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11 elements of great executive coaching

November 25, 2014 David Vaughn

I’ve identified 11 essential elements that every executive coach must have to be great (not just good). They’re built on a foundational belief that every coach (every employee and employer, really) has the responsibility to give every assignment that they take on their best effort because consistent best effort leads to great performance.

And great performance leads to superior results.

So, if you’re currently working with an executive coach, or you are looking for someone to coach you up to the next level in your organization, make sure these 11 elements are always present in your coaching relationship:

  1. Coaching is all about helping you bring out your best effort. It is not the coach’s responsibility to pull your best effort out of you, necessarily. It is the coach’s responsibility to give his or her best effort. And it’s your responsibility to give your best effort….with the help of a coach.
  2. The coach must be organized and well prepared. You’ll only become engaged and get value from the coaching experience if the coach has a planned, ordered, systematized, and structured approach that communicates his or her investment in the process.
  3. Coaching is more about asking the open-ended question than delivering the answer. The “aha” moment is what great coaches treasure. As Margaret Thatcher said in the movie about her life: “Thoughts need to turn into words. Words need to turn into actions. Actions need to turn into habits. And it is habits that produce results.” This comment was her response to how she “felt” about a particular subject. Coaching is just like that. Great coaches don’t help you feel a certain way. They help you move your thoughts to the habits that get results.
  4. Real-life experiences matter. But the coach’s story is not as important as your story. A great coach is able to truly hear your story.
  5. A great coach cares about the whole person being coached. Helping you find your passion is the key that unlocks incredible levels of best effort.
  6. Being a great coach requires coaches to coach 24/7. A coach always has time to coach. A great coach can’t be a coach one moment, and then be disinterested the next. People see, and remember. Great coaches live it!
  7. It’s the discontinuous improvement that matters. Breakthroughs start only where the person wants to be rather than where they actually are. Most transformational improvement comes in starts and stops that trend upward.
  8. Great coaches work with leaders within the teams they lead. Coaching you outside your team is like helping a ball player bring out his best, but only during practice. It’s on the field and during the game where great coaches really make a difference.
  9. Great coaches get buy-in from HR and senior leaders who trust the coaching process and allow them to coach. Great coaching can’t be managed as a transactional process. Great coaching is transformational, organic, and creative.
  10. The best coaching is ongoing, where double-loop learning that requires a ton of reflection that goes way beyond traditional problem solving can take place. The best coaches are close enough to help you see what’s possible.
  11. Great coaches coach themselves.

Take a few minutes to really think about the last principle. I’ve found that leaders who get the best effort from their people are the ones who allow themselves to be coached by great coaches who have the courage to coach. And the great ones also understand they need to be coached too.

Are you always giving your best effort? What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten from a coach? Share it with us in the comments below.

And if you want to learn more about coaching and the art of goal setting, check out this webinar.

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