What Does an Executive Coach Really Do? Here’s the Answer.

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard of executive coaches but don’t really know what they do and why so many businesspeople use them. So, I’m going to explain…

Brighter Thinking Team

What Does an Executive Coach Really Do? Here’s the Answer.

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard of executive coaches but don’t really know what they do and why so many businesspeople use them. So, I’m going to explain…

Brighter Thinking Team

First off though, it’s best to make clear what executive coaches aren’t.

Executive coaches aren’t counsellors, therapists, or individuals who focus specifically on the recovery of a client (or patient) following a physical or emotional trauma. It is true that some executive coaches will investigate these areas to get a better understanding of their client and any deep ‘damage’ that may need addressing, however, they will refer to specially trained professionals such as psychologists and therapists who are the experts in this field.

Instead, executive coaches focus on the mindset of their clients, who in most cases are business leaders and those in senior roles. They help them see things differently and implement changes in their behaviour and thinking so they can maximise their potential. Their goal is to make each of their clients as effective as they can be so they can achieve the success they want and become the person they aspire to be.

This is done in various ways but often starts by helping them clarify their personal and professional goals and objectives. For some businesspeople, this may be to achieve a promotion, or perform brilliantly in a senior role, or have the confidence and assurance to grow a business or a department effectively. For others, it may be to gain a better work-life balance or more fully appreciate what they have already achieved, so they feel happier and more content.

Whatever the client’s goals, the executive coach’s task is to help them gain clarity and self-awareness of their unique capabilities and talents and overcome issues that may be holding them back. These can include procrastination, a feeling of loss of control, and stress, to name just a few.

Often people feel stuck and are unsure which direction to take or feel unable to switch off from the demands of their job or are constantly worrying about the decisions they’ve made or must make in the future.

An executive coach works through these issues with the client, most commonly through a series of confidential one-to-one meetings, either in-person or online.

They act as a trusted and objective sounding board, and having helped the client clarify their goals, collaborates with them to transform their thought processes and their often negative or limiting beliefs.

Instead of believing that they are incapable of achieving an objective or are ill-equipped to cope with a particular challenge, the executive coach encourages and champions their client. They support them to think in a different way, suggest mental tools and strategies to try out so that the coachee transforms their outlook – and results.

This leads to behaviour change and a new sense of confidence that enables the client to positively approach and take on the challenges ahead of them and achieve the professional or personal goals they set out.

In fact, many well-known high-profile business owners and leaders nationally and internationally rely on, and have used, executive coaches despite already having achieved great professional success. These include Steve Jobs of Apple, Roger Enrico, the late CEO of Pepsi, Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce, and Eric Schmidt, the former chair of Alphabet and previously CEO of Google.

This supports research by Stanford University that found that more than 34% of CEOs and 51% of other senior executives use an external consultant or coach to help them improve their performance (Larker et al., 2013).

An executive coaching culture has also been embedded in many billion-dollar companies, such as Goldman Sachs, which recognise that business leaders benefit from personal external support and guidance.

Executive coaching can also be provided to groups of business professionals instead of on a one-to-one basis. This is often used in companies where constant learning and development are understood to be key for individual and business success.

However, there are different types of executive coaching available, so it is important to find the right one for you.

Some executive coaches offer dedicated programmes and courses focused on individual topics or areas of concern that may be perfectly suited to your needs. These can include coaching on how to achieve a healthy work-life balance whilst managing the demands of leading a business, or how to reduce stress, or even how to overcome fear that may be impacting both your home and work life.

Other coaches, like at Brighter Thinking, create bespoke programmes for their clients that are focused precisely on the individual challenges they face.

Those business leaders that have ongoing regular executive coaching use their sessions to share their concerns and worries and learn how to see things in a different way, so they are always performing at their peak.

Whichever approach works best for you, it is important to find an executive coach that you are comfortable with and has the skills and experience you are looking for.

It’s a fact that some individuals set themselves up as an executive coach having had limited ‘real world’ business experience themselves, and few qualifications and certifications to validate their methods and knowledge.

Others take a more scientific approach, stating that changing an individual’s pattern of behaviour and thinking requires a solid understanding of psychology and how the brain really works.

Some executive coaches like me have studied NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) that looks to model and replicate the behaviours of successful people, whilst others have undertaken specialist courses and achieved certification from respected institutions and bodies.

In my own case, in addition to achieving Professional Certified Coach (PCC) accreditation with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and other professional credentials, I was also the first person in the world to be awarded the Postgraduate Diploma in the Neuroscience of Leadership.

And after a career leading successful sales teams in organisations including the BBC, Express Newspapers, and BAFTA, I qualified as a coach, and later as an accredited coaching supervisor for other coaches.

At Brighter Thinking, I strongly believe that only by fully understanding how the mind and brain works can permanent profound changes be made to how we think and behave.


Larker, D., Miles, S., Tayan, B. and Gutman, M. (2013) Executive Coaching Survey. Stanford Graduate School of Business, Centre of Leadership Development and Research [PDF]