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A Quick Guide to Executive Coaching

One-to-one leadership coaching, or executive coaching as it is often known, is a process in which a leadership or executive coach works with an individual, such as a leader or manager, to support them in developing their skills and capabilities while enhancing their performance in the workplace.

When a leader starts working with a coach, they begin by identifying areas of strength and development. Once these areas have been identified, the coach and coachee move on to explore solutions and pathways.

One on one coaching is valuable for leaders looking for clarity, guidance, and even feedback. But it's not uncommon for leadership coaching to be deferred due to the unknown.

To support leaders considering executive coaching, we explore what you can expect to happen in one-to-one leadership coaching sessions and the outcomes you could experience in this blog.

One-To-One Executive Coaching Overview

According to the Harvard Business Review:

  • 48% of coaches are hired to develop high potential.

  • 26% of leadership coaches are hired to act as a sounding board.

  • 12% of leadership coaches are hired to address derailing behaviour.

Interestingly, one incredible aspect of coaching is even though we begin with an end in mind, we also allow the conversation to develop and grow to often surprising and insightful conclusions.

Often, where we think we are heading may not be exactly where we end up. This reinforces a key aspect of the coaching space: both parties - the coach and the coachee - need to be open, reflective, and speak their truth.

Our Quick Guide to One-to-One Executive Coaching

With an understanding of why coaches are often hired, let's delve into our quick guide to one-to-one leadership coaching.

Be Open, Reflective, and Proactively Seeking To Learn and Grow

At the start of any new working relationship, it is essential to establish how individuals will work together. This is especially important in a one on one coaching relationship. So, as you get started on one-to-one leadership coaching, the coach will discuss this at the start of the first session. This is likely to cover areas such as confidentiality, levels of challenge, and expectations of each other.

The first session may also cover commitment and communication as well as style and tone. This is often referred to as ‘contracting’ and may be formalised through exchanging a record of what has been agreed. This contract can then be referred to during the coaching process and refined or amended as the relationship develops and grows.

Setting Expectations and Contracting Your Working Relationship

During your time spent with a one-to-one leadership coach, you will both share responsibility for the learning and growth that takes place. Your coach will hold the coaching space in a way that will enable you to explore your context and environment without judgement and advice-giving.

The coach will use skilled questions to understand your situation and the processes within it. The coach will also seek to raise your self-awareness and allow space for you to have the conversation you need to have with yourself.

With an expert one-to-one coach, time will be given for the issue and solution to emerge.

The conversation will be challenging and supportive; it will allow for questions to be asked that no one else is likely to have been able to ask. There is power in a question expertly asked.

You have a depth of untapped potential within you, and the coach will provide the time, space, and challenge for you to develop and grow that potential.

In addition, there may very well be situations you are finding difficult to face. An external coach will journey alongside you as you find the strength of your convictions and the courage you need to make the right decisions.

Insightful Questions That Allow You the Time and Space To Develop, Resolve, Grow, and Learn

Towards the end of any one on one coaching session, you will be offered time to reflect on the session to consolidate what you have learnt and discovered. This is also a time to plan actions or additional thinking that is needed. Following the session, learning and development will continue, so it is vital to form ideas of your way forward before the session ends.

Leaders often see changes in their behaviours that directly impact their effectiveness. They and their teams improve performance through improved task completion, greater depth of capacity and capability, and improved relationships.

Reflect on Your Learning and Establish Your Way Forward

As the session ends, it is essential to reflect on your learning and establish how you would like to move forward with your coach.

Learn More About One on One Coaching

If you'd like to learn more about one on one coaching, we're here to help. At The Leadership Coaches, many of our credible coaches are currently providing one on one coaching and executive coaching to leaders across the country.

To invest in your own future performance, contact us today to arrange a no-obligation chat or a coaching chemistry session with one or two of our coaches,

Written by leadership coach Ian White.


“Challenging Coaching” by Ian Day and John Blakey

“Coaching for performance” by Sir John Whitmore

“What can coaches do for you?” Harvard Business Review (2019)


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