In this article, we explore the challenges faced by executive coaches and how they can be overcome. Five experts, ranging from coaches to CEOs, share their insights. From navigating client/sponsor duality to building rapport and credibility, these are the top five challenges and solutions they’ve identified.
● Navigating the Client/Sponsor Duality
● Overcoming Defensive Leadership
● Coaching More Successful Executives
● Facilitating Change in Executives
● Building Rapport and Credibility
Navigating the Client/Sponsor Duality
The main challenge faced as an executive coach is the client/sponsor duality. When an executive seeks professional help and retains a coach, the agreement is 100% clear and transparent.
However, when an HR head or a CEO sponsors one of their executives for coaching, there is often an agenda misalignment, regardless of the coaching agreement and code of ethics. Clients often arrive with expectations and fears that coaches need to work with in order to cultivate trust and safety.
Javier Goldsman, Coach
Overcoming Defensive Leadership
A key challenge often encountered when coaching executives is overcoming defensiveness. Leaders, after all, are humans too—with their emotional defenses and vulnerabilities. Imagine spending years climbing the corporate ladder, becoming comfortable with a leadership style, and then someone suggests doing better.
Naturally, this can trigger defensiveness. To overcome this, the focus is on mindfulness and emotional intelligence. Working together to build self-awareness helps them understand that feedback and self-improvement aren’t threats, but opportunities.
For instance, one client initially resisted this approach. But by developing an environment of trust and non-judgment, it was possible to break down his defenses. Over time, he became more open, adaptable, and ultimately more effective, which positively affected his decision-making and team relationships.
Coaching More Successful Executives
Coaching people who are “ahead” of you in business can be really intimidating. Imagine getting a call booked with the CEO of a successful business. Their personal net worth eclipses your own. You’re probably younger than them, too. That can be a real challenge for a coach. Feelings of imposter syndrome arise as you ask yourself, “Who am I to do this?”
When this happens, notice the feelings of fear, and thank them. They’re here to keep you safe. But this is an opportunity for personal growth. Next, lean into the fact that all humans face similar challenges, regardless of status. Know that as a coach, your job is simply to hold space, not give answers. Execs appreciate coaches who can see clearly from the outside. Be confident and know that together, you can help work through their blocks.
Facilitating Change in Executives
Executive coaching often involves facilitating personal and professional growth, which requires individuals to embrace change. However, resistance to change is common. Coaches can help executives overcome resistance by exploring underlying concerns or fears, providing support and encouragement, and helping them develop strategies to navigate the change process effectively.
Creating a safe and non-judgmental space where executives can openly express their concerns and uncertainties is crucial.
Building Rapport and Credibility
It can be challenging to maintain credibility and trust with clients. Clients may question the coach’s expertise or feel hesitant to open up and share their challenges.
To overcome this challenge, coaches can focus on building a strong rapport with their clients. This can be done by actively listening, showing genuine empathy, and asking thought-provoking questions. Additionally, coaches should continuously invest in their own professional development to stay updated with the latest industry trends and knowledge.