Corporate Coaching: Guiding Leaders In A Rapidly Evolving Workplace


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By: Corry Robertson, PCC

Female leader navigating a rapidly evolving workplace

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” – Timothy Gallwey

This famous quote by Gallwey, author of The Inner Game of Tennis (widely considered one of the first books about the coaching industry as we know it today) speaks volumes about the role of a coach.

Whether it’s sports, business, or life in general, the need for a coach has always been a question of when not if. The answer to that question has become increasingly apparent as the business landscape has shifted at a breakneck pace.

In today’s workplace, corporate coaching is an essential tool for leaders at all levels. Faced with ever-changing challenges and demands, coaching provides a sounding board and an objective perspective that can help leaders navigate complexity, make tough decisions, and achieve their goals.

Coaching Has Evolved

As the role of corporate coaching continues to evolve, it’s important to understand and determine what exactly is a corporate coach and how a corporate coaching program provides a plethora of benefits for companies that want to grow high-performance teams.

Generally speaking, corporate coaching can be considered an umbrella term for all coaching related to a coaching program designed for the workplace. Corporate coaching includes more specific areas of coaching such as leadership coaching, manager coaching, executive coaching, team coaching, and group coaching. 

In this article, I’ll discuss the nuances of corporate coaching, how it differs from other coaching modalities, and the benefits businesses can reap from investing in a corporate coaching program.

Corporate coaching at The Coaching Academy for Leaders

Understanding A Corporate Coaching Program

A corporate coaching program is a strategic initiative designed by a professional coach (one who specializes in corporate coaching) and the executive team of an organization. 

A robust corporate coaching program would include many modalities tailored to the goals of the company and the needs of the people in the company who are tasked with achieving the goals from the top down. A corporate coaching program would likely include executive coaching, leadership coaching for managers, and team and group coaching. 

A corporate coaching program might also include coaching for all employees, such as coaching for resilience, work-life integrations, and well-being, which could be argued to be categorized as life coaching. 

A good corporate coaching program would also include managing a bench of internal coaches, coach training for managers, and close ties with external coaches to be deployed on certain mandates on a contract basis. 

The professional coach who designs the corporate coaching program could also serve as the executive coach to work with the CEO, or the leadership coach to work with the managers. That coach may also coach teams at any level. While usually one professional coach designs the corporate coaching program, it generally takes several coaches to deliver it.

Leadership Coaching vs. Corporate Coaching: What’s the difference?

Many people want to understand the difference between leadership coaching and corporate coaching, but the reality is that it’s not an either/or situation; leadership coaching is usually under the umbrella of a corporate coaching program.

Simply put, leadership coaching is focused on developing an individual’s ability to lead, while corporate coaching is focused more on developing the team or organization as a whole, as we described above.

Corporate coaching has a broader focus than leadership coaching. It considers the organization’s culture, values, goals, and challenges when working with leaders to help them improve their performance.

Woman choosing between leadership coaching and corporate coaching

An Analogy for Corporate Coaching

An analogy can be drawn between corporate coaching and physical fitness. Just as a personal trainer helps an individual reach their fitness goals, a corporate coach helps leaders and their teams achieve their business goals. However, while a personal trainer may work with an individual one-on-one, a corporate coach typically works with leaders in groups, as well as with the organization as a whole. This allows them to consider the team’s dynamics and culture when developing a coaching plan. However, a corporate coach is involved with and can deliver leadership coaching as a part of the overall corporate coaching program.

Here’s another analogy: think of how a Chef runs the kitchen. The Head Chef designs the menu, creates recipes, and runs the kitchen. While the Head Chef has many kinds of cooking skills and does much of the cooking, he or she also includes talented Sous Chefs to cook as well as other kitchen staff to perform essential tasks. 

The corporate coach is the Head Chef, the corporate coaching program is akin to the kitchen, and the other talented coaches on the team are the Sous Chefs. The Head Chef and Sous Chefs share interconnected skills, each having a role to play. The bigger the kitchen, the more Sous Chefs needed by the Head Chef. The bigger the corporate coaching program, the more coaches required.

Now that you know the key differentiator between corporate coaching and leadership coaching, another question begs to be answered, and that is:

Are corporate coaching and executive coaching the same thing?

The terms “corporate coaching” and “executive coaching” are often used interchangeably as they are both professional coaching services that help leaders and managers in organizations improve their performance. However, it’s crucial to understand the key differences between corporate coaching and executive coaching to make the most informed decision about which type of coaching is right for you or your organization.

The reality is that one is a part of the other. A strong corporate coaching program would most definitely include executive coaching, and the professional coach who designs the program could coach members of the executive team if the coach and executives were a good match.

Coworkers in office meeting

Level of focus is the differentiator

The main difference between corporate coaching and executive coaching is the level of focus. Corporate coaching takes a holistic approach and looks at the organization as a whole, while executive coaching is focused more on the individual.

“Focus” is the operative term here, as executive coaching is typically used to help leaders address specific challenges. This is not to say that executive coaching is only concerned with the individual and not the organization. Many of the same principles and techniques used to design a corporate coaching program are applied at the level of executive coaching. However, the overall focus is different. 

