The Ultimate Executive Coaching Guide for CEOs Looking for Growth

Successful leaders know there is no end to personal development. When you’ve reached your peak on your own, it’s time to bring in executive coaching to help.

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According to research, nearly two-thirds of CEOs do not receive outside leadership advice, despite increasing evidence of the benefits of executive coaching. Leaders who go it alone often bear the stress of having to have all the answers all of the time and, ultimately, making decisions in isolation.

Those who do take advantage of executive coaching enjoy benefits including (but not limited to) better business performance and goal achievement, improved leadership, boost in motivation and focus, more positive relationships with colleagues, greater ability to self regulate, more confidence when making decisions.

Below we address why so many top performers have an executive coach behind them, the biggest hurdles CEOs face when making decisions, and the value of having a trusted group of peers to turn to as well. Executive coaching when done right can help you become a better leader who consistently gets better results — in business and in life.

What is Executive Coaching?

The definition of executive coaching is simple. Executive coaching helps CEOs make better decisions.

Having an executive coach is like having a mentor who helps you think through decisions from every angle, offering fresh perspectives and insights. A good executive coach will help you identify your challenges and opportunities — and work with you to get crystal clear on your priorities. Your coach will identify blind spots and share resources to help you make more informed decisions.

He or she is also a source of support and encouragement. Many executive coaches were also successful business owners or CEOs themselves, so they can share their vast experience with you, helping you avoid costly mistakes and make decisions with more confidence.

Anyone working in a professional setting can benefit from executive coaching. Those in the C-Suite or who own a business can especially benefit since their improved performance has the biggest impact on the company culture and the bottom-line results.

Executive coaches use specific strategies to hone in on your strengths and identify your weaknesses and pain points. They also look at the bigger picture in terms of your business and professional goals. They’ll help you create a strategy and keep you on track and accountable.

When you break it down, leadership is about making one smart decision after another and setting a positive, productive tone for others to follow. The right coach can help you refine your instincts, improve your judgment, elevate your work culture and expand your perspective so that you’re consistently making great, well-informed decisions that move your business forward.

Even great leaders find greater success (and perspective) when working with an executive coach. That’s because building exceptional leadership skills is a process — and you’re never done learning.

Executive coaching alone can be helpful and when you combine it with the power of a CEO peer advisory group, you have an unbeatable formula for success and growth.

Imagine 12-16 other business leaders from non-competing industries tackling your challenges as if they were their own. Now, imagine this group is led by an executive coach who is an accomplished leader and a seasoned mentor.

Purpose of executive coaching

The purpose of executive coaching is to help you become a better leader, make better decisions and get better results.

Ultimately this will enable you to grow your business faster, have a positive and uplifting impact on your employees and lead to a positive difference in your community and the world. You may even find that your personal life improves as well.

If you have an executive coach with a more holistic approach to leadership, he or she will encourage you to discuss any challenges you’re facing — business-related or personal.

They work on the premise that the issues you’re facing at home show up in the office and visa versa. Addressing the whole person (not just the business professional) can help relieve stress and lead to more fulfillment, a higher caliber of work and a higher quality of life.

executive coaching purpose

5 benefits of executive coaching

Executive coaching is a win-win for any hungry business owner. As you expand upon your leadership skills, your company reaps the rewards.

1. Achieve your goals faster

Most business leaders don’t have the time or desire to have to deal with the fallout that comes from decisions made in haste. Executive coaching keeps you focused and strategic. You can achieve your goals faster, avoid time-consuming mistakes and spend more time on your big picture vision for your company.

2. Provides accountability

After you get clear on the goals you need to achieve, an executive coach will hold you accountable with a step-by-step plan and deadlines. A good coach isn’t going to accept excuses either. He or she will hold your feet to the fire, and you’ll thank them for it every step of the way.

3. Identifies blind spots

We all have blind spots and the only way to “see them” is when we have someone in our life pointing them out to us. Your staff isn’t going to do it, and your friends and loved ones may not see what you’re hitting up against in business. But a good executive coach is trained to see what you’re missing so you can make better, more informed decisions.

