What is executive coaching? A four-part definition to a growing field

Kathy Iverson is an associate professor in Roosevelt University's Training and Development graduate program. She teaches organization development, cultural diversity, research methodology, training foundations, consulting, and evaluation.

Kathy Iverson is an associate professor in Roosevelt University’s Training and Development graduate program. She teaches organization development, cultural diversity, research methodology, training foundations, consulting, and evaluation.

The field of coaching has grown dramatically in the past 20 years. One reason is the high cost of attrition. Research indicates that 35 to 40 percent of new managers fail within the first 18 months (Fisher, 2005). The cost of replacement is estimated at $150,000 for a manager and as much as $750,000 for an executive (McCune, 1999).

Companies look to coaches to facilitate performance improvement in struggling workers, aid change and transition, resolve conflict, and address performance gaps. Individuals hire coaches to address all of the above and to also address career change and upward mobility.

Coaches can be either internal, working within larger organizations, or external, hired by organizations or individuals on a consulting basis. Coaching can be defined in many ways, but typically involves a one-on-one or team relationship that involves focused performance improvement. Berman and Brandt (2006) have further extended the definition of coaching to include:

  1. Facilitative Coaching: Short term, very focused on specific core skills needed by leaders and managers such as strategic planning, team building, motivation, etc.
  2. Executive Consulting: Offers senior leaders a resource to bounce ideas off of and to help with difficult and costly decisions. It can be brief or long term and involves the use of directive questioning to facilitate problem solving.
  3. Restorative Coaching:  Short term coaching that helps a valued employee overcome difficulties or performance gaps.  I can involve the development of new skills or performance interventions to address issues with organization or motivation.
  4. Developmental Coaching: Typically a long term coaching relationship that addresses significant gaps in skill or performance.  These clients might have long standing interpersonal issues or core skills gap that are holding them back from achieving their goals.

For more on this topic, please see Berman and Brandt’s Executive Coaching: Different strokes for different folks. 

Also, watch the following video, 
The Psychology of Coaching. This is a preview to a full length DVD. Note: If you are viewing this blog via Blackboard, you’ll need to right click the link above and select “open link in new tab” so that it will work.

We will be offering TRDV 445 Executive Coaching Spring 2015 in a fully online version if you’d like to learn more about this discipline.

What did you think of the movie? What can you add to the above definition? What area of coaching most interests you?



  • It’s interesting to see that the extended definitions of coaching shared in the article speak to quite a few short term initiatives. My previous knowledge of coaching, although pretty limited, left me to believe that the most effective interventions of various coaching techniques would happen over a longer period of time. This is with the understanding that there is more room to correct mistakes, address barriers and challenges, evaluate the process, reflect with the client, and restructure resources if necessary. Allowing for this to happen in a shorter time frame is intriguing to me and I’m looking forward to taking a closer look at cases studies that reflect the short term models of coaching.

  • The information I gleaned from the video highlighted some key aspect of coaching. A coach is one who is equipped with the ability to establish a rapport with a trainee that is built upon trust and confidentiality. As the journey progresses, coaches are in a unique position to witness, in a tangible way, the difference they have made in their trainee lives. In some way, coaches have a self rewarding job knowing they have helped others make changes that are important to them.

  • I noticed how all the speakers talked about the importance of establishing trust and doing so early in the relationship. A key point for me to take away is that trust is necessary to make the emotional connection that will allow the client to open up and be more receptive to the coaching. I was also very moved by the statement that coaching was about getting people in touch with their potential. Valario called it the “Human Potential Movement” and how helping someone to get in touch with their potential was always exciting to her. That really resonated with me and I can see how doing that for others would be a very rewarding experience. I think helping others build confidence is a big part of coaching even if that is not the primary reason for working with a coach. Helping someone tap into their true potential would be a natural confidence booster, I think. I would be interested in developmental coaching. I’ve observed people who really couldn’t see how their actions were holding them back and kept them from achieving their goals. I’d like to help them recognize where their skills were lacking and help them to move forward.

  • In viewing the video on executive coaching, my definition of coaching was reaffirmed as the speakers referenced trust, developing relationships, and having an emotional connection. Coaches work collaboratively with people to make them more effective and efficient in the role the individual is in or aspires to be.

  • What I thought that was interesting was the fact that all of the consultants that spoke on the video had PH.Ds and also they all spoke about trust. Building trust first in the beginning and also making sure you have the knowledge about what it is that you are coaching. I think building trust with anyone is very important period. The person trusts your guidance and your knowledge to provide them with the necessary information in moving them in the right direction.

  • I define coaching as a relationship that involve teaching and learning. Who is teaching and who is learning changes as the dynamics of the relationship pan out. The coach first has to learn about his client before being able to teach mechanisms that will warrant success. I have learned from the short video that a coach needs to establish trust in order to be receptive to people who thrive off emotional relationships.

  • What I took from the video is the importance of balance there must be between the professional and the emotional sides of the relationship in order to provide effective coaching. This relationship takes so much time to build but is crucial to the process. I also notice how much they stress the importance of having knowledge of the organization and how things work. This is definitely a Documentary I am going to watch in full.

  • The short video drew attention to the importance of coaching. If I could give a single thought on it, it would be that coaches are there to see the “issue” through until the very end. Coaches are there turn potential into actual/concrete habits or performance.

    After reading the blog post, restorative coaching stood out the most to me. I think I’d like to further explore that area of coaching.

  • The comment in the preview about how the coach becomes a confidant reminded me of another blog post Coaching vs Therapy (https://rutraining.org/2015/03/30/coaching-vs-therapy/). A therapist helps the client make sense of things in the rear view mirror; a coach helps the client push forward on a new path.

  • This is interesting data on how many new managers fail in the first 18 months. I work for a program where we implement a bunch of managers into companies and we have only thought about getting them the job but not the retention add in. I am excited to learn more through my class this semester!

  • There were multiple key points about coaching that stood out in this short video. Drawing attention to the importance of building trust, in order to have an effective coaching relationship/experience had a great amount of impact with me. Many, if not all of us have encountered a coaching scenario that progressed in a downward spiral, often times very quickly. On the contrary, many, if not all of us have experienced a positive coaching moment. Looking back on situations from both scenarios, trust was a key factor. I look forward to learning more about ways to establish trust early on in working relationships. With some people and some relationships, this attribute comes naturally, but with others who have a guard up, or who have had negative experiences, tend to require more when it comes to earning one’s trust.

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