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What is Executive Coaching?

Coaching is a fast growing industry. But what exactly is it? If you are an executive who wants to know what all the fuss is about, this article is for you.

"Executive coaching, which surfaced as a leadership development practice over a decade ago, is now among the most widely used executive development techniques." McGovern, Lindemann, Vergara, Murphy, Barker and Warrenfeltz. 2001.

Although coaching is growing at a phenomenal rate in the UK, there is still some confusion around exactly what it entails, what it is and, crucially, what it isn't.

What's the difference between a coach and a mentor?

How does coaching work and can it really help me and my team?

Does coaching really make a difference?

Let's clear up some of the confusion.

First of all coaching is goal oriented. It deals with the present and the future. It's all about 'em-powering' the client to work out where they want to go, when they want to get there and how they can do it. It concentrates on enabling the client to take action in order to achieve their objectives.

If you imagine a line with 'non-directive' at one end and 'directive' at the other, coaches operate towards the non-directive end. Indeed pure coaching is completely non-directive (although as an Executive Coach I do not spend all my time being non-directive. There are times when some construcive feedback or a suggestion is necessary or helpful). So rather than give advice as a mentor would do (as someone who has 'been there done that'), coaches ask powerful questions using clean language to ensure they do not lead the client.

In this way a coach can raise awareness, ownership and responsibility; and enable the client to think differently and deeply to come up with new ideas for themselves. A coach will also hold the client responsible for taking the actions to which they have committed and is prepared to challenge the client.

Coaching usually takes the form of a series of 1:1 sessions which can be either face to face or over the telephone. I find that Executive Coaching sessions typically take between 1 to 2 hours each and are held on a regular basis. Fortnightly often works well but the interval will vary according to the client's needs.

'Maximising the Impact of Executive Coaching', a report written in 2001 (McGovern, Lindemann, Vergara, Murphy, Barker and Warrenfeltz) studied 100 executives in America over a period of 4 years. Its findings include:

* Average returns of 5.7 times the investment in Coaching.

* An array of Tangible Benefits (including 53% reporting increases in productivity).

* An array of Intangible Benefits (including 73% reporting improved relationships with staff reporting to them).

Not surprising then that Executive Coaching is growing so fast even, or perhaps especiallyHealth Fitness Articles, in the current climate!

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Emma Wortt of Em-powering Executives, 2009. All Rights Reserved. Em-powering Executives enable leaders and their teams to achieve excellence via executive coaching and training. To receive articles directly, subscribe to the FREE monthly Em-powering Executives newsletter at

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