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 over 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 also to 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?


  • In watching the video, each person has their views of what coaching is. I admire what was being said, but in my world, coaching is how you present ideas to someone or a team in a way they understand and they carry it out to the letter.

    • After watching this video each person provided a good definition of what good coaching was. Dr. David Lawrence stated that good coaching includes understanding how the organization, power, and decision making all play a role. I also like what Dr. Anna Marie Valerio stated that it is important to get in touch with a person’s intellectual and emotional side to understand the person better in order to help them to live their best life. Overall, a good coach needs to possess many qualities such as establishing trust first.

  • This was very interesting to read, and should prove to be quite helpful with a current project. My current focus is to determine the best approach for establishing an internal to organization coaching practice to complement the current outsourcing of Executive Coaching.

  • When you are a great coach you can impact so many people positively. It is like a pyramid game. When you can impact or excite a personal positive change in someone – they often excite positive changes in others around them as well. The personal growth can be exponential!

  • After reading this article. I believe many times some of use may look a coaching in a way of given directions or tell someone something, when you get to learn and read that there are many styles and ways of coaching.

  • Great article! Within the article, the term that stuck out to me most was restorative coaching. This seems to reflect companies with values that include loyalty and true talent development as many businesses or organizations may not invest the time in an employee who is not meeting expectations. I love the term “valued employee” as I believe each member of an organization should be considered such.

    The video made some great points as well. I agree with Anna Marie Valerio that it is extremely important to establish trust first in coaching. People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

  • This article presents some powerful statistics regarding the percentage of new managers who fail and the cost to agencies when that failure occurs. I had not considered these coaching definitions but they reflect the varied the benefit from each aspect of the primary topic. I am relatively new to the overall field but have the understanding that Coaching is a very broad topic which offers a wide spectrum of possibilities for engagement and success.

  • Though brief, I thought the video gave some real insights on what executive coaching is and how it’s used to help people. I think what stuck out with me about the video that could be added to the definition was “coaching is a tangible way to make a difference in people lives”. Another definition that could be added is “It’s a human potential movement or helping others make changes that are important to them personally and within an organization”. The area of coaching that most interests me is that of a career coach. I would love to work with high school students to guide them down the right path on which careers would be the most rewarding.

  • I appreciated the expanded descriptions of coaching – facilitative, executive, restorative, and developmental. The importance of being able to identify the specific need for coaching and pair it with the best suited approach is essential! I also appreciated that each of the definitions were framed positively in term of needs of the client – even when we’re developing a restorative coaching plan it’s focused on building new skills to surmount the challenges.

  • I loved the straightforward approach to this article and its structure made it a quick and easy read yet very informative.This was a great introduction to coaching and some basic different types of coaching. Our textbook for the course expand greatly upon the role of coaches and what they do. All four of these types of coaching interest me and I’d certainly like to develop a skillset in all of them. I think executive coaching would be one of the most interesting and the most challenging. People are pretty set in their ways sometimes as executives. Enabling them to see and experience a different narrative of the tasks at hand could prove challenging. Interestingly enough, I think my age would also be a deficit to me in this type of coaching. I doubt many executives would take the advice of someone in their twenties seriously.

  • I would like to say that for coaching at ALL levels are so important. I have witnessed how the trend for coaching has grown in the corporate world. It is not and has not caught on in all areas of the workforce. However, I feel strongly that facilitative, restorative and developmental coaching is so essential and imperative to an organization’s success as the ultimate result is improving the organization within itself.
    I have been in the corporate world for 20+ years, and executive consulting has been the norm. However, coaching at all levels (facilitative, restorative and developmental) has been the exception.

  • This article was helpful in numerous ways. It provided an economic case for investing in a coach, explained the kinds of coaching that may be useful in different scenarios, and signaled how dynamic the field is and the growing importance of understanding and embracing the role a coach plays in successful futures of both individuals and companies. Through this brief overview, as an individual I am able to determine where a coach my be useful in my life. As someone who manages a team, I also am able to determine where an investment could be made to enhance my departments impact at work as well. Overall, this was a very helpful overview of the field of coaching.

    • The video highlighted that coaching gets people in touch with their potential! This notion makes the field of coaching fascinating and well worth learning how to incorporate into our lives.

  • After reading this article, I thought of something my grandmother use to say in my younger years about being a leader. She would say “A good leader empowers others to lead.” Although those were powerful words that I live by throughout my years, reading this article and watching the video embedded helped me to understand the importance and the effectiveness of executive coaching. Additionally, this article helped me to understand in the role of an executive coach, it critical to not only encourage and empower, but to also be a confidant.

