Does Executive Coaching Really Work?


March 14, 2023

According to PwC, the Coaching Industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world as more leaders realize the benefits coaching provides in helping them clarify  goals, and identify potential obstacles to create a plan for success.  A Metrix Global study found that executive coaching has a 788% return on investment, due to increasing talent retention and productivity. 

From an organizational perspective, executives across sectors have experienced the positive impact of coaching as they navigate change and work toward transforming themselves and their organizational.  So much so that negotiating coaching by an external coaching professional has become a standard component of many executive benefits and compensation packages.  Those employers seeking to attract and retain the most qualified leaders are finding coaching particularly effective in onboarding new executives.  This is especially important since the Corporate Executive Board estimates over half of executives fail within the first 18 months of moving into a new role. 

A recent  Psychology Today article by professor Scott Dust, highlights research supporting how coaching facilitates psychological capital, which consists of self-efficacy (confidence in ones abilities), hope, optimism and resilience. Traits which are essential for executives to create a shared vision and positive momentum within their organizations to achieve results.  Yet, some senior leaders continue to question if executive coaching really works? Our answer is, yes if it includes three important components:

1. Growth Mindset.  The best coaching in the world will not be successful if the executive is not willing to adopt a growth mindset.  Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and her colleagues describe a growth mindset as the belief that a person’s talents and capabilities can be improved over time versus a fixed mindset where someone views themselves as not interested in learning something new.  Once an executive adopts the growth mindset, coaching can build upon that growth to shift their mindset in a variety of ways, such as from division to enterprise and goal to strategic thinking.

3.  360° Assessments.  Some executive coaches rely only on self-assessments which are just one person’s view (themself) as to how the executive is being perceived.  More effective is introducing validated 360-degree leadership assessments based on the individual’s role in the organization and integrating feedback from direct reports, peers and outside constituencies.  Having an outside executive coach receive and review this feedback is also more effective than collecting the data internally as those answering the surveys will be more likely to be honest and the executive will tend to be more open to brainstorming how to seek opportunities to grow and become more effective.

2. Executive Fit.    Research continues to show that the coaching relationship between the person receiving coaching and the coach is the most important predictor of coaching outcomes. With the growth in coaches across the country in a variety of domains, such as life coaching, business coaching, nutritional coaching, etc., executive coaching is a specialized field, and so many executives prefer coaches who have served in executive-level roles as they build their coaching relationship with someone who has walked in their shoes.  From a coach perspective, having prior executive or senior-level experience, organizational development education, and extensive coaching experience all combine to create a dynamic coaching experience where the executive feels they have a safe sounding board to stretch and grow their mindset.

As any elite athlete will attest, having the right coach can mean staying where you are or taking your performance to the next level.  For executives, seeking to take their organizations to new heights and grow, executive coaching is a strategy many are using.  However, when searching for the right executive coach, take an opportunity to consider (1) a growth mindset, (2) 360° feedback and (3) executive fit when deciding if executive coaching is right for you and your organization.



Diane Egbers is the founder and CEO of Leadership Excelleration and the non-profit Grant Us Hope. For the past 25 years she has specialized in leadership development, executive coaching and creating high-performing teams and organizational cultures. Diane has a gift for inspiring everyone around her.

Angela Crawford, Ph.D. is Chief Marketing Officer and Consulting Partner with Leadership Excelleration.  Her practice and research focus on identifying strategic growth opportunities for leaders and organizations where they become the best versions of themselves.  Her passion is seeing people live out their purpose at work.