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Briah Handa Oakley9 min read

Executive Coaching: What is it, and Why is it Important?

Approximately 25% to 40% of all Fortune 500 companies invest in executive coaching for their leaders, and demand is estimated to reach $11.2B this year.

In fact, Goldman Sachs believes in executive coaching so much that they speak to their coaching commitment on their website.

So what's the ROI on executive coaching? What does it exactly look like and what does an executive coach do? According to Brainz, executive coaching leads to the following:

Coaching impacts

Bottom Line Impacts

 Improved relationships with direct reports, peers, and other stakeholders Increased revenue

Increased commitment to the organization

Increased productivity

Increased job satisfaction

Higher customer satisfaction


In this article, we delve deeper into what exactly executive coaching is, why its importance is rapidly growing, and how to integrate an executive coach into your business strategy.


What's in this post?

  1. What is executive coaching?
  2. Why is executive coaching so important?
  3. What are executive coaching topics?
  4. How is AI being used for executive coaching?


What is executive coaching?

Executive coaching creates a collaborative alliance between seasoned coaches and executives which fosters professional and personal development and success. The goal of executive coaching is to identify and achieve specific goals through targeted strategies and ultimately help executives and leaders build the necessary skills to help them lead, including:

  • Build leadership skills
  • Create career plans
  • Enumerate personal beliefs
  • Identify short-and long-term career goals
  • Strengthen decision-making skills
  • Develop strategies to improve performance
  • Build self-confidence

Effective leaders prioritize their personal development with the same level of dedication as their professional growth and executive coaching plays a role in bridging the gap between these two areas.


Why is executive coaching so important?

To get straight to the point, here's the brief answer: an executive's performance has a ripple effect on the entire organization.

And the influence of leaders is more impactful today than it ever was before.

Described as the VUCA world, meaning a world that is full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, organizations are facing increased competition, changing regulations, and reduced budgets, just to name a few shifts.

This post-pandemic age means executives and leaders must abandon old styles of leadership and focus on empowerment in order to fulfill everyone’s potential, including their own.

“Employee wants and needs have changed, and leadership needs to keep pace with it.”
Jean-Michel Chopin, Managing Director at StratX ExL

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Even prior to the emergence of Covid-19, we were already facing a series of disruptions, with organizations experiencing the impact of Digital Giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon entering the scene and pushing the boundaries of traditional business models.

Through effective coaching, executives can develop the necessary competencies to navigate complex and uncertain business environments with confidence, make informed decisions, and achieve strategic objectives.

Moreover, executive coaching can facilitate the cultivation of a growth mindset and foster a culture of continuous learning throughout the organization.

The investment in executive coaching, therefore, is not only worthwhile but essential for any organization seeking to achieve long-term success and competitive advantage in today's dynamic and challenging business landscape.

An executive coach is also essential for ensuring that executives have the skills and resources they need to lead their teams effectively.

By providing tailored guidance and support, an executive coach can help executives stay on track with their development goals and ensure that they are equipped to handle the responsibilities of their roles.

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So how can bad leadership coaching efforts affect an organization's performance? What happens when organizations don't invest in coaching sessions?

A poorly trained, inexperienced, or underqualified team leader can lead to decreased morale and productivity in the workplace.

Imagine this: An executive coach has been assigned to lead a team of managers at an organization. Despite being leaders themselves, these managers have not received executive leadership coaching or any professional coaching on the job. As a result, their management style has become outdated and they are not in tune with the needs and expectations of their subordinates and lack mentoring capabilities.

The employees feel a lack of understanding and their sense of alignment and motivation has dwindled. They find it challenging to communicate with their manager, feeling like their feedback is not being considered, which affects their overall performance. Consequently, some employees have started contemplating leaving for other job opportunities that they have been offered as they feel they aren't reaching their professional potential.

Executive leadership coaching or executive coaching work is a proven way to help organizations avoid precisely this scenario.

Especially as we experience a VUCA business landscape, it's a top priority for leaders to stay on track with their development goals, build their skill set, and increase their confidence in the workplace. Through tailored guidance and support, executive coaches can help executives understand the expectations of their roles and provide them with the tools they need to succeed.

What are executive coaching topics?

Executive coaching can address a broad range of topics, such as developing communication and collaboration skills, improving decision-making abilities, and fostering a growth mindset.

It can also cover areas like giving feedback effectively, managing team dynamics, setting performance goals, achieving work-life balance, creating an action plan for success, and much more.

Here is a list of the top executive coaching topics that executive leaders should develop in a VUCA environment:

1. Emotional intelligence: 

Studies have proven a significant correlation between leadership and emotional intelligence. Great leadership works through emotions, and emotional Intelligence has become a vital part of how today's leaders meet the significant challenges they face. Therefore, executive coaching to help develop leaders' emotional intelligence is increasingly critical and can give developing leaders a competitive edge.

