• Jeff Doolittle

Creating Competitive Advantage with Executive Coaching


Successful leaders look for a competitive advantage. In today's turbulent and digital marketplace, personal and organizational development is not an option you want to ignore if you want to get ahead. Using a fresh food metaphor, you are either ripe and rotting or green and growing.

Executive coaching is a relatively new approach for many leaders and is often not well understood. It comes out of the disciplines of consulting, management, organizational development, and psychology. Executive coaching is a highly individualized and impactful results-based development approach. Coaching is a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires clients to maximize their personal and professional potential. When done right, executive coaching is a confidential trust-based relationship between the qualified coach and client.

Over the past twenty-five-plus years working in the field of leadership development with hundreds of high potential professionals to c-suite leaders, I have witnessed first-hand the significant benefits of coaching. Compared with other development approaches, executive coaching achieves lasting results in a relatively short period of time.


Coaching is Not Mentoring or Counseling


Coaching is often confused with mentoring and counseling but differs in many ways. Unlike counseling, coaching does not deal with overcoming past or current trauma, painful events, or relieving emotional pain but instead focuses on the future.


Unlike a coach, a mentor typically sets the mentee's agenda, using their experiences to guide the relationship. In a mentoring relationship, the mentor typically does most of the directing by offering advice. A coach draws out the client's desire and collaborates with the client to cocreate options to achieve client-generated goals.


Simply stated, coaching facilitates forward progress toward accomplishing the client’s desired future.


Typical Executive Coaching Process


There are many variations of the coaching processes and reasons why you might want to hire an executive coach. A typical coaching process starts with an inquiry and a welcome meeting to get acquainted, establish the coaching process, direction, relationship, and begin moving the client toward the coaching outcome. Based on the goal, the coach and client begin assessing and exploring the current reality, potential options, and obstacles. The learnings gained from these steps lead to co-creating specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound action plans. An executive coaching program typically lasts for 6 to 12 months, depending on the client’s goal(s).



According to Sherman and Freas (2004), no one has yet demonstrated conclusively what makes an executive coach qualified or what makes one approach to executive coaching better than another. However, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the leading global organization dedicated to professional coaching standards and ethics. The ICF identifies the following eight core competencies updated as of 2019 based on empirical data collected over two years and from job analyses of 1,300 coaches globally:

  1. Demonstrates Ethical Practice