The Impact of Executive Coaching: What is it and does it work?

by | Mar 16

13 min read

Growth is an essential part of life when we look at wanting to be better versions of ourselves, whether it is applied to our professional standing or personal well-being.

Growth cannot happen if we do not take a step in the direction of learning and implementing the skills and knowledge we need to succeed.

Goals are not obtainable if we do not take the leap and work towards achieving them. Having proper guidance, influence, and support ensures that we can transform the way we think and the way we make decisions.

As an executive, you might already have a track record of success in leadership but there is always room for growth and new skills that can be added to that record.

Executive coaching can help executives with outlining goals, aspirations, and identify areas in need of development, and provide them with the means to achieve them.


What is executive coaching?

 Executive coaching is a process where an experienced professional coach works with senior executives to assist them in improving their leadership skills, overcoming obstacles, and achieving goals.

Executive coaching can be an influential tool, impacting professional and personal growth. By working with a proficient coach, senior executives open themselves up to learning, expanding their knowledge and skills, finding solutions to obstacles, and moving forward to achieve their desired goals.

If you are a senior leader in South Africa, you might be wondering how executive coaching could assist you with reaching your true potential. In short, yes, you will benefit from engaging in executive coaching. It can be an exceptionally valuable resource for leaders seeking to improve certain areas of their professional life and build on skills already in place.

Your commitment to learning and improving is essential to unlocking all the potential that executive coaching has to offer.


How does executive coaching work?

The process is typically one-on-one, where the coach helps to recognise the areas that executives need improvement in and create strategies to develop the necessary skills.

Before engaging in executive coaching, it is important to outline clear expectations about what you hope to achieve. Your goals should be achievable and realistic, in line with your professional and personal ambitions. All the goals need to be measurable to help you with identifying where improvements are required and if changes in methods need to be implemented as well as track your progress throughout the coaching experience.

The coach may use various assessments to gather information and data which will help provide insight and direction for the required coaching. These assessments can include personality tests which will provide key focus points to determine areas of strengths and weaknesses, and how to execute the coaching effectively.

Once the goals have been determined and the assessments have been completed, it is important to develop an action plan to help work towards the objectives. Based on the coach’s evaluations, this could include the processes of changing behaviours, developing new skills, and/or first addressing specific obstacles.

Providing feedback and support is a crucial part of this process. As the coaching progresses, the coach will provide you with feedback and support to help stay on track with your progress. The support can be implemented in form of consistent communication, extra coaching sessions, and regular check-ins.


What are the benefits of executive coaching?

The impact of executive coaching has been found to have a positive reflection on both individual and organisational achievements. It can lead to advancements in areas such as communication skills, acute decision-making, and leadership value to name just a few.

There are many benefits that senior executives can acquire from executive coaching and these in turn will enrich their lives, both professionally and personally.

Here are some ways that executive coaching is beneficial:

  • Communication skills: Communication is important in any leadership role. Executive coaching helps individuals develop their communication skills which include conflict management and resolutions, providing feedback, and active listening. Role-playing scenarios and communication techniques can be used to implement these skills into situations to develop and adapt when encountered in real-life situations.
  • Time management: Improving your time management skills is important to assist with delegating responsibilities, prioritising tasks, and becoming more efficient. Efficient time management is important in an environment where decisions need to be made and tasks need to be carried out. This skill can be developed by knowing how to create efficient time schedules, how to correctly prioritise tasks, and delegating responsibilities in a work environment to improve productivity.
  • Decision-making: Decision-making is an essential task for senior executives. The outcome of any decision-making has an impact not just on the individual but has a ripple effect on everything related to that decision. With coaching, decision-making can be improved by knowing how to balance out different perspectives, analysing information, and knowing how to weigh the benefits and risks of each decision.
  • Goal-setting: Coaches provide methods to help set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals. This is known as the SMART method. Knowing how to set and prioritise goals that align with skills, values, and aspirations gives the individual the confidence to work towards them to become more productive. Achieving these goals develops a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, with motivation to boost growth and improvement.
  • Emotional Intelligence: This is the ability to understand and accordingly manage one’s emotions and the emotions of others. This is a valuable skill to develop to improve relationships, express leadership skills and balance the impact of decision-making. Another value to developing this skill is beneficial to stress management and learning how to apply techniques to manage emotions healthily.
  • Increased self-awareness: Self-awareness is crucial to understanding strengths, weaknesses, and possible areas that need development that may not have been considered before. Without self-awareness, individuals might not recognise weaknesses and not be open to feedback, even when it is provided in a supportive manner. Self-awareness development can benefit relationships and lead to better decision-making, growth, and improvements, professionally and personally.
  • Career advancement: Identifying your career goals is necessary to know what direction you are heading towards with your career. It can also show avenues that you might not have considered previously or maybe not considered as a possibility. Coaching assists with creating a plan to achieve those goals, and working through any obstacles that may rise along the way. Providing feedback, support, and extensive guidance to achieve these goals will help the individual focus on what changes need to take place and what improvements are essential to moving forward.


Depending on the senior executive’s aspirations and goals, a coach will provide feedback on what focus will be necessary to achieve the desired results. The intensity of the coaching will vary from one individual to another. Some executives might only be interested in developing communication skills and will focus their energy on that aspect, while others might want to develop multiple skills. Discussing these points with an executive coach is important so that both parties can agree on what will be required, what the action plan will be, and how the coaching will move forward.


The different methodologies and what they entail.

There are a few different methodologies that coaches use, depending on what the coach specialises in.

