High-Impact Coaching for Executives: How To Choose the Right Approach

Visionary Leadership,

So you’re in charge.

You lead a company, a department, or a team, and people are looking to you to make things happen. You have, essentially, arrived.

Now it’s time to share what you know, lead others to greatness, and … learn more.

That’s right.

You’ve arrived somewhere, but even when you’ve reached the top of your field, you can go further and achieve more — and an executive coach can help.

Below, we’ll look at different types of executive coaching you might pursue, indicators of the best high-impact coaching programs, and ways to troubleshoot if you’re not getting the results you want.

Types of Coaching for Executives: Which To Choose and Why

Coaching for executives encompasses two primary types: leadership coaching and business coaching. Both are good — which you choose depends on your focus. While some executive coaches may work with clients on both leadership and business issues, others specialize.

Leadership Coaching

Leadership coaching often focuses on development of the crucial “soft skills” needed to be an inspiring and effective leader:

  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Work-life balance
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Decision making
  • Conflict resolution

Leadership coaching can help you see yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses more clearly and move forward developing the skills you need.

Business Coaching

Business coaching, on the other hand, focuses on the business rather than the individual:

  • Setting business goals
  • Revenue streams
  • Business growth
  • Branding
  • Operations

Business coaching provides a fresh perspective on your business, helping you to identify processes that should be updated or overhauled, seek out new sources of revenue, and zero in on measurable, achievable KPIs. 

As the world outside your company evolves and changes, business coaching can help you step back, evaluate the big picture, and make changes to your systems and plans to foster innovation and keep your company on the cutting edge.

Other Coaching

Other types of coaching, like life coaching, career coaching, and performance coaching, are outside the purview of executive coaching, although they may still be beneficial for personal or professional growth. Other types of executive education, like books, classes, and forums, may also be useful. Choose what you need right now.

Characteristics of High-Impact Coaching

Not all coaches are created equal. When choosing a coach, ask questions about the methods they use, and look for these identifiers.

Customized Approach

A strong executive coach should offer personalized, customized business coaching based on your goals and intentions.

They should be interested in what you need to take your business to the next level. Are you looking for more consistent sales, faster growth, better organization and delegation? We all want “success,” but a strong coaching program should help you pinpoint specific goals and go from there. If you’re not sure what to target, a coach may also help you isolate and define a path forward.

Defined Timeline

A high-impact coaching program should have a defined timeline

A coaching plan with a time frame means the coach expects concrete results within a reasonable period of time. Six to twelve months is usually enough time to set a plan in motion and see results.

If nothing has changed by then, it’s probably time to try something else. (See the troubleshooting section below for some ideas.)

Participation Requirement

A strong coaching program should require homework. This may not sound like fun, but as with most worthwhile endeavors, you get out what you put in. A good coach will ask questions that require focused, engaged thought on your part. They’ll assign tasks between sessions and hold you accountable for completing them. It’s the work you do based on your coach’s recommendations that will bring you results.

Troubleshooting: When Coaching Isn’t Working

If you’ve tried executive coaching before without seeing measurable results, any of several factors may be at play. Here are some considerations:


As mentioned above, getting results from coaching requires active participation on your part. Although an experienced coach can guide your efforts, responsibility for making change comes from you. Think of your coach as your Yoda. He rides on your shoulders, offering instruction and encouragement, while you learn to use the Force.

So if you’re not seeing the results you want, first ask yourself if you’re putting in the effort you should be.


Of course, the best coaches will be great at working with all kinds of personalities. But it’s always possible you’re just not compatible. If you feel uncomfortable with your coach, or some aspect of their presence irritates you subconsciously, you will have trouble working with them candidly, and that will impede your results.

Make sure you get a good vibe from the coach you’re working with. If you don’t, choose another.

Mental Health

Some business and leadership issues are best addressed in a combination of executive coaching and psychological counseling

If you’re suffering from something like depression, you’ll need to address that before you can make other breakthroughs. And there are other mental health issues that may affect your leadership efficacy without you realizing it. If you have narcissistic tendencies, for example, you’re not likely to realize it. You’re more likely to feel that everyone is against you, or that you have to do everything yourself to get it done right. 

Just as you get an annual exam to assess your physical health, it may be useful to check in with a counselor or psychotherapist to make sure your mental health is strong. Your mindset is the foundation on which you build all success.

Invest in ExecutivE Coaching

Ready to explore what you don’t know and take your leadership skills and your business further? Executive coaching is a wise investment. Choose a leadership coach to focus on soft skills like communication, or a business coach to work on revenue or planning goals. Look for someone with a customized approach, defined timeline, and interactive format. Make sure you and your coach are compatible, and address mental health issues with a therapist to ensure that you get the most out of your coaching experience.

Executive coaching is just one of many opportunities available to members of Fast Company Executive Board. Find out more about this community of innovative business leaders or contact us directly to learn more.