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What does a great executive coach do?

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Trillion Dollar Coach book by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle
The Leadership Handbook of Bill Campbell

So what does an executive, business and leadership coach actually do and why do I need one? Not an unusual question to be asked as coaching for professionals in business has yet to become normalised. Let me start my answer by comparing it to coaching in another arena.

Coaching in Sports

Coaching of elite athletes and professional sportspeople is now expected. For example, we see the coaches sitting on the sidelines of the tennis courts watching every shot the elite tennis players take in every match they play. Coaching in sports is now ubiquitous and widely accepted as vital for those aiming to be at the top of their game. It would be exceptional for a sports team or athletes to get to the top of their fields without the help of several coaches, each one advising, supporting, encouraging and challenging their charges. It has been normalised over the years, and as Seth Godin (teacher, author and inspiration of mine) says when he talks about marketing:


So why should you have a coach?

Some of the world’s best leaders from business, who are exceptionally talented, skilled and determined understand the value of a coach to help them improve themselves. People like Bill Gates “Everyone needs a coach” or Eric Schmidt who lists being told “…to have a coach” as one of the top pieces of advice he was given. At the time Eric was advised to have a coach he was an established CEO and his first reaction was to say no because he didn’t think he needed one. Fast forward in time and the most recent book which he has co-written is titled, wait for it… “Trillion Dollar Coach”, he has changed his mind and gained from his coaching over the years.

If you are still not convinced then the 2017 TED talk by author and surgeon Atul Gawande, has the title “Want to get great at something? Get a coach” and has been viewed over 1.7 million times.

“having a good coach to provide a more accurate picture of our reality, to instil positive habits of thinking, and to break our actions down and then help us build them back up again. "It's not how good you are now; it's how good you're going to be that really matters."

I know, I still haven't answered the first part of the question i.e. what do coaches do? Stay with me, this gets interesting. I started this blog post by sharing a screenshot of a new book "Trillion Dollar Coach" and for me, this easy to read book clearly expresses what a great business coach can do for you.

Key roles provided by a great coach

A great executive, business and leadership coach provides five key roles in developing already successful professionals and executives and helping them to get even better:

  1. Help you solve real business issues as a great coach knows things that you don’t know and can help stress test your ideas and reduce the risk of repeating mistakes others have previously made. They can be a great source of advice through sharing their experiences and anecdotes.

  2. They are an independent and confidential sounding board, whether to help you let off steam and vent or perhaps brainstorm creatively and help you consider options for your business and people more strategically. Having the time to think and reflect with someone outside of the establishment’s line management can be transformational.

  3. Someone that will say things that others cannot say and challenge you, perhaps by raising some uncomfortable truths or holding you accountable for what you did or did not do. Often successful executives are surrounded by people that don’t feel comfortable giving them truthful feedback, the coach can bring up these issues in a safe and neutral way.

  4. An outside perspective which can help you see yourself as others see you, something driven business people are often poor at doing.

  5. Help you with identifying and developing new skills to be more effective in your role or to manage change. For example, building high-performing teams, managing conflict, empowering others etc.

I cannot imagine any leader in business (other than the most arrogant) who wouldn't want to benefit from having someone to work with who provides these roles to help them develop. My coaching clients place significant value on me doing this for them, whether a confidential sounding board, a supportive but challenging kick, or to provide feedback and insights to help you think better – my sole purpose is to help them develop and up their game to bring about improved results for their businesses.

If you want to discover more about coaching, check out:


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