Some might focus on the development of particular skills, such as goal-setting or decision-making.  Others might have a different approach, evaluating the executive’s personality, leadership styles, and values to isolate the areas that require growth.

Some of the most common approaches to executive coaching are skills-based coaching, developmental coaching, behavioural coaching, and results-orientated coaching.

  • Skills-based coaching: This type of coaching focuses on developing the precise skills that are necessary for constructive leadership. Identifying areas for improvement and creating techniques and strategies will help the executives develop the required skills. Training methods may involve feedback sessions and role-playing exercises. The coaching helps executives improve their delegating, strategic thinking, and communication skills.
  • Development coaching: This approach has a comprehensive view of the executive being coached to identify areas for growth by looking at personality, values, and leadership style. Detailed evaluations will be done on strengths and weaknesses, and helpful strategies will be implemented to help grow them as a leader. Some of the methods for this include personality assessments and feedback from colleagues to help the executive to understand their leadership style and recognise areas for improvement.
  • Behavioural coaching: This approach focuses on finding any behaviours that may be obstructing an executive’s effectiveness as a leader. A coach will work on identifying these behaviours and create strategies to eliminate them.
  • Results-orientated coaching: Focusing on achieving specific outcomes, a coach will work with the executive to outline goals and develop strategies orientated toward achieving them. This will require monitoring progress, creating action plans, and setting measurable standards for success.

Each coaching approach comes with its strengths and weaknesses, and deciding which approach will be most efficient for the executive is determined by assessing the needs and goals of the individual. An experienced coach will provide the best approach and design a program aligned with the executive’s aspirations.


The different coaching avenues.

  • Internal coaching Programs: Some organisations have in-house coaching programs. These are directed by experienced executives or HR professionals that provide the programs to senior executives within the organisation. These types of programs can provide valuable resources as the coaches already have a deep understanding of the company’s values and future outlook.
  • External Coaching Firms: There are external organisations specialising in executive coaching. The organisation may have a variety of experienced coaches that can provide the necessary programs for executives to work with. When looking at external coaching firms, it is important to find a coach that specialises in the industry the executive works in, as they will have a good knowledge of the requirements of that industry and set up a program accordingly.
  • Professional Associations: Professional associations can offer executive coaching services or refer you to a coach that falls in line with your needs and goals. There are a couple of professional associations in South Africa that offer coaching services and can provide a directory of executive coaches.

Some of the well-known Professional Associations in South Africa:

The International Coach Federation South Africa (ICF SA) and Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA) both offer directories of coaches. The Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoDSA) assists directors and executives, providing development and training opportunities that include mentoring and coaching programs.

Well-known Professional Associations in the United States of America:

International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the National Speakers Organisation (NSA) offer a directory of coaches to choose from, simplifying the process by allowing searches to be done by location, style, and area of expertise. Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) is a global organisation that offers executive coaching programs to executives. The Executive Coaching Connections (ECC) offers different types of coaching programs, such as one-on-one sessions, and group and team coaching.

Well-known Professional Associations in the United Kingdom:

Association for Coaching (AC) has an online directory to find coaches specific to the criteria. European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) offer a directory of coaches to choose from, simplifying the process by allowing searches to be done by location, style, and area of expertise. The UK International Coach Federation (ICP), the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), and The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) also all offer directories of coaches that specialise in executive coaching to assist with finding the right coach for the required training.

  • Referrals and Recommendations: Asking colleagues or trusted advisors can be beneficial to finding a coach that can provide the relevant training, especially if the individuals themselves have completed executive coaching programs and can provide positive feedback on the experience and results.


Why choosing the right coach is crucial and what to base your decision on.

Choosing the right coaching is important to get the best results. To achieve those results, executives will need to take a few factors into consideration, aside from the approaches that align with their needs and goals when deciding on which coach to work with.

Here are factors to consider when looking for a coach:

  • Experience: Experience is important for a coach to have, especially when looking at the knowledge and advice they can provide. Finding someone who is experienced in the field or industry has advantages as their understanding of specific requirements will align with setting up the relevant programs.
  • Credentials: Credentials are a good reference to see what type of training and certification the coach has to know if those will be compatible with the training executives are looking for.
  • Results and track record: Successful track records are important to verify the coach’s experience in helping senior executives in reaching their goals as well as providing the programs in line with the requirements of those executives.

Mentoring is an important element within executive coaching and with the assistance of the right coach, programs and training methods can flow more smoothly. Trust is another element that is necessary for success.  Building a trusting relationship can help avoid executives from being withdrawn and vulnerable with the coach which can halt the progress of the training and successfully achieve goals. Transparency within the relationship between the parties is especially essential to building on the foundation.

Trust is built over time through behaviour and actions. Empathy, support, and constructive criticism from the coach’s side will help provide a safe environment for executives to feel comfortable sharing their feelings and thoughts throughout the program. Maintaining that trust is a priority to not break down any progress already made by the executive. Through transparent communication from an executive’s side, the coach can identify any extra areas that might need improvements through feedback and support.

An approach of professionalism and honesty helps to build on the trust foundation. Commitment and promises are key points to successful training and need to come from both sides to achieve the desired results. Trust between the coach and the executive helps to manage the coaching process, making it effective with a higher success rate.



It may not be easy and there will be challenges to overcome. It is part of the process and part of the growth. Always keep your goals in mind and what you are working towards. In the end, the success of the coaching is to your benefit for your future, and keeping that in mind will motivate you to continue and complete the training your coach provides.

Executive coaching is a powerful tool and it takes commitment and effort, and continued success to impact the growth of an executive.

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