Monthly Archives: May 2018

What Executive Coaches Should and Should NOT Do

Exec Coaches

Most leaders recognize they either don’t have the skill sets to coach or they don’t have the time.  While being a strong leader entails having the ability to coach, the fact remains that companies pay for us executive coaches to come in and partner with senior management on flexing their style.

This “style stretch” may be a result of an upcoming promotion, settling into one’s position better, working with a different regional culture, or to rectify egregious behavior that does not sit well with peers and direct reports.

These lists below are to help companies and executives become aware of what to expect, and what to look out for, when engaging executive coaches…


Set Objectives.  These may be professional or personal objectives, as the areas tend to seep into each other.  E.g. Executive presence, motivating direct reports, managing up, learning indirect communication, etc.

Expect Regular Reports.  The company (or individual) paying for the executive coaching should receive quarterly reports, which share the progress towards a goal.  What indicators demonstrate that certain objectives have been met?  These goalposts should be established ahead of time within the Strategic Learning Contract (SLC).  What is the goal?  How much time are you dedicating on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to get there?  What are the resources you need?  Who are the people who can help you get there?  What does it look like when you have achieved that end goal?

Expect Measurements.  Progress must have its metrics.  It could be an X% increase of a business goal.  Perhaps it’s the number of people who wish to meet with you 1:1. Numbers must be attached for the quantitative crowd.

Guarantee Confidentiality. One huge benefit of working with an external executive coach (or a bonafied internal industrial psychologist) is that all of the details are kept private.  Otherwise, externals can be sued, and certified internals could lose their license.

Hold the First Session In-Person. Body language accounts for 55% of communication, and it is not all in the face. Fidgeting, foot-tapping, ring twisting, etc, cannot be easily seen via webcam; and, each carries its own meaning.  Plus, anyone who has ever argued that webcam is “just the same as” in-person is equating attending a live symphony with hearing the music on the radio.  There is something to be said for vibe.

Meet Regularly.  Not more than one month should lapse between coaching sessions.  It is hard to stay on task, otherwise.  I generally recommend every two weeks, although, serious coaching issues may require twice weekly.



Settle for Bias.  Coaches are subjective, too; and, they may tell you what they know you want to hear.  This gets you nowhere.  Let them praise you when your metrics kick in positively.  If you have a coach who never pushes back and (gently, yet firmly) holds you through a line of inquiry to some degree of accountability for whatever predicament you raise, then you may have a co-dependent coach…they would like to keep getting paid.

Settle for Unconscious Bias.  Some coaches bring their unconscious bias into the room, which is a red flag that s/he is not an expert coach.  Jumping to conclusions or accusations, e.g. “You lied to me;” labels, e.g. “You’re being childish;” and other forms of subjective experience, e.g. “You can’t say you’re ‘comfortable in your own skin’ just because you are [race]” are forms of bias that muddle your journey; not clarify the steps for your path.

Allow the Coach to Dictate Actions.  Coaches are there to help you become aware of solutions that work best for you and your situation.  Best practices can be raised to spur ideas, but your coach is raising a red flag if s/he starts telling you what to do.  Coaches are thought partners; not judge and jury.

Accept if Not Committed.  Unless the coachee is wholeheartedly ready to seek out ways to be more effective in workplace interactions, an executive coach is set up to fail.  Coaches succeed when their clients succeed.



One Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) hired a friend of his who called herself an executive coach.  The CHRO hired her to work with a VP who had a terrible case of team attrition.  Unbeknownst to her, the human resource team fully intended to let the VP go, regardless of the outcome – which was never measured.  They simply paid the CHRO’s friend to have sessions with the coach, who occasionally vouched for her progress, and then the HR team documented that they had performed “due diligence” in supplying the VP with assistance before they laid her off.

This approach was not only contrary to the company’s espoused values of integrity and transparency, it communicated the HR team’s inability to recruit the right individual, hold the VP’s supervisor accountable, provide the VP with critical feedback along the way, and to hold a constructive conversation with her themselves so that the VP would not be blindsided with her own inefficiencies – despite turning over three entire teams.  No one had ever stopped her from mishandling her team.  Why? Because she ultimately provided results.  The end justified the means.  Or did it?  Everyone failed.  There was plenty of collusion which negatively impacted many families, and over a long period of time.

Leadership Development is the #1 human capital concern.  Spend your money wisely.


Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is an Executive Coach who also provides Global Leadership and Organization Development.  She is the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of executive coaches.  The team aims to make the world a better place through “A-ha moments” that reduce stress and increase productivity.  Please visit