Executive Coaching versus Business Coaching

What is Executive Coaching?

Most often executive coaches are hired to help C-suite, VP’s and other executives to support in setting, following and achieving goals. These goals comprise of personal goals focusing on happiness, work-life balance, increasing productivity, developing leadership skills, managing staff and improving communication. They will also focus on supporting short and long term organisational goals.

Executive coaching can be done on a one-on-one basis or a group setting and executive coaches can be hired by an individual or business. If the organisation, executive, and the executive coach work in partnership this will help to achieve maximum impact - for further detail and insight into Executive Coaching, read our article 'What is Executive Coaching?'

Pros of Executive Coaching

Executive coaching provides a healthy balance of support and challenge, whereby executives will be stretched but only as far as they’re comfortably able. This will help executives to perform at their highest potential without feeling overwhelmed or stressed.  A study by Perkins (2009) has shown that effective coaching will increase an individual's rating on their productivity, leadership effectiveness and overall leadership, thus increasing self-awareness.

Executive coaching will challenge the executive to define a number of goals at the start of the process, these goals will have both long and short term focuses and will be challenging to achieve.  An executive coach will help to keep the individual engaged and excited about achieving those goals and will also support in bringing the whole team together on the journey.

As executives are trying to fit a great deal into their day, most will fall into habits where they are being subjective rather than objective. With an executive coach supporting and facilitating the process executives will be able to see the company through a number of different perspectives allowing for greater clarity. This newfound insight will allow them to ensure they are focusing their time in the right areas. Executive coaches can offer a fresh perspective to old and new problems and in turn, help give the individual and the company the support to drive through any workplace changes that need to be made.

Smither et al (2003) looked at the effectiveness of executive coaching through tracking more than a thousand senior managers over a two-year period. This study showed that those who received executive coaching had more positive feedback from their colleagues and team and typically experienced an increase in those sharing ideas on how to improve, amongst other useful feedback.

For most executives, especially CEO's the top of a companies hierarchy, it can be quite a lonely space with a limited number of peers that they can have a conversation with as this may result in discussing confidential issues. Working with an executive coach will provide a confidential thinking space and will allow executives to discuss all matters openly. In addition, this will enable them to be able to work through any problems and set short and long term goals that are in line with both their personal aims and those of the company.

Executive coaching is a great way to nurture and support high performers as they accelerate through their careers, in our article 'When to invest in executive coaching and how to select high potential talent?', we discuss how to identify high performers and the way to best measure their return on investment.

Cons of Executive Coaching

Whilst executive coaching can provide huge benefits to an individual and the business, as with all coaching it is imperative to understand that when entering into this process it is not going to solve what might be management issues. If an individual is underperforming this can’t simply be offloaded to a coach in the hope that they will fix any and all problems.

The coach requires time to gain a good understanding of the company culture and key internal players and any good coaching relationship is built through a number of sessions whereby coaches will have tools in place to help them build and retain this information quickly.

It is important that anyone entering into this process is both coachable and open to change and achieving new heights. When looking into executive coaching, or any coaching for that matter, it is important to note that a coach can't and won't coach any psychological issues that underpin a person's behaviour - anything that falls into this category should be addressed by a therapist.  An article by the Harvard Business Review outlines the damaging effect of trying to coach a leader that has narcissistic tendencies and how coaching this type of person has heightened some of their negative behaviours.

There are no easy answers, as an executive coach won't give the coachee advice, this will be a journey to identify the answers they or the business are looking for. When considering coaching it is always important to remember that, as mentioned above, coaches don't give advice. If that is what you are truly looking for then you may want to consider finding a mentor or bringing in a business consultant.

The quality and approach of executive coaches can differ, it would be advisable to have a number of 'chemistry calls' to find and match the right coach for the coachee and the business. Credible Coach is an independent review site that offers verified reviews from clients that have undergone coaching and it is a great way to assess the quality of the coach you are considering hiring.

It is important to note that the coaching process may be so life-changing that an individual could consider leaving the business and pursue a new career.

What is Business Coaching?

Business coaches will be experts within their field and therefore will be able to use their insights and give hands-on knowledge that could support you in making changes to allow your business to stay competitive and reach new levels of success. With your coach understanding the business at a deeper level, one-on-one business coaching can be really effective as they are also likely to have a number of relevant contacts that could be of support. Some business coaches may be entrepreneurs or seasoned business leaders that have undergone training and moved into coaching to share their knowledge and help leaders implement strategies that assist the CEO or owner in achieving their goals and vision. Business coaching can, in turn, be of great use to business owners who need some outside guidance on reaching the next level with their company.

