It is reasonable to have questions about what an executive coach is, and what they can do for you or your organization. Anyone can call themselves an “executive coach”, and anyone can offer advice and/or opinions that may be valuable or appreciated. However, when looking for an executive coach, it is a good idea to have a relatively clear idea about the problem that you would like help solving, then compare that to the coach’s credentials. That will help you decide whether the person you select can help you.
Areas in which an individual or members of a business may be coached can fall into four major areas: it can be focused on either (A) short- or long-term time frames, and on (B) the business or the individual. Add one from (A) and one from (B) and you have the four areas. William Berman and George Bradt, in a 2006 paper, identified the four resulting areas as:
Facilitating Coaching (short-term, business focus) e.g. identify roles, measures, culture
Executive Consulting (long-term, business focus) e.g. maximizing leadership skills
Restorative Coaching (short-term, individual focus) e.g. coping with change to restore performance
Developmental Coaching (long-term, individual focus) e.g. identifying barriers to improvement when immediate crisis is not present
While there is certainly some overlap, coaches that engage in business focused coaching will do best if they have relevant business experience. One must know about company culture, reporting and communication structure, and the like. Individual focused coaching is best achieved by those well-versed in individual and systems psychology. Is it as simple as needing a business veteran to achieve 1 and 2, and a psychologist to achieve 3 and 4? No, particularly as there can be overlap among the goals. For example, understanding how aspects of one’s personality and resulting behavior might need to be adapted to fit into a particular corporate culture and business needs might require elements of developmental and facilitating coaching. An executive looking for business focused/strategic advice might also uncover that personal issues are impeding growth.
My own experience and training is more heavily psychological; however, I have a BS in Business from Wake Forest University and nearly a decade of experience working for a corporation in the financial sector. This combination is relatively unusual for a psychologist, and hopefully it leads to an unusually prosperous coaching relationship.