What really makes a world-class coach?

For some CEOs, retirement is the sole plan once their time as a leader ends. Others, however, want to stay in the game in some way. 

Executive coaching is one way to make this happen. It’s a rewarding role that allows business leaders to channel their years of knowledge and experience into improving the next generation’s chance of success. The question is: how can executive coaches guarantee great results? 

The truth is that nothing in life is guaranteed. However, our years of experience have uncovered certain key things that make great results more likely. 

We reveal all in our latest report – The 8 Principles of Executive Coaching which you can download in full here. For a brief overview of the 8 principles, read on…

1. Embrace servant leadership

For a great coach, coaching is more than just a job. Their role is about servant leadership: putting the needs of others before their own, and mentoring in a way that is patient, humble and selfless. 

As you’ll discover in the full report, there are 10 key traits shared by servant leaders. These include: 

  • Approachability
  • Growth-mindedness
  • A customer focus
  • Trustworthiness
  • Authenticity

2. Engage in active listening

Active listening is more that just hearing the words that another person speaks. It is often described as “listening with purpose”, or “listening with all the senses”. 

It’s a skill that takes time and discipline to master, but it’s a key weapon in the armoury of any good executive coach. In order to practise active listening, says Vistage Chair Julie Reinganum, you need to “listen deeply, listen thoroughly and listen with the intent to understand”. 

In our guide you’ll find a list of nine questions to ask yourself to evaluate your active listening skills, allowing you to understand whether this is an area for development. 

3. Ask thought-provoking questions

As an executive coach your role is not to tell others what to do. It’s to ask the right questions to empower those you are coaching to find their own way. 

It is an approach based on the Socratic method: a technique designed to draw out knowledge and answers by asking questions that kickstart a dialogue and make the other participant think. Our guide includes seven tips to ask the right questions to prompt critical thinking.  

4. Challenge people respectfully

Support is, of course, a key part of a coach’s role. However, they also need to challenge the people that they support. 

This isn’t always easy, and it can lead to some difficult conversations. Ultimately, though, this approach will give a CEO greater self-confidence and deeper self-awareness. Follow our five tips to help challenge leaders to push for growth. 

5. Broaden perspectives

Working in isolation is the sad reality for many CEOs. While it may not seem like a problem, this narrowed viewpoint can reduce growth opportunities and impair decision-making. 

A great coach can help a CEO to broaden their perspectives in a number of ways. This includes sharing their own experiences, encouraging them to seek other perspectives from their peers, and recommending useful resources – such as the five we’ve shared in our report. 

6. Uphold accountability

As a coach, your job is not to tell someone where to go. It’s to keep them on track. 

After helping them articulate their vision, the next step is creating ambitious but achievable goals to reach it. You’ll help them to break down those goals into manageable steps and create a plan going forward. 

However, to inspire accountability – both in yourself and others – you’ll need a full understanding of your personal values. Vistage Chair Greg Bustin has developed an exercise called “Heaven + Hell” which does just that: you’ll find the details in the report.

7. Build trust

Building trust is a common challenge with CEOs, who often find sharing their issues hard and uncomfortable. A great executive coach will work to break down these barriers – in both one-to-one and group settings. 

CEOs need to be confident that an executive coach is truly offering a safe, judgment-free space. Learn how one simple exercise from Vistage Chair Michael Malone can instantly start to build trust in a group setting. 

8. Have empathy

The best coaches will see a CEO not just as a business leader, but as a whole person. They have the ability to step into a CEO’s shoes and see things from their perspective, feeling the feelings they are feeling and understanding them on a personal as well as a business level. 

If you’re looking to become more empathetic, Vistage Chair Kurt Graves suggests three steps that can help. 

To learn more about these 8 principles – including how to use them to coach others to even greater success – download the full guide here.


Category : Leadership Personal Development

About the Author: Vistage Staff

Vistage facilitates confidential peer advisory groups for CEOs and other senior leaders, focusing on solving challenges, accelerating growth and improving business performance. Over 45,000 high-caliber execu

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