Every great athlete has a great coach behind them. Tom Brady had Bill Belichick. Michael Jordan had Phil Jackson. Even the karate kid had Mr. Miyagi to help with that whole wax on, wax off thing. (Yes, that was a movie—but it still counts!)
The same is true for a whole lot of top-notch business leaders. Oprah Winfrey has worked with a life coach for most of her legendary career.1 Apple co-founder Steve Jobs worked with leadership coach Bill Campbell.2 Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt also worked with Campbell, and Schmidt even co-wrote a book about him.3
Even if you’re not running a Fortune 100 company or giving away hundreds of free cars to a live studio audience, working with a leadership coach can be a major benefit for you and your business. So, let’s dive into all the ins and outs of leadership coaching. We’ll talk about what it is, what it isn’t, and what leadership coaching can do for you and your business.
What Is Leadership Coaching?
Leadership coaching is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when a business leader works with a coach—usually a business coach or an executive coach—to address business problems and improve their leadership skills.
Related article: What Is Leadership?
Benefits of Leadership Coaching
Leadership coaching can serve a business owner or leader in several ways, but the three biggest benefits are growth, accountability and connection.
No matter how talented you are at something, you always have room to grow. We all have weak spots we can work on and strengths we can take to the next level—especially leaders. And when you work with a leadership coach, you’ll improve those weaknesses and grow your strengths.
A good leadership coach won’t just give you the tools you need to grow and level up your leadership skills, they’ll also help you identify the areas where you need to grow the most. And since it can be challenging to spot your own weaknesses, that kind of help is a big deal.
When you’re a business owner, you don’t have a leader above you calling the shots. You’re the one deciding where you want your business to go and how you’re going to get there. That means you don’t have anyone to report to, and you don’t have anyone holding you accountable. That’s a problem!
But if you work with a leadership coach, you’ll eliminate that problem. You’ll have someone in your corner who you can trust to challenge you and make sure you stay on track with your goals.
That’s exactly what Dee D., the resident manager of a lawn care franchise in Ontario, Canada, found when she signed up for coaching with an EntreLeadership Advisory Group.
Dee had always struggled with taking vacations, because she felt like stepping away from the office meant neglecting her team and responsibilities. But after getting encouragement from her Advisory Group Coach and other group members, she realized the importance of rest—and she decided to take some time off.
“In the Advisory Group, the team really helped me to take the next step of enjoying my journey in life by not feeling guilty when I take time off work away from my (work) team—that I don’t need to justify it or do it because I deserve it,” Dee said. “You do it because that’s how you live a balanced life.”
Where did accountability enter the picture for Dee and her Advisory Group? “I had to buy my tickets and tell them the dates,” she said. “It was great.”
Every business goes through five distinct stages. Find out which stage your business is in with our free assessment.
Are you stuck in some area of your life or business? The accountability that comes from leadership coaching can help you get unstuck. Take it from legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt: “Accountability is essential to personal growth. How can you improve if you’re never wrong?”
The Small-Business Labor Crisis 2023 report found that 56% of small-business owners feel alone in solving problems and making decisions—and it’s no wonder why.
When you run a business, you’re leading a team and making big decisions every day. It’s a huge load to carry, especially if you feel like you don’t know anyone who can relate to the pressures of running a business. After all, most of your friends probably don’t have experience putting out fires 24/7 and having to make payroll.
Related article: How to Improve Your Decision-Making Skills
But when you have a leadership coach behind you, that loneliness gets replaced with something a whole lot better: connection. Suddenly, you have someone who does understand what you’re going through—someone you can talk to about big decisions.
That’s a huge relief, and it takes the burden right off your shoulders. Plus, having a coach as a sounding board gives you more confidence in your decisions. As Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV) puts it, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
What’s the Difference: Business Coaching and Executive Coaching
Now that you know the benefits of leadership coaching, let’s talk about the different types. Within the world of leadership coaching, you’ve got two main styles to choose from: business coaching and executive coaching.
What Is Business Coaching?
Business coaching is a type of leadership coaching that focuses on—you guessed it—the leader’s business. Typically, business coaches help clients solve problems inside their businesses.
The important thing to remember, though, is that a good business coach will do more than just provide you with a list of steps you could easily find in a book, article or video. Instead, they’ll challenge you to dig deeper. They’ll ask thoughtful questions that help you think through obstacles and get to the root of your problems. That’s what good business coaching looks like.
Common areas leaders collaborate with a business coach on are:
What Is Executive Coaching?
While business coaching is more focused on your business, executive coaching is more focused on you as a leader. Executive coaching is designed to help you grow personally—which will also give your business a boost. It usually works through a two-step process:
- With help from your executive coach, you identify the areas where you need to grow the most.
- You collaborate with your coach to develop a growth plan that addresses those areas and any others you want help with.
Here’s what that looks like for our Executive Coaching clients at EntreLeadership: First, they complete a survey where they rank themselves on various leadership skills. Then, they choose 5–7 team members who work closely with them to anonymously fill out the same survey and send it to their coach. (Some folks call this 360-degree feedback.)
Related article: What Is 360-Degree Feedback?
Once the EntreLeadership Executive Coach has all the results of the assessment, they sit with the client and analyze the results, identifying any blind spots in the leader’s abilities. Next, the coach works with the leader to create a growth plan, and they provide accountability while the leader works the plan.
Common areas where an executive coach can help you develop as a leader are:
How to Choose the Right Leadership Coaching Program
Now that you’re clear on the two main types of coaching, you’re ready to pull the trigger and go find yourself a coach, right? Well, not quite. See, here’s the thing: There are a ton of leadership coaching programs out there, and the bad news is that some of them aren’t very good.
So, before you Google “leadership coach” and start sifting through millions of results, let’s make sure you know exactly what traits to look for in a leadership coaching program.
A good coach . . .
- Doesn’t just tell you what to do. You don’t need someone to tell you how to run your business—that’s your job. What you do need, though, is someone who can walk alongside you and empower you to make the best possible decisions. You need someone who leads you to the water instead of bringing the water to you. That’s what a good coach does. Someone who just barks orders isn’t a coach—they’re a boss.
- Takes a personalized approach. Coaching should be personalized to your needs. Remember: If your coach isn’t helping you with anything beyond what you could find on a podcast or in a self-help book, you need to find a new one. Cookie cutters are for the kitchen.
- Understands the importance of continued growth. You don’t need a coach who’s only interested in helping you “fix” your problems so they can wash their hands of you and move on. Growth is a lifelong process for a leader, and you need a coach who understands that.
What’s Next: Best Leadership Coaching Resources
You don’t have time to waste as a business leader. When it comes to business coaching, you need a proven resource that equips you to lead well.
One of the best resources is EntreLeadership Elite, our membership that teaches and equips business owners to develop as leaders and grow their businesses. As an Elite member, you’ll have access to live training sessions and a full library of video courses on topics like business budgeting, role clarity and strategic planning.
You can also add Advisory Group coaching or Executive Coaching to your Elite membership—because after all, when it comes to leadership coaching, there’s no substitute for the real thing.