4. Allows you to get unbiased feedback

Diverse perspectives are critical in helping you become a more effective, well-rounded leader. Listen to your executive coach without interrupting or thinking what you’re going to say next. Take in the feedback and sit with it. If you’re fortunate enough to also be part of a CEO peer advisory group, listen to what your group members have to say as well. You’ll be surprised at the possibilities that can open up and the solutions that you may have never considered.

5. Helps you address big picture issues

Just by having a fixed time on your calendar every week or month to tackle your biggest challenges and opportunities with your executive coach, you’re already ahead of the game. During this dedicated time, your coach will help you step out of the day-to-day emergencies and get clear on your priorities, address the issues that are holding you back and move your business forward in the direction of your dreams — instead of spinning your wheels on the same kinds of issues over and over.

The executive coaching process

Executive coaching alone can’t compete with Vistage’s proven approach to leadership development. Our comprehensive executive coaching process features three core elements: valuable perspectives from a trusted group of peers, professional guidance from an accomplished business leader (Chair), and deep insights from subject matter experts.

It’s a proven approach that helped CEO members grow their annual revenue on average by 4.6% in 2020, while nonmembers with comparable small and midsize businesses saw revenue decrease by 4.7% according to an analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data. Vistage has served over 100,000 CEOs and business owners for more than 60 years.

1. Solve challenges with your group

Once a month, 12-16 high-caliber local executives meet in person or online for a full day under the leadership of an executive coach.
They are from all types of non-competing organizations and industries and all meetings are 100% confidential.

This allows each group member to speak freely and candidly about their biggest pain points and goals. It allows them to freely discuss the challenges that are getting in their way, professionally and personally.

An atmosphere of trust, support and encouragement is created. That is the absolute essential that makes these meetings so effective and profound.
Executives who have been carrying the burden of having to know all of the answers can finally let their guard down.

They can put any issue on the table for their peers to tackle with them. Almost always, their peers have been in similar circumstances and have firsthand insights to share. They help each other think through issues in a way that their subordinates cannot.

The group uses a proprietary method called ‘issue processing’ which helps a member get to the very heart of the challenge at hand so discussions remain focused, productive — and, most important, actionable.

2. One-to-one sessions with an executive coach

An accomplished CEO/executive coach guides the discussions. This coach (also called a Vistage Chair) has had decades of top executive experience, having led a major company – or companies— to greater success. Coaches are carefully chosen and must meet specific criteria to work with Vistage. They have been diligently vetted and formally prepared to guide the group to productive outcomes.

In fact, no matter how successful a coach has been in his or her business career, he or she must complete six months of award-winning learning and development to master the very specific Vistage facilitation model.

If the peer advisory group is at the heart of what makes the Vistage experience so powerful, the executive coach is the soul. In addition to the monthly group meetings, members meet for private one-to-one executive coaching sessions to dive deep into the issues they most wish to address. Often discussions are directly focused on business strategies, plans, staff members and clients.

But sometimes personal life issues surface that are connected to business performance. All topics are fair game. Vistage abides by a holistic approach to success. Everything is connected — the person you are at the office is impacted by the person you are at home.

3. Learn from world-class thought leadership guest speakers

Thought leadership is a critical component to the Vistage success model. At monthly peer advisory meetings, time is set aside to introduce a topic of high interest to members.

A world-class speaker leads the charge. Vistage is fortunate to have access to many of the most prestigious presenters in the world. Whether it’s hiring and retaining top talent, succession planning, or adapting to new technology, members can keep up with the latest best practices and how to implement them.

These presenters usually speak to large, sold-out audiences. But Vistage members have the opportunity to work with them in an intimate setting. In such an exclusive group, the presentations are even more dynamic, relevant and interactive. They’re more like roll-up-your-sleeves workshops than talks.