Both Executive Coaching and Business Coaching will touch on leadership coaching and it can be considered a subsection of both. Leadership coaching tends to fall into two main categories; developmental coaching and coaching to resolve problems or risks. Leadership coaching can support the coachee on becoming more mindful, inspirational and impactful within their communications.

Pros of Business Coaching

Companies have said that a business coach can be like having a highly experienced team member with the value they bring being priceless.

Those that receive business coaching see the same effects of an executive coach in terms of levels of increased internal feedback, creating open forums and gaining different and greatly beneficial perspectives from other leaders.

However, a business coach will help you identify which aspects of your leadership role that requires the most focus, and which can be delegated.  By having oversight of all operations you will be able to drill into the detail on occasions, but you will be able to lead more strategically as you will have a greater amount of time to focus on other areas.Business coaching supports these skills,  so as you can set the vision for your organisation, prioritise goals for success and implement change without resourcing expensive consultants.

Some leaders will have high levels of confidence whereas some leaders may need to learn how to exhibit this, after all leading a company is challenging and will come with highs and lows - even the most confident people may experience moments when they don't feel as self-assured as they would like. A business coach will help you recognise your own strengths, abilities and skills as well as give you tools to navigate these tougher moments.  This can do wonders for your self-confidence and for your business and it has been shown confident leaders hire people better than themselves!

Often those working around senior leaders will become compliant and be reluctant to express disagreement in an aim to avoid friction and keep people onside.  A business coach will be very honest and will highlight any negative behaviours as well as challenging any potential ideas. They will be able to support the transition to open communication within the company in a way which ensures people can share the good and the bad honestly.

A business coach will challenge your business acumen, you will gain a better understanding of decisions that may be reckless and which are founded on decisions based on evidence. Using experience gained over a number of years they will use their insights to help shape the way decisions are made.

When leading a business for a number of years or whilst maintaining the same position in a company it is easy to fall into a stagnant mindset and continue to do business in the way you always have. A business coach will offer a fresh perspective which can bring new levels of innovation and energy.

Some business coaches will support your network to find like-minded senior executives and external peer groups in similar positions. Many view networking as a major leadership tool, however, good networking takes skill, a business coach can support you to get the most out of a networking event to help both you and your organisation.

Cons of Business Coaching

Coaches don't give advice and in some circumstances, a business consultant may be of more value. A business consultant will provide professional advice on how to tackle certain business areas such as management, strategy, operations, HR, IT and marketing.

It is important to ensure the coach has a balanced relationship with the CEO or business owners, whilst a coach doesn't give advice they will have a strong relationship with the coachee and could steer them in a different direction to what is wanted or expected.

Finding the right coach is key. You need to source someone that you personally gel with and someone you can be open and vulnerable with whilst discussing professional matters. As most business coaches will have a broad and in-depth industry knowledge, it is important to feel that their experience is aligned with your needs. Investing in the wrong coach can have detrimental effects and as with an executive coach, the quality and approach of business coaches differ. Before starting a coaching engagement, we recommend finding a business coach that is well-reviewed and proceeding with a number of chemistry calls to ensure that you are confident with your decision before entering the process.

Why not try our free coach match tool to see which coach is the best fit for you?


Both Executive and Business coaching can have an incredibly positive impact on your professional and personal situation, they will both enhance your leadership skills and provide a different perspective on the challenges faced within your company. As with any new process focusing on yourself or work goals, it is essential to define what you want the process to look like and what your key goals are.  This will enable you, the organisation and the coach to evaluate the outcomes and adjust accordingly. It will also give you a great indication of how you are tracking to complete them by the end of the process.

The personal development achieved through having either type of coach will be noticeable and tangible, most assert that one of the best outcomes is finding a better work-life balance. Business coaching is likely to be a better fit for business owners as it also comes with key industry insights and knowledge. Coaching executive talent can be hugely beneficial and will have a strong impact on the leaders of a business, often individuals share the personal lesson and gains that the coach has provided and thus encourage others to seek their own personal coach.

When considering a coach, it is always important to identify your true needs and therefore ensure you find the right type of coach and the right coach for the job.

Why not try our free coach match tool to see which coach is the best fit for you?

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