Executive Coaching and Business Coaching, What’s the Difference?

Although the coaching profession is relatively young, there is some confusion regarding the various disciplines. Until today there are no universally accepted definitions.

When you search for a coach using the Referral Service of the International Coach Federation, the world’s leading coaching organization, you can choose from the following categories:

  • Corporate Coaching
  • Small Business Coaching
  • Personal Coaching
  • Career Coaching

In each of the categories you will find various professionals, e.g. Executive Coaches, Business Coaches, Life Coaches,… As an Executive Coach, you will find me in the first category “corporate coaching”. Nevertheless, I am also a kind of Personal Coach for many Executives.

“What’s the difference between an Executive Coach and a Business Coach?” I am often asked.

As an Executive Coach, I am hired by corporations to work with their Directors, Vice Presidents, Managing Directors, or other senior leaders. Of course these corporations want to see a return on investment. Obviously an attractive ROI will only be achieved when the program results in improved business performance.

However, I never work with my clients on business performance directly, at least not as the top priority. This would be the arena of the Business Coaches. They will most likely focus on strategy, financial results, or the like. Often the client will expect a business coach to have expertise in their particular industry.

For my clients it is important that I have corporate experience, that I have been in their shoes so to say. An understanding of their specific business may be a nice add-on, but it is not required. The reason is that I focus on personal development rather than on business results. As an Executive Coach I facilitate change in the coachee’s behavior. This behavioral change often involves personal effectiveness as well as interaction with others.

Ultimately these changes will lead to improved individual performance, improved team performance, and, as a consequence, to improved organizational performance. In summary, executive coaching is expected to deliver better business results just like business coaching; the executive approach however is more indirect than the business one. Executive Coaching focuses on people and their development. Better business results will follow.

Why do people hire an Executive Coach?

The challenges senior managers are facing in today’s hectic business world are innumerable, and accordingly there are many reasons why executives are working with professional coaches. Most of my assignments are designed to support managers in the following areas:

  • developing leadership & management skills
  • facilitating transition to a higher management level/new assignment
  • building successful teams
  • managing & inspiring people
  • improving personal effectiveness & time management
  • communicating with impact
  • cross-cultural leadership effectiveness
  • improving work-life balance

All in all one could say that my Executive Coaching is about harnessing the full potential of leaders and their teams in an effective, ethical, and respectful way. Managers transform into great leaders who are enthusiastic about their work and inspire others. As a result, individuals improve performance, and teams achieve sustainable success.