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What Skills Sets One Apart as an Executive Coach?

An executive coach is a person who looks after and helps a client in enhancing his or her leadership or management performance and development.

Richard R Kilburg, in the book Executive Coaching: Developing Managerial Wisdom, explains executive coaching as – “Executive coaching is defined as a helping relationship formed between a client who has managerial authority and responsibility in an organisation and a consultant who uses a wide variety of behavioural techniques and methods to assist the client achieve a mutually identified set of goals to improve his or her professional performance and personal satisfaction and consequently to improve the effectiveness of the client’s organisation within a formally defined coaching agreement.”

Executive coaching not only helps the client on a personal level by utilising their potential to the fullest but also helps the organisation in attaining higher levels of effectiveness and increased profitability. Making well thought of decisions quickly and grasping the landscape in its entirety, especially when time is of the abstract, is something all of us feel overwhelmed by. An executive coach can help one in overcoming this feeling and be more effective at decision making.

A highly effective executive coach can help one build the skills that will help him or her in seeing future paths and setting goals in a crystal clear manner. This not only benefits one on a personal level but also helps his or her organisation in attaining better results and achieve higher feats. With the correct strategies, the organisation can see an astounding growth in terms of revenue, efficiency and team performance.

The following are some skills that can set one apart as an executive coach:

  • In Depth Listening and Understanding

There is a fine line between hearing and listening. In addition to listening, we also need to understand what is being talked about along with the subtlest of changes. Reading the body language – how someone sits, changes his or her position, alters the tone of their voice, eye gestures and many more – is crucial. These are all hints at how interested, or uninterested for that matter, one is.

As an executive coach, one needs to establish a private and safe space between the client and himself or herself. This is an ability that paves way for a transparent conversation between the two parties.

  • Feedback

Feedback is a very crucial aspect to being an executive coach. One should be careful about the way he or she dispatches the feedback. A badly dispatched feedback could lead to crushing of confidence, thus, making one feel incapable and even unreliable. Using feedback as a method to assert one’s knowledge and expertise would only lead to destruction.

Creating a sense of self evaluation, clearly, is also important as it leads to exploration and analysis of one’s own behaviour, which most of the people overlook more often than not. If this comes from within, it creates a sense of empowerment rendering them better equipped to deal with their thoughts and behaviour in the future.

A well-tailored feedback is important to build trust and confidence in the relationship of the client and the executive coach. When providing feedback, the executive coach should take care of the fact that the feedback should be constructive, relevant and non-evaluative.

  • Questions

Yes and no answers to questions are the conversation killers. In order to avoid closing down on a conversation, it is better that the questions asked by an executive coach are open ended. However, the questions need to be in the moment and should enable the client in exploring his or her ideologies. The questions need to go far deeper and thus, help in unlocking and achieving new levels of being.

Good questions are generated by an executive coach’s own curiosity. These questions should be modelled and guided by the client’s perspective and not the executive coach’s. One thing that should always be kept in mind is that – it is always about what the client needs and wants and not what you do.

  • Presence

By presence, what is meant is that the executive coach should not just be present physically but also mentally. Full attention towards the client is of utmost necessity to bring in a sense of trust and support.

For even one moment, they should not feel like the executive coach is just going through the motions or that the questions are pre-prepared. Presence begets presence. The client should never feel that the executive coach is physically present but mentally absent. Being in the moment and letting the client have all of the focus and attention is what an executive coach needs to do.

  • Experience

It would not really be correct to assume that a young person with almost no experience can never be a good and successful coach. However, in the present scenario, experience is important as it teaches one a lot of things. There is a lot of difference between knowing things theoretically and knowing things by gaining first-hand experience. Experience helps one in not making or repeating mistakes and avoid unwanted situations.

An organisational experience is very crucial for an executive coach who aims to work at a very high level. It needs gravitas and that comes from the experiences life has brought, as well as business. It is important for the client to know that the executive coach he or she has hired shares similar experiences in the business world, if not in life.

  • Finding that Edge

Executive coaching has garnered a lot of attention and importance in the corporate world in recent years. This has in turn produced a lot of executive coaches.

In order to stand out from the regular crowd of executive coaches, one needs to find or create their unique niche. This comes mostly with experience in the business world.

Robert Hargrove in the book Masterful Coaching, says – “A masterful coach is a vision builder and value shaper… Who enters into the learning system of a person, business, or social institution with the intent of improving it so as to impact people’s ability to perform.”

Zubin Jay Mirchandani is an Executive Coach based in Mumbai who works with Senior Leaders across the world daily. He runs his own Coach Training Academy for young and developed coaches alike. Please visit for further information

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