4. Get support from a global network of CEOs

Through the Vistage Research Center, members have access to a wealth of relevant content, proprietary data and thoughtful analysis by the top minds in business. They can also tap into a global network of support made up of trusted business leaders, subject-matter experts and 23,000+ other high caliber members worldwide.

Why executive coaching works

Most CEOs and business owners who commit to executive coaching find that the process works. By hiring a coach and making the time commitment each week or month, you are already on the right track.

You are carving out time on your schedule to address the challenges and opportunities that need your attention if you’re going to grow and succeed at a higher level. CEOs who don’t opt for executive coaching, get caught up in the day-to-day grind, never giving themselves a chance to elevate their strategy, get kinks out of their system or face the issues that are hijacking their business.

Here are the four essential reasons why executive coaching works:

1. It encourages renewed curiosity and openness

Not all ideas are going to see the light of day, but discussing ideas with your executive coach and peer advisory group members, you open yourself up to fresh perspectives and a whole new world of possibilities.

2. It holds you to your word — and your vision

As CEOs and business owners, you are generally accountable to yourself or maybe a board of directors. Having an executive mentor and peer advisory group will motivate and energize you to meet long-term goals such as an exit strategy or building a fundamental piece of your legacy. Regular meetings and check-ins with a group of people who care about your success just as much as their own adds firepower to ensure your dreams don’t fade away.

3. It clears away operational roadblocks

It’s easy to get stuck in the morass of everyday tasks. In your busy schedule, it’s near impossible to find the time for high-level planning and strategy. That’s when you can rely on the time with your executive mentor and your group to pull you out of the day-to-day grind and focus on what will move your business forward.

4. It makes you into a better decision-maker

When it comes time to make critical decisions, there is some information you cannot share with your staff. And, while you should and do rely on your trusted advisors, there may be times when they can’t fully grasp the complexities of managing a business that is not a professional firm like theirs. This often leads to owners feeling isolated; it’s what is called “lonely-at-the-top syndrome.”

But when you connect with an executive coach and become part of a tight group of CEOs and business owners you have the confidence and support in making better decisions.

What executive coaching services are right for you?

Vistage executive coaching programs are tailored to your specific needs. We believe that leadership comes in many forms, and so we format our coaching programs so you know exactly what to expect from the process and your commitment.

Vistage Executive Coaching Programs

Chief executives

Be part of a group of accomplished CEOs, presidents and business owners who can help you focus on what’s most critical to your long-term strategy and growth. Work with a dedicated executive coach who will connect you to leading-edge experts and resources to help you solve your most complex challenges. Explore the Chief Executive Program 

Small business owners

When you’re in the throes of the everyday demands of a small business, it’s easy to overlook the details that will drive long-term growth. With the help of a peer advisory group and executive mentor (Chair), you can identify your blind spots, avoid pitfalls, make better decisions that will grow your business faster and more strategically. Explore the Small Business Program

Key executives

Join an elite group of high-performing C- level executives, VPs and directors from diverse backgrounds and businesses. Improve your ability to gain alignment between executive leadership and your team while making a more powerful impact on your company. Explore the Key Executive Program 

Your executive team

Vistage Inside offers a talent development approach that fully engages your team, equips them with the skills and sensibilities to manage collaboratively and helps them achieve higher levels of performance. Explore the Vistage Inside Program 

Emerging leaders

The Vistage Emerging Leader Program prepares your rising stars to become your next generation of senior leadership. Participants receive training across 12 leadership competencies that empower them to deliver on company goals. Explore the Emerging Leader Program

For professional services: PR, accounting and law

This executive coaching program caters to top leaders in professional services like law and PR or accounting. If your job involves counseling CEOs and business leaders, you need ways to maximize your company’s potential and growth in day-to-day operations. You need the skills to manage plans as your company grows. We help you shine so you can reach a broader audience and land great clients time and again.

The Executive Coaching Playbook

Discover the winning formula that over 45,000 successful CEOs for leadership development success.