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7 Key Traits of Outstanding Executive Coaches

Updated: May 25, 2023

Like athletes, business leaders and CEOs need coaches to be successful.

When you reach a certain level in your career, objective insight is hard to come by, and fewer people are willing to give you their feedback. However, executives can leverage constructive observations given by executive coaches to learn and grow in their roles.

Especially now, with so many unprecedented challenges emerging and failure rates rising, this objective feedback is more critical than ever. According to the Harvard Business Review, between one-third and one-half of all new executives fail within their first 18 months on the job.*

Often, these failures are caused by hubris, ego, or a lack of emotional intelligence—all of which are issues an effective executive coach would be able to assist with. Executive coaching engagements also come with a plethora of benefits, like accountability, increased productivity, and stronger teams.

If you’re a business leader looking to elevate your personal or organizational performance, you should look for an executive coach who displays these seven traits.

And if you’re a coach looking to expand your corporate clientele and help CEOs improve their leadership abilities, developing these traits will ensure that you’re the best candidate for the job.

1. They prove their worth.

The best CEOs and Business Leaders are often selective when it comes to choosing coaches and advisors. To influence a CEO, a coach must gain their trust. To do so, a coach will first establish credibility, through their credentials, their attitude, and a proven track record of success. Established Executive Coaches will share client testimonials as a way to support their credibility.

2. They do their research.

If there’s one thing that most CEOs and Business Leaders can’t stand, it’s people who waste their time. An effective Executive Coach is prepared for each new situation. That means they’ve done the proper research to gain a thorough understanding of the client and their organization.

3. They talk less and listen more.

A good coach is a teacher and a mentor, but they are also good listeners. By listening to Business Executives talk about their wants and needs, they can determine thoughts, beliefs, actions, and interpretations that might be having a negative impact, both on a personal level and an organizational level. If a coach is talking more than they are listening, they might not be successful in encouraging growth.

4. They don’t force change; they aim to increase range.

A great coach will never force a CEO to change their leadership style. After all, many Business Leaders have an established style that they’re comfortable with. An effective coach should instead provide tools, techniques, and solutions to increase the CEO’s range. Different situations require different approaches, and the best leaders know how to apply different styles to increase their effectiveness. Executive Coaches encourage the development of various styles and skills within their clients.

5. They’re interested in improving effectiveness.

An outstanding executive coach will never place the blame on their clients or try to “fix” them. Many extremely successful business leaders — Steve Jobs, for example — have outrageous behaviors or habits. A great coach recognizes how such behaviors can contribute to success, and won’t try to change them. They’ll focus their efforts instead on other areas that might improve a leader’s effectiveness.

6. They take their time.

Sustainable change takes time. The best executive coaches have a deep understanding of the change management process and set realistic timelines for their client’s goals. They also appreciate different personality types. While some CEOs and Business Leaders are resistant to change, others try to force change too quickly. Effective Executive Coaches teach and reinforce new skills over time, so their clients build confidence and can successfully absorb and integrate the information.

7. They are passionate about coaching.

An outstanding Executive Coach is passionate about coaching. They don’t just see it as a job or a “side hustle”—it’s a skill they’ve been honing for years and will continually develop. They’re excited to learn about the organizations and business leaders and are eager to help them on their journey.

It’s important to remember that every Executive Coach has a unique skill set. Research is essential when it comes to selecting an Executive Coach to work with, as you will need to choose someone whose expertise and style aligns with your goals.

*Failure is defined by the resignation or termination of the executive due to competence or behavior issues.

In over 17 years of coaching, I’ve worked with many executives, CEOs, and business leaders from a large range of organizations. I work with my clients to help them become better leaders, as they expand on their existing strengths and improve areas of weakness. All of my work is based in Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Brain Science, The Science of Well-Being, and The Psychology of Happiness and is designed to provide easy to learn, easy to use, and immediately relevant tools, techniques, and solutions that produce RAPID RESULTS.   I provide objective, third-party support to business leaders as they learn, grow, and Unlock Bold Change™ in their careers and organizations.


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