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Why work with an Executive Coach?

Updated: Jun 1

When I tell people that I am an executive coach, one of the first questions I hear is, what does an executive coach do? If you break down the words, executive means administrative or managing responsibilities, and coach means instructing or tutoring. At its most basic level, an executive coach helps individuals learn how to be better administrators and managers. But they really do so much more. An executive coach is an important partner that can help leaders reach their full potential by helping them to understand better who they are and who they want to be. Professional tennis players like Serena Williams who are looking to perform at their highest level work with a tennis coach. The same is true of top-tier singers like Beyonce, who frequently work with vocal coaches to help them expand their range, sing with more strength, and perform at a consistently high level. Professional athletes, vocal performers, and other professionals who work with specialized coaches know that no matter how good an individual is, there is an opportunity to be better and more consistent by working with a knowledgeable coach. Executive coaches can do for executives and managers what sports coaches do for athletes. Coaches help people to pause, reflect, learn, and continuously improve. One of the best-kept secrets of top-performing business executives and owners is that they work with executive coaches. Executive coaches are not discussed much but are essential to how talented executives and business owners reach their full potential.

4 people sitting at table. three coffee cups, computer, phone, note pads

My experience working with a coach

I worked with an executive coach when I was first promoted to Vice President of Operations. It was indeed a life-changing experience for me. The coach I worked with helped me to

The clarity I gained from working with a coach helped me feel more confident as I transitioned into a role that carried significantly more scope and responsibilities than any of my previous roles.

Clarify my professional goals

One aspect the coach helped me with was clarifying my professional goals. For most of my career, I focused on climbing to the next rung on the ladder. This served me in my career because it drove me to identify how I could excel in my current role. I knew I must first demonstrate mastery in my current role to advance. I would also take time to understand what skills, knowledge, and network were necessary to be successful in the next role, and I would spend time building toward those future needs. I felt like I had made it to the mountaintop for the first time in my career. I landed my ideal job of being an operations leader in geography close to my extended family. I could build an organizational culture, influence strategy, and run a multi-state business. With no next role to work towards, I had to re-evaluate how I would define success. My

mountain top

coach helped me to explore my values, define my priorities and put words to what I wanted to accomplish going forward. For me, the goal was improving the quality of my employees' and Franchisees' lives. I knew that we had opportunities within our culture. Employees felt overworked and undervalued. Franchisees felt under-supported and unheard. I made it my mission to listen more than I spoke and to work on behalf of the employees and Franchisees within my zone to simplify operations, streamline priorities, and refocus our attention on serving customers and driving profitable growth.

Reflect on who I was as a leader.

After we explored what I wanted to do, we spent time researching how I would do it. As you move into higher levels of management, your role shifts from being

  • an individual contributor responsible for managing yourself.

  • to a manager of managers responsible for managing others

  • to a functional manager accountable for segments of a business

  • to a business manager responsible for the overall business

  • to a group manager responsible for multiple businesses

  • to an enterprise manager accountable for all operations

Each of these shifts requires developing new skills and changing how you spend your time. As you move up the ladder, you spend less time doing and more time leading. For example, one of the things that I greatly enjoy doing is building spreadsheets and analyzing data. This skill helped me stand out from my peers early in my career. I allocated hours weekly to building and analyzing data which enabled me to build my business acumen, improve my judgment and anticipate emerging trends. Now that I was in a senior executive role, spending time putting spreadsheets together was no longer the best use of my time. Every time that I built a spreadsheet myself, I was

  • robbing someone junior to me the opportunity to build their data analysis skills

  • reducing the amount of time, I had for other leadership activities

  • not leveraging the skills and knowledge of others

My coach helped me understand that what got me into this role was not what would help me thrive. That I was more than a data analyst. I was a strategic thinker, a communicator, a developer of talent, and an inspirational leader. For me to excel as a Vice President, I would need to be comfortable wearing many different hats and be purposeful in not wearing the hat that I wanted to wear but the one that was required at any given moment.

Define who I want to be

With a sound foundation f