Why You Might Need An Executive Coach

by Burt Lohoff-Gaida

John Matthews was very successful. Through many years of hard work and sacrifice, he had risen through the ranks and held the title “corporate officer” in a Fortune 100 company. He had a wonderful wife, three great children and lived in a big house in the most expensive part of town. Life was good… or so it seemed.

Sally Spencer, the Vice President of HR at John’s company, called me one morning to ask if I would be able to take on John as a new client. John was being considered for a promotion but she was hesitant to give her endorsement. She said it was unsettling that over the past 12 months, several of John’s key employees had resigned from the firm. In exit interviews, they all complained about John’s management style.

When we met his body language and the tone of his voice told me that John was not looking forward to having an executive coach. Most likely, he thought it would be a waste of time. When I walked into his office I happened to see a signed flag from the Master’s golf tournament, framed and hanging on his wall. I took the chance and told him the story of myself nearly quitting golf in the past year. I explained that the only reason why I got rid of my terrible shank was a professional golf coach who I got recommended. It took several lessons but with the help of this coach, I was able to break the habit and now have fun again playing golf.

I sensed that John was warming up to me and for the next hour or so we had an open discussion about the challenges of corporate life and teenage children who won’t talk to you. I now turned to the future: where does John want to see himself one year from today, 5 years from now, 10 and 20 years in the future? “John, the objective of our meeting today is to see if we want to work together over the next 6 to 12 months.  I asked him to first let me tell him a bit about how I coach executives and what my expectations are.

“My passion in working with executives is to help them grow, both professionally and personally. The further up you get in a company the less your success is based on your skills and experience but rather on your behavior.  And just like I had to break the habit of a bad golf swing, executives are often held back by one or two bad behaviors.” I explained. “We figure out what this career limiting behavior is and then take actions to change the behavior, forever. This process can be very difficult and painful but I’m there to support you but also hold you accountable. But, without your full commitment, the coaching won’t work.” I said.

“A successful career is only half of the equation.” I added. “There has to be a healthy balance between professional and personal success. If you retire and your kids won’t speak with you because you were never there for them or you figure out that you really don’t have any friends because you never invested in personal relationships, then you haven’t done a good job balancing your professional and personal life.” I suggested. 

John did agree to start the coaching engagement and over the next 12 months we peeled back the onion on several of the issues that were blocking his professional and personal growth.  We agreed on key action items for him to address; I held him accountable to achieve these goals.  The journey wasn’t always easy but he knew that I was there to support him with open and honest feedback and after we finished the coaching engagement, John was finally ready for the next promotion.


Burt Lohoff-Gaida, Ph.D., is a Trusted Advisor & Executive Coach. If you would like to get in touch with him at Burt@lohoff-gaida.com or on his website iLuminate.

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