The corporate coaching perspective requires the coach and executive to zoom out to keep the big picture in full view. The executive coaching perspective then zooms in on the “just in time” solutions that the executive needs to keep their eye on high-level goals and galvanize the right steps to take next. A professional coach is trained to zoom in and out with the executive to keep the 50,000-foot view and the precise target in sight.

You can imagine a corporate coach perspective as a GPS system for the organization and an executive coach perspective as a GPS system for the individual leader. Both types of coaching perspectives are held by a professional coach and are meant to help you navigate, but the end result varies depending on the goals of the engagement.

Business Strategy and Coaching Programs

Most leaders focus on finding the right strategy. What if I tell you that the most successful leaders are not the ones who find the best strategies but the ones who execute them flawlessly?

This is where internal coaching programs and professional development programs play an important role. They help leaders leverage coaching results to achieve the most from their strategy. Organizational success becomes a by-product of successful team coaching engagements, and experienced professional coaches are the impetus that gets the whole thing started.

Executive deciding on the right type of coaching for them

How do you determine the right type of coaching for you or your organization?

The answer to this question lies in understanding what you hope to achieve through coaching. If you are looking to improve the performance of an individual leader, then executive coaching may be the better option. On the other hand, if you want to take a more holistic approach and improve the performance of the organization as a whole, designing a corporate coaching program would be a better place to start.

The bottom line is that a corporate coaching program that includes executive coaching can benefit leaders, but it depends on what you hope to achieve through coaching. And of course, the most important factor is finding a reputable and experienced coach who can help you achieve your desired results.

There’s no panacea for all corporate ills, but the coaching process can help you identify and address the challenges you’re facing in your organization. Often, all it takes is a fresh perspective and some outside help to get you back on track.

The following are critical factors to consider when choosing what type of coaching is right for you or your organization:

Organizational Blockers: What is preventing your organization from achieving its desired outcomes?

Determining the problem is vital when choosing the right type of coaching that suits your organization. Are you dealing with high turnover rates? Low employee engagement? A toxic corporate culture? Lack of coaching skills by leaders? Once you’ve pinpointed the main issues, you can start to look for a coach who specializes in corporate coaching to address those specific challenges.

A good barometer for whether executive coaching or corporate coaching is right for you is this: If the issue lies with an individual leader, then executive coaching may be a better solution. If the problem is more systemic and affects the organization as a whole, then a corporate coaching program would be a better place to start.

Woman looking at papers in office

The Coaching Process: Credentials and Experience

You will always find the devil in the details when vetting a potential coach. Make sure to ask about their credentials and experience, as well as how they typically conduct coaching sessions. For example, do they prefer one-on-one meetings or group coaching? Do they use formal assessments? What kinds of outcomes have they worked on with previous clients?

Wisdom will dictate that you go with a coach who is ICF Certified which ensures extensive experience and a proven track record. But at the same time, you also want to make sure that their coaching style is compatible with your needs and expectations. The best way to gauge this is by scheduling a discovery call to see if there’s a good fit.

Character And Chemistry: It’s All About The People

A person’s character manifests in their thoughts, words, and deeds. It’s who they are when no one is watching. And it’s the foundation for everything they do in life. A factor often overlooked when choosing a coach is whether or not there’s a good fit in terms of character and chemistry.

It’s a mistake to look for a coach who has been where you are and is now where you want to be. If that’s what you ask for, you will attract a mentor, a consultant, or an advisor – but not a coach.

When asking for a coach, first and foremost, you want to enquire about coach-specific qualifications. From there, you want to ensure that you’re working with someone who shares your values and who you can trust implicitly. This person will challenge you to grow and push you out of your comfort zone. A professional coach does not need personal experience with your situation, but you should find someone you feel comfortable working with and who makes you feel heard and understood.

Happy employees sitting in meeting

Coaching and the personal connection

The coaching relationship is a sacred trust. It’s built on mutual respect, open communication, and a shared commitment to your success. When you find a coach with whom you have a strong connection, it can be a transformative experience. It’s not always easy to find a coach who ticks all the boxes. But when you do, it’s worth its weight in gold. 

I always advise people to request a trial session before signing an agreement. A professional coach wants to assess fit as much as you do, so they often insist on a free trial session as part of the discovery process.  

How to bring a corporate coaching initiative to your organization?

“It was a leap of faith.” That was how one executive described his decision when he decided to join my corporate coaching program. As a business leader, you’re constantly being asked to make decisions with limited information. You’re expected to have all the answers, even when you don’t.

Bringing a total stranger into the inner sanctum of your organization can be a daunting proposition. You’re putting your trust in someone to help you navigate these uncharted waters. This is where years of experience as a corporate coach come into play.

Having worked with organizations of all sizes across all industries, I understand the challenges you’re facing, and I know how to help you overcome them. Our corporate coaching program is designed to help you achieve your desired outcomes, whether it’s improving communication, increasing sales, or developing leaders.

Inaction breeds fear. The first step is always the hardest. But once you take that leap of faith, you’ll be amazed at what’s possible. Start today by scheduling a consultation. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and help you determine if corporate coaching is right for your organization.


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Corry Robertson

Sought-after coaching culture expert, Corry Robertson has been helping leaders uplevel employee retention and performance for over 20 years.

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