What does an executive coach do?

by Rosemarie Perla

“Let him that would move the world, first move himself”


Executive coaches work more or less exclusively with senior people from organizations.  They work with clients to achieve speedy, increased and sustainable effectiveness in their lives and careers through focused learning.  The coach’s sole aim is to work with the client to achieve all the client’s potential- as defined by the client.

In today’s competitive work and economic environment where business people find themselves, Coaches aid clients in keeping that edge needed for succeeding in business and in leading others.

Coaches carry this out this by generating positivity in clients:

  • Helping them to identify what makes them flourish
  • Developing their capacity and resources for successful change and,
  • Facilitating processes designed for successful change.

Simply, what is this process like?   Executive coaches meet with clients and, through a series of assessments and questions designed to uncover their purpose, values and strengths, help them to speak what they want to carry out in their work life.  Examples of this may be:  managing staff’s performance, meeting productivity metrics, uncovering ways to become more inspired and energized to meet performance expectations, etc.  Next coaching assists them in creating a vision of what they want: how it looks and feels – now and in the future.  This leads to setting a plan of action and frameworks for supporting this plan.  Coaches hold their clients accountable to doing what they say they want and identifying what gets in the way when expectations aren’t met. Along this journey of performance enhancement the client may ask for specific skill instructions for behavioral change.  And, they more often co-create with the coach a framework for uncovering their own brilliance and capacity for growth in their chosen life’s work.

Take away: What are your strengths that help you to flourish as a business leader?  Go to and take the VIA strengths survey.  Consider how you might use these strengths each day in your work environment to move you toward the vision of success that you have set for yourself.


Diane Coutu and Carol Kaufman, “The Realities of Executive Coaching”,  Harvard Business Review,  January 2009.

Rogers, Jenny, Coaching Skills:  A Handbook 2nd Edition, McGraw Hill, 2004.

Notes from the 2nd Annual Harvard Conference: “Coaching in Medicine and Leadership”, Boston, Mass., September 2009.



Leadership and Professional Executive Coaching
In my role as an Executive Coach, I see a lot of very talented business owners and leaders who are cracking under the pressure and responsibilities of extremely demanding jobs. They want to make a big impact but are being pulled in every direction, losing themselves within the large system in which they must operate.
The stress of it weighs them down, feeding negative thinking and making it harder for them to keep a bird’s eye view, mental agility, and balance that true leadership requires.