2. Communication skills: 

Communication skills are essential for leaders because they play a critical role in facilitating effective collaboration, creating a positive work culture, building relationships with team members, and achieving organizational goals. Good communication skills allow leaders to clearly convey their vision, expectations, and strategies to their team members, which helps everyone stay aligned and focused on their objectives. Additionally, leaders with strong communication skills are better able to listen to and understand the perspectives of others, provide constructive feedback, and resolve conflicts effectively.

3. Leadership development:

 Leadership skills are essential for leaders because they enable them to effectively guide and motivate their team members, make strategic decisions, and achieve organizational goals. Leaders who possess strong leadership skills can inspire their team to work towards a common goal, create a positive work environment, and foster a culture of innovation and growth.

4. Change management: 

Change is inevitable, and it can be a challenging process for any organization to manage. Executive coaches can help leaders develop their change management skills by providing them with guidance on how to create an action plan for the successful implementation of changes, identify potential risks associated with the transition, and adapt quickly to new situations.

5. Time management:

Efficiency is key for any organization to succeed, and proper time management is essential for leaders to maximize their effectiveness. Leadership development can help develop leaders grow strategies for effectively managing their time, prioritizing tasks, increasing productivity, and reducing stress levels. 

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How is AI being used for executive coaching?

AI is being increasingly used for business coaching and performance coaching to help executives develop their skills, become better leaders and build stronger relationships with their team members.

For example, Retorio's Behavioral Intelligence Platform is a video-powered AI coaching platform where leaders have access to executive coaching to keep up with the quick pace of the new work environment. The platform uses AI-driven behavioral analytics to analyze videos of leaders speaking and provides insights into their communication skills, body language, voice intonation, and more.

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AI-based tools can provide more detailed insights into each executive's performance and suggest targeted executive coaching strategies to help them improve their performance. 

Want to try out Retorio's Behavioral Intelligence Platform for yourself, and see how your leaders could benefit from its executive coaching platform?

Try for free


Key Takeaways 

  • The importance of executive and performance coaching is rapidly growing as the business environment continues to shift. Coaching sessions help executives develop their necessary skills.
  • Emotional intelligence is among the key skills executive coaches need to focus on today to lead teams successfully.
  • As employers' needs have drastically changed, it's up to L&D managers to make sure executives keep up to pace with these changes.
  • The capabilities of AI can provide senior leaders with executive coaching opportunities that aren't limited to time or place. 


FAQ 1: What leadership styles are there?

What makes a person a leader is still debated, but according to Bennis (1994) all leaders seem to share some common traits. Factors such as experience, personality, and organizational culture shape an individual's approach to guiding teams and organizations, however, certain leadership styles are more commonly used than others in the workplace. In 1939, Kurt Lewin and his team of researchers identified three distinct approaches to leadership, which are:

  • Autocratic: Autocratic leadership is a style of leadership where the leader has complete control over decision-making, with little to no input from subordinates. In this style, the leader makes decisions based on their own ideas and judgments, without consulting their teams. Autocratic leaders tend to be directive, with a focus on maintaining strict control and authority over their team. This style of leadership can be effective in situations where quick and decisive decision-making is needed, but it can also lead to a lack of employee engagement and morale. Today, examples of leaders who prefer this style of leadership include Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller Sr., and U.S. President Richard M. Nixon.
  • Participative: Also called “democratic leaders," those who employ this approach usually involve their followers in the decision-making process by encouraging participation from and delegating authority to their team. Many U.S. presidents stand as living examples of the democratic/participative leadership style, including Abraham Lincoln, Jimmy Carter, and John F. Kennedy.
  • Delegative: Delegative leadership style, also known as laissez-faire or free-rein leadership, is a leadership approach in which the leader grants their subordinates a high degree of autonomy in decision-making and task execution. In this style, the leader gives subordinates the freedom to work independently and make decisions without much supervision or direction. This approach works best when team members are highly skilled, self-motivated, and experienced in their field. Delegative leaders tend to provide little guidance or direction, and they trust their subordinates to make the right decisions and execute their work effectively. This leadership style can be beneficial in promoting creativity and innovation, but it can also lead to a lack of structure and direction, resulting in potential confusion or lack of coordination among team members. Examples of delegation leaders include Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet.


FAQ 2: How can executive coaching help?

Executive coaching is an invaluable tool for helping leaders to develop and hone their leadership skills.

This style of professional development involves a coach, or mentor, working one-on-one with a leader to assess their strengths and weaknesses, identify areas where they need to improve, and provide advice on how best to lead the organization and manage their team.

Executive coaching can help leaders to develop better communication skills, motivate their team more effectively, and build relationships with key stakeholders. It also helps leaders to gain a deeper understanding of their organization's culture and values, enabling them to make informed decisions that are in line with the organization’s mission.


FAQ 3: When is executive coaching necessary?

Today, executive coaching, as well as general L&D is not about annual workshops and lectures. Top organizations that are competing in the VUCA business landscape today understand that executive coaching needs to be available for leaders 24/7, and not restricted to place or time.


Briah Handa Oakley

I work as part of the marketing team at Retorio, conducting in-depth content strategy at the intersection between artificial intelligence and L&D. I cover emerging technology and the latest advancements in AI technology and ultimately fuse technical knowledge with storytelling skills.