  • What I find interesting, is despite how beneficial training and coaching can be for an organization, that so many organizations fail to invest in their employees development. It seems as though, that many businesses, may just invest in consulting or executive coaching for their senior managers–ignoring their middle and lower managers. Ir reading Berman and Brandt’s (2006) 4 definitions of coaching, I would think Restorative and Developmental Coaching, would be so crucial and imperative, but also a necessity for an organization to invest in all their employees. It could be speculated, that a stronger foundation would be built by integrating more sound coaching practices.

  • I appreciate that this article starts with the cost to organizations, when a coaching program is not in place – ineffective leadership skills, and also the impact to careers when coaching is not in place. Trust is mentioned throughout the video and the text as an essential building block to the professional relationship. That trust is established over a series of successful interactions and outcomes. The video and text also emphasizing what the future state can look like through a choice of different behaviors, creating new outcomes. There are distinctions between the four types of coaching mentioned here made because of short term goals, and long term goals and support needs. All of the coaching styles focus on some type of performance improvement that benefits individuals and organizations alike.

  • Coaching appears to be infiltrating and making more of an impact as time goes on in corporations. There definitely is a need for coaches and the different coaching styles. In my own experience, each type of coaching style would require a specific set of skills or background from the practitioner to have a full effect. For example, executive coaching requires skills beyond just coaching; it would require an individual to have built up enough of the other coaching styles to really make an impact. As coaching becomes more and more prevalent and sought after, there will be more coaching styles that will arise for different situations. This leads one to understand though that there is the potential for an overly saturated market moving forward. Looking ahead, can’t wait to see what comes in the next few years regarding coaching.

  • In watching the video what stuck out to me is when I heard the gentleman say, “Coaching is a way to make a difference in peoples lives”. It’s comforting for me to know that my coach/mentor will help me to overcome difficulties. They can help with my performances in the work place and out. To have my coach/mentor to facilitate always leaves a calming effect to the entire group/organization that helps to resolve any type of conflicts and to be able to address any performance gaps in the agency.

  • Coaching rather you work in retail, a corporate company or external organization can be such a rewarding job and the fact that your skills can improve one’s knowledge has to be fulfilling. Coaching is essentially a process that helps trainees learn better and improve their skills. A great facilitator builds courage with in an organization and encourage trainees. Great coaches is what provides a company’s culture, performance and modernization to compete.

  • Joya Davonne Calloway

    I currently would consider the work I do to involve a mix of facilitative, developmental and restorative coaching. As a Personal and Career Development Specialist/Instructor I have 3 weeks to advocate change and necessary job skills that ex felons need to succeed in society. I thoroughly enjoy what I do, but I would love to also coach managers and executives. It is so imperative for management and executive level staff to be effective and influential. I hope to make that a reality for a company struggling to advance past their performance plateau.

  • I believe coaching can be unique, or tailored, to each individual circumstances. For example in prior roles I was able to provide developmental coaching to help new employees reach their desired career. That invigorated me and inspired me to continue learning as much about coaching as possible. Great read!

  • I thought the video was great as it gave a wide range of aspects. What stood out to me was “getting people in touch with their potential”. I was already thinking restorative coaching is the best choice for me and this statement solidified it. Restorative coaching will allow me to tap into the skills that people already have and address any current issues.

  • Alexandra Tuti Edwards

    The main thing that sticks out to me from the video is trust. People must trust the one who is guiding them. Something I would add to the definition of a coach – is someone who learns the strengths and weaknesses of their team. I love taking the time to learn the individual I am working with and learning what motivates them and how they process information.

  • I really find myself drawn to Facilitative and Developmental Coaching. I’m attracted to the short term, specific core skills needed aspects of facilitative. But equally drawn to coaching relationship that addresses significant gaps in skill or performance. Overall this blog post helped me further my review of the styles and how to navigate the next few phase of my career.

  • Megan Davenport

    The movie was a good introduction to coaching. I’d add that coaching is about connecting with clients on an intellectual and emotional level, helping clients realize their potential, and learning about both the individual and the organization.

    Restorative coaching interests me because of the focus on addressing performance gaps and developing new skills.

  • I enjoyed reading the article and watching the video. It is important to trust in the coach as the video stays to have a confident someone that is going to be neutral. I love the term “Facilitative Coaching” needed in organizations nowadays. Coaching requires to build trust and honesty at the first meeting to gain results. Any person can benefit from coaching because it helps us to grow and gain different perspectives.

  • I believe coaching is one of the best tools for the acquisition and development of intrinsic and extrinsic talent and skills of an individual or organization as a whole. There were profound statements made in the “Psychology of Coaching video by Dr. David Lawrence about how “a good coach becomes a confidant; nothing better than to have someone who is not tied to the organization and has no other agenda than to make you more effective”. Unlike mentoring, where someone shares their particular knowledge and experience to help an individual develop and grow, – coaching provides guidance to an individual regarding their goals and helps them reach their full potential.
    My greatest area of interest in the coaching arena is one that focuses on development by getting people in tune with their potential and creating an action plan for them to succeed.

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