• Dr. Rajesh Mohan Rai

Business coach career: Skills needed and job prospects for an executive coach

Article originally published in India Today.

An executive coach is someone who specializes in developing a business leader and optimize the leadership performance and deliver desired business results. They have years of experience—successes, failures, and everything in between—and guide and support business leaders through tough and tricky issues.

They are good sounding boards; coaches listen, think, and ask thoughtful questions, allowing business leaders to grow without being forced in one direction. Executive coaches do all of this for the betterment of the business leader. They support the leaders in behavior modifications and prevent relapse.

Key skills required to be an executive coach or business coach

1. Active listening

Suspending judgement while listening is active listening. Executive coaches listen to business leaders to understand their viewpoint. Coaches pay undivided attention to what leaders are saying without any judgement or bias.

They differentiate between the literal meaning and the intended meaning of what is being said by the leader and then respond or not react. They support business leaders to explore different perspectives and generate alternatives.

This allows the leader to develop personally and become better at work. An executive coach establishes rapport -- a private and confidential space with the leader being coached, where the leader becomes comfortable and is happy to share without any fear of being taken advantage of.

2. Providing feedback

The executive coaches are free from any past baggage with the leader. With the private and confidential space being created between the business coach and the leader, feedback works wonders.

The experience of the coach facilitates acceptance of the feedback being given by the coach. The coach uses several sources to collect the data to provide feedback to the leader, more so for most of the leaders.

The words and tone of voice used to give the feedback to the leader are not only non-threatening but positive. The feedback triggers the leader’s self-discovery journey. More often than not leaders commit themselves to become better versions of themselves.

3. Questioning skills

The art and skill of asking relevant questions differentiate between a good coach and a great coach. Open-ended questions serve the purpose better as close ended questions close down conversations quickly.

Questions are created by the coach’s long experience of life and business and the ups and downs faced by the executive coach. The way questions are asked makes the leader think and start exploring alternatives. When this happens, the objective of asking questions is met.

The coach always keeps the agreed coaching goals in view while framing and asking questions. It is always about the leader and the improved business results.

4. Accountability

A business leader’s goals should always result in improved business results. Business leaders know exactly what they want—often, they set goals that are too low, too lofty, or in conflict with other goals.

Executive coaches can help them calibrate their goals to the business’s goals/ organization’s goals. Coaches commit themselves to the cause of the leader.

The most common support an executive coach provides a business leader is that they don’t allow the leader to lose sight of the broader objective in making the business succeed. the coach frequently engages with the business leader in exploring and understanding how to get into the process of self-accountability, and how to insist upon accountability from all stakeholders and key team members.

5. Experience

Coaching at the senior level needs more than just an MBA from a good business school, it requires organizational experience. It needs seriousness and that comes from the experience life and business have brought and taught.

Leaders are not comfortable being coached by a person who has less experience than the leader or is not a recognized specialist in the field. It is of critical importance that the leader being coached knows that his/her coach has had all sorts of experiences in business and life.

The experience of the coach provides the leader with comfort and strength that the coach would be in a position to add value to him/her.

Can these skills be learned?

Certainly YES! The skills to become a business coach or an executive coach can be learned; however, experience comes with time both in life and in the business. The experiences could be good and not so good.

And if anyone has the experience, and the skills listed above, willingness to learn, retrain oneself, commit oneself for the growth and development of others can become an effective executive coach.

Being an executive coach or business coach can be very rewarding and fulfilling.

Career prospects as a business coach or executive coach

Executive coaching is a highly rewarding, fulfilling and viable alternative career option for senior business leaders. Here are few reasons for anyone to pursue the option of becoming an Executive Coach:

The coaching industry even today remains largely unregulated. Anyone can become an executive coach. An executive coach is generally hired based on experience, expertise, and reputation and not because of the certification.

As experienced business leaders, the basic skills required for executive coaching are already there. Refine these skills and master 2-3 additional skills in the niche chosen.

Both part-time and full-time options are available as no significant investment is required. The setup which is needed is a home office set up, a legal identity and a related bank account.

With the Covid-19 impact and advancement of technology, the sessions can be scheduled remotely, in an online mode. This provides the global market teach for everyone.

Executive coaches are well respected and enjoy an indisputable reputation in professional circles. Executive coaches can make up to INR 40,000 per session to INR 1,50,000 per session. It is a highly flexible career with no retirement age.