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6 Executive Leadership Coaching Do’s and Don’ts

Coaching can often be helpful for focusing on a single issue over a relatively short period to find clarity, context, aims, possible options, and identify any actions that could be taken. This type of process is often described as transactional.

Executive leadership coaching often focuses more on significant change that requires a long-term approach. Therefore, it may additionally explore elements such as values, motives, ego, identity, challenge, courage, conflict, impact, inspiration, ethics, accountability and relationships. This type of process aims to be transformational.

In this blog, we will focus on transformational executive leadership coaching as we explore six executive leadership coaching do’s and don’ts.

Do: Commit to the Process

As leaders, there are many pulls on our time. Therefore, it is up to us to ruthlessly protect and commit to the coaching process as a vital part of our personal development.

Working with an accredited and experienced executive leadership coach is shown to be an extremely beneficial investment for future potential and performance. In one survey, 99% of executives saw coaching as valuable for building future capacity and capability.

This is because the coaching space often allows a safe place for conversations, possibilities, and potential that would otherwise be unlikely to happen. In turn, this brings about transformational change.

For this reason, it is vital that we fully commit to the process and make time with our executive leadership coach a priority. After all, if something is important to us, then we make time for it. It may be useful to ask yourself how psychologically committed you are to your coach and the coaching journey.

Here are further questions we can ask to explore our levels of commitment.

Do: Take Time To Build Trust

It takes time for executive leadership coaching to bring about transformation, but it is important not to rush the process.

In times of crisis, there is a need for instant change and immediate impact, but this should not be the standard way of operating when we seek to build success. Momentum takes time to build, as does culture, brand, relationships, trust, and scale.

At the start of the coaching journey, it is important to establish high levels of trust and rapport. This unsurprisingly depends on both the coach and the leader. It is important to develop high levels of openness and honesty that require us to be vulnerable, which may take a little time. Trust is the foundation that takes the weight of the conversations to come.

How do you trust? Are you trusting from the outset, or does it take a lot to earn your trust? How might this impact your relationship with your coach?

Do: Agree on How You Will Work Together

Coaches sometimes call this contracting or contracting the relationship, but it is essentially an agreement that we make with the coach at the start of the relationship.

Questions such as "how do you like to work with others?", "what are your expectations?", "what level of challenge is needed?", "how will we know if things are not okay?" or "if you are triggered, are typical ways to make an agreement?". We may also agree on how long and often the sessions will be, how we will communicate between sessions, and what happens in the event that you cannot attend a session.

It is worth having a clear idea of what you would like to achieve through coaching, though this also emerges as the sessions progress.

The agreement, or contract, is useful to reflect on and review along the way.

Our quick guide on one-to-one leadership coaching looks at this and some other points as you enter into the coaching relationship.

Don’t: Start With a Plan in Mind

Though it is crucial to have clear overall aims and outcomes in place for the desired impact and ROI of executive leadership coaching, it is also important not to enter the coaching journey with a plan of how to get there already in mind.

One of the most exciting aspects of a coaching conversation is that neither party knows where the conversation will end up. If they do, then it is a conversation, but it is not a coaching conversation.

Be open in each session to explore and trust that where the conversation takes you will be insightful, transformational and new.

Don’t: Limit Your Learning Time to the Session

It is essential to develop a learning habit, where executive leadership coaching is an important part, but not the entire part. Your learning habits ensure your future success.

What reflection time will you add to your calendar? Reading time? Listening time? How are you learning? What is your development plan?

Executive coaching works best when you develop habits for reflection, learning, development, and growth.

This article by Forbes looks at how to form habits in ways that bring about lasting change.

Don’t: Follow a Deficit Model

Due to cultural, environmental, or educational influences, it can be possible to bring a deficit model into the coaching space. This means that you feel there is a lack, or deficiency, in you that is leading to failure or lower-than-expected performance. In contrast, it is possible to bring a sense that we are enough (we are sufficient) into the coaching space, which is far more beneficial.

This means that rather than focusing on what we lack, we can instead focus on future possibilities.

In truth, some lack of performance may be due to elements we need to improve; this is an oversimplified view. In reality, we are part of a more extensive interconnected system of stakeholders, team members, world and national events, board members, and other teams.

A deficit model encourages judgement and blame, which are at odds within a coaching relationship. In terms of learning and growth, do you see yourself as enough, as sufficient, or do you see yourself as lacking?

The Oxford Reference expands on the deficit model with some interesting examples.


Throughout this blog, we have explored commitment, trust, contracting, planning, learning, and deficit as we have looked at these six executive leadership coaching do's and don'ts.

If you are interested in exploring how we at The Leadership Coaches can support you by providing executive leadership coaching, get in touch and further the conversation with our qualified accredited and experienced team coaches.

Written by Ian at The Leadership Coaches.


Amazing Statistics for Leadership Coaching by Biz Group

5 Quick Tests, by The Coaching Tools Company

Good habits for Leadership Development, by Forbes

The Deficit Model, by the Oxford Reference


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