currently, clarify their personal and professional goals, unlock their potential, and improve their leadership skills. This is different from a consultant or therapist because, with executive business coaching, the advice is not given except occasionally. Instead, the coach asks questions and serves as a confidential sounding board for executives to openly discuss, clarify, and gain insight to solve their problems themselves. 

What should you look for when hiring an executive business coach? Someone who has significant experience as a high ranking executive themself. An executive coach is often retired from a previous career as an executive. While there is no required standard education or certification to become an executive business coach, some credentials you should look for include: RCC – Registered Corporate Coach or EOS Implementer®

So who should hire an executive coach? It used to be that companies would hire an executive coach to “fix” broken executives or a failing business. Now, most companies use executive coaching as a tool to invest in their top executives and those with high potential. Rather than a stigma, it is in fact a status symbol. Every company can be more efficient. Every employee can be improved and better supported. Acknowledging room for improvement at even the highest achieving levels and investing in your employees is an investment in your business. In fact, CEO coaching is a clear indication that coaching throughout the leadership ranks has merit. The success of your executives goes hand-in-hand with the success of your business.

Where does executive coaching happen and what does it look like? Ideally, it should be done privately, whether face-to-face or via video interaction. Our modern age has given us an abundance of flexibility to make the most of an interactive relationship, digitally empowered to be efficient and effective. In most cases,  you would likely meet your executive leadership coach in person, preferably at the beginning of the working relationship. The key to a successful relationship is establishing, building, and maintaining the trust that encourages open communication which is integral to the success of the coaching relationship. While every executive coaching program is different, a client should expect the following phases:

  1. Intake 
  2. Assessment
  3. Goal setting
  4. Development planning
  5. A series of check-ins along the way 

 Coaching is all about finding the right fit for you and your business. You also have to be coachable – If you are not willing to go through the humbling process of being challenged and introspective reflection needed to grow and then implement that change, you cannot reap the rewards of working with an executive coach. 

What is Leadership Coaching

Executive leadership coaching is all about those driven, high-achievers, and leaders. A leadership coach creates a powerful ripple effect, like a drop of rain in a still pond, spreading from the happy, effective, powerful, and focused leader extending throughout the entire organization. It is contagious in all the best ways. Executive leadership coaching is a development process where a leader receives individualized coaching to help them become a more effective leader. Working one-on-one with an executive leadership coach helps the individual executive:

  • Gain a new perspective
  • Enhance focus
  • Improve self-awareness of blind spots
  • Cope with the stress and demands of their role 
  • Improve efficiency and productivity
  • Improve interpersonal relationship skills, 
  • Achieve both personal and professional goals, and more!

So what does executive leadership coaching look like? We get it. You are a busy person. It may feel like adding one more thing to your already full plate will make you implode. The demands of working with a leadership coach are not onerous. There are different tiers of involvement. Some executive coaching programs start with one meeting per month, and others are scaled to two meetings per week for a set period of time.  In working with a 1-1 leadership coach, a person can expect:

  • One-on-one meetings
  • Assignments and developmental activities
  • Assessments and feedback
  • Check-ins/Progress reviews

Working with a professional coach is a long term commitment in order to yield results. While some executive coaching programs will offer 3-month commitments, ideally 6-12 months is a  minimum commitment to really effectuate change. Many businesses have recurring indefinite retainers with a corporate leadership coach because they realize the value to the business by working on each leader individually who makes up the structure of that business. Consider that elite athletes maintain career-long relationships with their coaches in order to continue to improve, develop, grow, and win. 

Every business is different and every person unique. For that reason, leadership coaching is personalized and customized to meet the needs of the individual within a specific business. By focusing on the people who make up the leadership team of a business, the business itself will become more fine-tuned. And leadership coaching is not just for the highest-ranked corporate officers. It is also a great tool for organizations to expand their leadership bench by investing in future leaders who need to sharpen their leadership skills. 

How Leadership and Coaching go Hand in Hand

We do not succeed alone. The performance of your business depends on the performance of your team and breaking it down even further to the individual performance of each team member. Your customer’s experience is a direct reflection of the strength and happiness of your team. Through leadership and coaching, each employee focuses on developing themselves in ways that will contribute to the long term success of the business. Successful leaders have a vision, empathy, are good communicators, and innovators in their field. Cultivating and fine-tuning these traits are crucial to create the most successful leaders in an organization. This is where business leadership coaching comes in – it enhances leadership skills. To coach is to lead and to lead is to coach others. Leadership is creating structure in your business to build camaraderie through teamwork, confidence, improved morale, enhanced performance, and coming together to achieve the company goals. Leadership is about influencing and inspiring those around you to be the best version of themselves. A coach helps us become the best leaders we can be which then causes a trickle-down effect throughout the organization. 

Corporate executive coaching improves leadership. Coaching creates an environment where CEOs, managers, and other high level and high potential future leaders can learn and then use their leadership abilities to the fullest extent. Learning to become better leaders is not only important to delivering current results, but also for the future trajectory of the business. Coaching employees to become better leaders happens by incorporating all the techniques discussed previously through:

  • Open dialogue and honest feedback
  • Giving recognition when deserved
  • Discovering talent in others
  • Creating a motivational workplace 

The health of a company is best measured by the happiness of the employees. A coaching leadership style has been proven to be much more effective with employees than an authoritarian style that businesses used to operate under. Leaders who coach employees instead of commanding them to foster significantly more talent and happier employees. This in turn leads to a healthy and growing business. 


executive business coach Arizona

If you are serious about taking your business to the next level and breaking through ceilings you are encountering, an executive business coach is what you need. When considering a coach be sure to ask what their coaching experience is, what their coaching methodology is, how they define and measure success in the coaching context, and whether they have both accredited certification and relevant business experience. A good business coach is worth millions to you. They will get you outside of your comfort zone, hold you accountable, and drive you and your businesses success.

Ken Kilday is a former executive leader, EOS Implementer®, and Executive Business Coach focusing on individual strengths in service of the greater good. His passion for helping others achieve leadership excellence is the basis for coaching with challenge, engagement, and opportunity at Leader’s Cut: The Ken Kilday Coaching Experience. Schedule a 15-minute Meet & Greet (no obligation) to explore if you and your business are a good fit for Executive Business Coaching with Ken Kilday!

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