Executive Coaching: 2 Foundational Principles for Coaches

by Mark Epp

January 03, 2023LeadershipDevelopment

Series Part: 1 | 2

I’m often asked, “What makes an executive coaching session successful?” That question is most accurately answered by the client — not the coach.

As a coach, I’m not attached to the client’s outcome, but, of course, my client is. The investment is being made in the client’s development so their perception of value is critical.

For a coach, there are two foundational principles that we always want to communicate: confidentiality and accountability. For the client there are three motivational principles that will contribute to the greatest level of client success.

For part one of this two part series, let’s discuss the two foundational principles for executive coaches.

Foundational Principle #1: Confidentiality

The first pillar of executive coaching is to clearly establish the ethical practice of coaching — 100% confidentiality.

As a coach, I don’t disclose anything to anyone about what was discussed during a session. Total and absolute confidentiality. The client can share anything they want, but the coach will not.

This is true when the client pays for coaching themselves and when the client’s employer pays for the sessions. It’s essential that the coach communicate this to both the client and employer, especially if the employer is paying for the sessions.

There are two caveats to coaching confidentiality that the coach must also communicate:

  1. If the client suggests they might hurt themselves, the coach has the moral obligation to advocate for the client’s safety and get them professional help.
  2. If the client threatens to harm their employer or damage their company financially, it is the coach’s moral obligation to tell the employer about this potential threat.

Executive Coaches set this standard right from the start, creating a safe place where the client can express themselves in any way they choose, confident that their comments are completely private. This safe, judgement-free place, allows the client to explore their creativity, look at the world through different perspectives and begin their personal transformation.

Foundational Principle #2: Accountability

The second pillar of executive coaching is accountability. Part of each session is to define, “What will be the client’s measure of success for this session?” This is noted by the coach so at the end of the session we can ask, “Did you achieve the measure of success you wanted from this session?”

At the beginning of the client’s next sessions I ask, “How well did you accomplish what you wanted to achieve during our last session?” If the client followed through on their commitments, “Great!” I acknowledge and point out that their follow-through is their success. I didn’t tell them to do something — they created their own plan, they empowered themselves and they accomplished what they set out to do.

If they didn’t follow through, I ask, “What kept you from doing so?” I note the client’s response and explore further.

Why Are Confidentiality and Accountability the Cornerstones of a Successful Coaching Session?

The first pillar, confidentiality, is rare.

Who can you trust implicitly? Honoring trust will be the first and foremost criteria for a coaching relationship. How many people in your life are you certain will keep your insecurities, worries, neurosis, self-doubts and impostor syndrome as big a secret as you’ve kept them yourself? A coach doesn’t judge you but counts on you to do what you determine to do. A good coach encourages you to be who you define yourself to be. That’s rare!

The second pillar, accountability, is often sabotaged by procrastination!

Most of my clients are at the pinnacle of their careers – CEOs, C-Suite executives, general managers, doctors, nurse managers and business leaders. Others are at the edge of that summit and are summoning the courage to take that leap forward. They are determined to make their dreams a reality. However, at this stage in their careers they don’t have anyone they can trust to listen to their ideas, challenge them, support them and encourage them to get out of their own way and achieve their goals.

Now – Who’s Ready to be Coached?

My next blog will focus on the three motivations that will help you as a coach. Or, as someone who wants to hire a coach, it will help determine if you are ready to be coached. Some people may have a dream, but the timing isn’t right. Or they are not willing to commit to making their dream a reality. Or perhaps the time is right. Now.

Until then, here’s to your success and beyond.

Series Part: 1 | 2

Mark Epp

Mark is the Management Consultant Director at Talent Plus where he aligns The Science of Potentiality ® to each client’s unique needs and support their growth. He brings potential to life through the practical application of our science and enables employees to prosper and organizations to succeed.

“There is nothing more satisfying than witnessing the exponential growth of an employee when they discover and express their talent.”

Talents: Ego Drive, Focus, Individualized Approach, Persuasion, Relationship