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Definitions of Executive Coaching

Different experts weigh in

“Executive Coaching is a facilitative one-to-one, mutually designed relationship between a professional coach and a key contributor who has a powerful position in the organization…The coaching is contracted for the benefit of a client who is accountable for highly complex decisions with wide scope of impact on the organization and industry as a whole. The focus of the coaching is usually focused on organizational performance or development, but it may also serve a personal component as well.”
Summary findings from the International Executive Coaching Summit,
October 1999, compiled by Lee Smith and Jeannine Sandstrom, and including information produced by 36 coaches, page

There are four methodological factors that distinguish the coaching of super-keepers from that of other employees…These factors are: 1) holistic approach, 2) deep behavioral insight, 3) the active involvement of top corporate executives and 4) sustained relationships with the coach and/or trusted internal collaborator ‘usually a senior human resource professional).’ ”
Karol Wasylyshyn in “Coaching The Super-Keepers” a chapter from the book “The Talent Management Handbook: Creating Organizational Excellence By Identifying, Developing and Promoting Your Best People” (publication date September, 2003).

Wasylyshyn’s approach to coaching senior executives is a collaborative and pragmatic one integrating depth psychology and strategic business priorities:
“Executive Coaching is a company-sponsored perk for top high potential employees. It is a customized and holistic development process that provides deep behavioral insights intended to accelerate an executive’s business results and effectiveness as a leader. This coaching is based on a collaborative relationship among the executive, his/her boss, his/her human resources manager, and an executive coach.”
Karol Wasylyshyn can be contacted at

“Executive coaching is defined as a helping relationship formed between a client who has managerial authority and responsibility in an organization and a consultant who uses a wide variety of behavioral techniques and methods to assist the client achieve a mutually identified set of goals to improve his or her professional performance and personal satisfaction and consequently to improve the effectiveness of the client’s organization within a formally defined coaching agreement.”
Richard R Kilburg in Executive Coaching: Developing Managerial Wisdom in a World of Chaos, pages 65 and 67.

Kilburg can be summarized as having a psychodynamic and a systems perspective.

“The essence of executive coaching is helping leaders get unstuck from their dilemmas and assisting them to transfer their learning into results for the organization.”
Mary Beth O’Neill “Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart” page 5.

O’Neill also writes about how it is vital to be “managing your own challenges” and helping the client transfer learning. Hers seems to be an Organizational Development perspective.

“Coaching is a one-on-one development process formally contracted between a professional coach and a management-level client to increase the client’s managerial and/or leadership performance, often using action learning.”
Robert J. Lee syllabus for “Change At the Executive Level” Fall, 2002 Syllabus, Milano Graduate School, New School University.

Lee’s perspective might be summarized as an organizational consulting approach including action learning.

“Action coaching is a process that fosters self-awareness and that results in the motivation to change, as well as the guidance needed if change is to take place in ways that meet organizational needs.”
David L. Dotlich and Peter C. Cairo in “Action Coaching”, page 18.

Dotlich and Cairo also write about self-awareness linked to business results and an action plan put in place.
Dotlich and Cairo seem to have an organizational consulting business results, action learning perspective.

“A masterful coach is a vision builder and value shaper…who enters into the learning system of a person, business, or social institution with the intent of improving it so as to impact people’s ability to perform.”
Robert Hargrove in “Masterful Coaching” page 17.

Hargrove has also stated “Coaching is intervening in the drift. [And]
“You don’t need a coach to turn out the lights” in interview on “Top Coaches in the USA” videotape.
Hargrove rejects the idea of calling himself an executive coach or even a coach, preferring to see himself as a “conversation partner”.
Hargrove calls his approach to coaching transformational.

“Coaching is not telling people what to do; it’s giving them a chance to examine what they are doing in light of their intensions.”
James Flaherty “Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others”, page xii.

Flaherty’s approach has been described as one of personal construction.

“Executive Coaching is aimed at inspiring executive leaders to make behavioral changes which transform themselves and the people around them thereby increasing business results and performance.”
Jeremy Robinson, working definition of executive coaching.
“Coaching is about providing inspiration. Consulting is about providing information. Information plus inspiration equals performance acceleration”.
Jeremy Robinson, motto for email newsletter, Corporate Coach Direct.

Robinson’s approach is results-oriented and motivational.