What to Expect in an Executive Coaching Program

Executive Coaching can have a powerful impact on your organization. Coaching programs are a tool for developing high potentials, retaining key talent, preparing executives for new roles, and building a strong leadership pipeline.

The Executive Coaching Forum, a group of Executive Coaches that work to promote best practices, ethical guidelines and understanding of Executive Coaching, lists the personal benefits of coaching in a succinct but powerful list. They report that employees who had a coach felt it positively impacted their lives by helping them to:

  • Establish and take action towards achieving goals

  • Become more self-reliant

  • Gain more job and life satisfaction

  • Contribute more effectively to the team and the organization

  • Take greater responsibility and accountability for actions and commitments

  • Work more easily and productively with others

  • Communicate more effectively

An Executive Coaching program is unique from other types of coaching for two reasons. First, the engagement is a partnership between the coach, the executive being coached, and the client organization. Second, the individual goals of the coaching engagement must always support the strategic goals of the organization.

What makes up an Executive Coaching program?

While there are many types of employee coaching, a one-on-one Executive Coaching program should contain the following steps.

Discovery Phase

After determining if you have a manager or executive you want to invest in, the next step is to retain a coach. Do your research; Executive Coaches should have a deep understanding of organizational cultures through a mix of personal experience and education. Their background and experience should align with the participant being coached.

A battery of clinical and third-party validated tests and assessments along with a “360” review for the coaching participant are needed to get to know them better, to understand what makes them operate, to offer a point of self-reflection and discovery, and to aid in the creation of a development plan. It is important for the Executive Coach to understand a participant’s capabilities, strengths and to develop a work plan that focuses on improving upon their strengths and figuring out how to get around weaknesses.  

Interviews with the client, the coaching participant and key employees in the organization are often used to determine the company’s culture, organizational structure, business goals, and the dynamics of the participant’s work environment.

The information gathered from the participant, leaders and peers in their organizations, and assessment/tests results are used to create a development plan for the participant. The coach, participant, and most importantly, the client organization must agree upon the development plan. The development plan should contain metrics to measure success and be revisited throughout the program to assure those metrics are being met. Once a development plan is agreed upon, a contract is signed and the coaching sessions can begin.

Coaching Sessions

With established outcomes determined upfront in the development plan, coaches are prepared to meet with participants for one-on-one sessions at regular intervals. A good coach will keep lines of communication open in between sessions to address questions or concerns that may arise. Each situation is unique and each program should be developed in a way that addresses the client and participant’s needs.

One important factor in any executive coaching program includes high ethical guidelines around communication and confidentiality. A participant must be confident that what they say in sessions is between coach and participant. Some information may be disclosed to the client company related to outcomes, but all parties must agree ahead of time what will be shared including all test and assessment results.


The goal of each coaching assignment varies depending upon the assessment and feedback process but it is important to tie the results to agreed measurable benchmarks established by the company, participant, and coach in the beginning of the process. Providing a coach is a development opportunity for managers and executives and a true investment for a company and should be communicated clearly to all participants who will be benefitting from the process.