executive coaching

Executive coaching should approach the CEO as a whole person, not just the leader


Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and from all backgrounds. Some people reach leadership because of their natural ability to inspire and drive teams. In whichever way you landed your leadership role, chances are, it is highly unlikely you got to where you are without an immense amount of work, and you should be commended.

But you should not be lax. There are no perfect leaders out there, as there are no perfect people out there. Thus, there is always something you can learn. In fact, your job is not to be the best person in the room, it is having the ability to get the best people in the room, then inspiring and driving them to do the best job. It is essential you get better and better at doing this.

Many leaders look at executive coaching to improve themselves or address leadership development challenges. Executive coaching often helps leaders appreciate their natural abilities and, crucially, their weaknesses too. It involves diving into the finer points of your personality and determining where you are working well and where you can improve.

Dr John Behr, an executive coach with 25 years of experience coaching leaders and an industrial/organizational psychologist says “in many ways leadership is about becoming a person. It’s as much about becoming the person you want to be as it is about becoming a leader.”

He goes on to say, “it’s more than just being productive or the most influential. These characteristics are not mutually exclusive from having great character; you can have both. If you also work on the person element, then your leadership expressions tend to be more grounded, more sustainable.”

What is executive coaching?

Executive coaching, which is also sometimes known as performance coaching, is a highly effective method of improving the performance of leaders, so long as it is delivered correctly.

Leaders work one on one with a professional coach to improve their leadership skills by drawing on their strengths and identifying weaknesses and where they can improve.

How beneficial is executive coaching?

There haven’t been many studies conducted on how beneficial executive coaching is, but we do know that some of the best leaders in the world admit to being coached properly by an expert. Organizations looking to become recognized as Fortune 500 companies or B Corps are asked about the training and support given to their leaders.

In this study by The Manchester Review, 73% of leaders who had been given executive coaching said they had reached their goals ‘very effectively’ or ‘extremely effectively’, and the return on investment for the companies they worked for was estimated as 5.7 times greater than before.

Dr John Behr shares an experience where he had coached a young CEO executive in the past, who greatly benefited from executive coaching when he was coached with that lens of being a whole person, because he was able to make the distinction on how he would like to portray himself in his personal life and how he wants to come across in his work.

“This executive (let’s call her Sam) grew up in opulence, with a wealthy father who was the CEO of a large international retail chain. She understood that she can emulate certain characteristics from her father but was also aware that there were some ways that he would not like to adopt.

Sam needed to work through and discuss her relationship with his father to help him become a better leader. He had experiences that needed to be brought to the surface. She was role modelling things that were happening at home. Even with her early success, and rise to a leadership role, it was through hard work and determination, and she sought to improve her own self, which meant, many conversations between us were about being a better person. And I do believe everyone can benefit from that way of thinking when taking executive coaching.”

How should executive coaching work?

Did you ever meet a leader who was completely disorganized in every other aspect of their life? Probably not. That’s because there is an intrinsic link between who we are as individuals and who we are at work, and it is the reason why executive coaching should target the whole person, not just who they are when they are a CEO.

Dr. John Behr says: “This should not be done at the exclusion (or expense) of organizational performance. The best gauge is to consider short-, mid-, and long-term.”

Thus, executive coaching, when looking at the CEO as the whole person can include:

  • helping you understand your goals,
  • helping you gain self-awareness
  • helping you achieve development objectives
  • Identifying challenges
  • unlocking your potential
  • learning new behaviors
  • freezing new behaviors

Many people might be encouraged to take on some executive coaching because they have a particular issue at work, and they feel like an executive coach will help them to solve it. This can work, but it is not the only way to look at executive coaching.

For this type of coaching to be effective, the leader participating must be entirely convinced of the value of it, and they are only going to feel that way if they can see the benefit it will have on them as a whole person, not just as a leader.

If you really want to identify, accept, and deal with whatever it is that is holding you back from being the best leader you can be then you’re going to have to accept feedback, and understand that certain traits, which are ingrained in you, can take longer to unfreeze. These traits may need to be dealt with on both a personal and professional level.

Dr John Behr says: Through executive coaching, it is possible to achieve personal goals, as well as business goals. At the core of it, integration of personal and work can mean showing up as your best self in all environments, and this creates sustainable practices.”

The importance of coaching the whole person

We are all inherently human. It is extremely difficult to push aside who you are as a person and become a robot CEO, which is inadvisable. It will stifle your emotional intelligence, which happens to be a very important part of leading a team, and make you feel miserable. Plus, your instincts, built up through years of evolution and lived experience, are part of what makes you a good leader, and if we ask you to leave these experiences aside and make executive decisions based solely on calculable data and market trends, you’re likely to make errors of judgement.

On top of that, research shows that when we bring our whole person to work with us, we are better leaders. We’re more creative, more responsive, we perform better, and we lead better. You’ll be more authentic, which will make you happier, and you will lead with humility, which gives your team room for growth.

So, every bit of you needs coaching, and whole person coaching is the best way to do that.

Finding a trusted executive coach:

Successful leaders view an executive coach as a critical component to leadership excellence. They value their trusted coach who challenges their assumptions, identifies their blind spots, and holds them accountable.

Leaders who take a comprehensive approach to development that includes feedback from trusted peers, effective coaching, and insights from sector-related experts continually improve on their leadership skills.

John Behr provides individual coaching and is a big advocator on approaching the leader as a whole person, not just the CEO in the corner office.

He works with the leader to help them identify their strengths and limitations and helping them develop new competencies to generate more results.

Dr. Behr can help senior executives:

  • Prepare to meet specific challenges
  • Be more aligned to corporate priorities
  • Develop new approaches to address issues confronting an organization in transition

His clients include major corporations based in the United States, Europe, India, Japan, and Southeast Asia.

For more information on the executive coaching service provided by Dr John Behr, please fill in the contact form on our ‘Contact Us’ page.