Does an Executive Coach need to know all about their client’s business?

If you are an Executive Coach or want to become a Coach it is worth considering whether you need to know about your client’s business in order to work with them.

There are various opinions about this and I will share mine with you. You may agree or disagree, either way, it is worth thinking about.

Some business clients will have the opinion that you do need to know about their business in order to understand their issues but I do not think that is true. You do need to be well informed about their business but you are bringing them a different type of expertise.

If they need technical advice about their business the client would be served more effectively by talking with either a specialist Consultant in the field or a mentor. As an Executive Coach you may help them find the right fit alongside any Executive Coaching you are providing.

As an Executive Coach (or Business Coach) you are being hired for your expertise as a Coach not your knowledge of a specific business. To my mind, you are offering the following services:

  • A sounding board – this is where the client’s business will most often be talked about in detail during a coaching session. Your job as Coach is to provide the space for the client to explore their ideas out loud. You will also ask questions that help the client clarify their thinking and identify resources. You do not need to be an expert in their business to ask good questions.
  • The most common topics presented in Executive Coaching are people issues. This should be your expertise. Coaching your client on how to have difficult conversations, manage different personality types and motivate others will often be part of this discussion. People issues are pretty much the same in all industries with maybe some cultural differences.
  • You may also be helping your client deal with confidence issues and maybe Imposter Syndrome.
  • Coaching your client to find strategies to get or maintain a good work-life balance is also a key area. This may include well-being techniques and resources.
  • More skills-based Coaching may be another part of the contract including developing a powerful presentation style, preparing for interviews or preparing for meetings.
  • One of my favourite topics is helping your client navigate Organisational Politics.

There are other topics that may form part of the Executive Coaches remit however it mainly boils down to people skills, self-confidence and well-being.

Executive Coach, Melody Cheal

So how much do you need to know about your client’s business? Well, it is a good idea to do a little research about the business. Know how big the company is, what it does (eg industry sector) and other general details. This kind of information is usually easy to track down online. Be aware of any news stories that may be relevant but beyond that make sure your Coaching Skills are sharp and fit for purpose.

What do you think? Should you be an expert on your client’s business? I’d love to know what you think.

Melody Cheal MSc MAPP
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