Types of Executive Coaching

A variety of types of executive coaching can be applied, based on the unique needs of the leader and the organization. It is important to identify each type and its impact. In a published handbook of best practices in coaching, Profiles in Coaching, the editors identified five categories of executive coaching ranging from behavioral coaching, to career/life coaching, to leadership coaching, to organizational change, and, finally, to strategy coaching (Morgan, Harkins, and Goldsmith 2003). The following is a brief description of each type of coaching.

Behavioral coaching focuses on helping leaders achieve positive, long-term changes in their interpersonal behavior. Most executive coaches specialize in this approach. Its purpose is to modify certain behaviors that may be interfering with successful performance.

Career/life coaching crosses the line between personal coaching and executive coaching. This coaching concentrates on personal growth, career development, and work/life issues. Time is spent on the intrapersonal life of the executive and may include study of personal values and development of a personal mission statement.

Coaching for leadership development helps leaders understand how their leadership style affects leader and team-member relations. It may also help leaders build a strong organizational team.

Coaching for organizational change engages the leader’s capacity to effect change in the organization and the ability to develop alignment between the realities of the marketplace and the organization’s response to it. It can also initiate changes in the internal structure of the organization.

Lastly, strategy coaching enables senior-level leaders to set the direction for long-term strategic growth in their organization. An executive coach must be prepared to work on strategic issues at this level of leadership.

Great executive coaches are able to engage leaders using all five types of coaching, depending on the specific situation and the leader’s needs. This versatility is important to the effectiveness of the executive coaching process. As mentioned earlier, executive coaching is a dynamic process, and the direction of coaching may shift quickly from one leader issue to another. The coach should recognize this need to shift and respond accordingly. For example, an executive may shift focus from a strategic issue to an organizational-change issue. The coach will need to be equally competent to deal with both issues. There should be genuine concern when coaches with expertise and experience in one type of coaching take on challenges where they are inexperienced or poorly prepared. An effective executive coach must be competent in using all five types of coaching listed previously.

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