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When corporate coaching has a role, consider these elements

August 23, 2021 - 20 min read


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What is corporate coaching?

Executive coaching versus corporate coaching

Remember these 6 types of coaching

Does corporate coaching work?

What corporate coaching isn't

7 key considerations for a successful corporate coaching program

Professional and personal growth for all

Throughout the pandemic, feelings of loneliness and apathy surged. According to the World Happiness Report 2021, relationship quality and connectedness proved to be protective factors for psychological well-being. These two traits aren’t likely to be at the top of many organizations’ leadership models. 

This finding highlights the need for a new leadership style post-covid. Leadership in a hybrid environment has to be inclusive. Inclusive leadership behaviors are grounded in connectedness, not competition.

That leaves many organizations with an executive leadership team in place that may not be “move-in” ready for the new hybrid work environment. These teams’ leaders have great promise, but they need a bit of a remodel, en masse. 

To sustainably transition into the hybrid work environment, executives must engage their leadership teams around this more inclusive version of leadership. A combination of education, conviction, and support for leaders is vital to its implementation. 

The executive needs to secure support from the hearts and minds of their leadership team for the necessary transformation. Then they must provide personal and professional development for their team members. 

Corporate coaching can be an effective tool for developing executives and their teams and aligning them around a particular initiative all at once. Let’s take a deeper look at what exactly corporate coaching is and how it differs from other forms of coaching. 

What is corporate coaching?

Corporate coaching is a hybrid of hands-on executive coaching and organizational consulting. 

It is often oriented around one — or a small team of — leadership consultants who have built their own reputations as executives or leadership gurus. These consultants act as advisors. They guide senior leadership and their teams through breakthroughs and transitions.

Corporate coaching can drive organizational performance at the leadership and team levels. It typically focuses on facilitating insights, alignment, and change at the top. 

Together, these focal points can motivate action in the uppermost levels, particularly when an organization is at a point of inflection or transformation. 

Corporate coaching’s guiding principle is that companies can only succeed when the leadership team is aligned around a strategy, can motivate, and drive the necessary change. 

Corporate coaches seek to achieve organizational goals without sacrificing individual executives’ ambitions. Grounded in team facilitation, corporate coaching is distinct from executive coaching. 


Executive coaching versus corporate coaching

Corporate coaching services are bifold. Executive coaching is one component of it, typically reserved for the uppermost leaders. Team facilitation is the other, again for senior leadership teams. 

Executive and corporate coaching have three key similarities. They are self-discovery, person-first problem-solving, and interpersonal dynamics.


In both programs, coaches empower individuals to determine their own solutions. 

Executive and corporate coaching equip individuals with strategies to unlock their own leadership potential within the current organization and context. Coachees use their judgment to determine when, how, and why to apply these strategies.

Person-first problem-solving

Executive and corporate coaches also take into account the person behind the problem. They recommend problem-solving strategies that complement the coachee's skill set and ambitions. 

Interpersonal dynamics

Executive and corporate coaching influence interpersonal and political dynamics within a leadership team.

Both types of coaching explore how leaders interact with team members. They take the time to determine how team members feel about it and respond to it. 

Executive and corporate coaching have two crucial distinctions. These are focal point and organizational context.

Focal point

Executive coaching focuses on furthering leaders' capacity. These coaching programs perceive leaders as capable of ongoing growth. Coaches provide leaders with specialized insight to expand a leader's skill set. Their recommendations take into account a leader's individual strengths, areas for growth, and concerns.

Corporate coaching emphasizes ongoing growth for teams. It guides entire leadership teams through uncertainty. Corporate coaches support leaders in navigating challenges varying from quickly approaching deadlines to unexpected management shifts.

Corporate coaching’s approach to interpersonal relationships is more specified than general. Corporate coaches might be more likely to focus on how each individual team member responds to a leader. They consider the group dynamics of a particular team and develop strategies to uplift all members accordingly. 

Corporate coaching strengthens teams' sense of inclusion, cohesion, productivity, and performance.

Organizational Context

Executive coaches consider how specific organizational challenges will impact a leader's development. They develop recommendations based on how the leader perceives the challenge. They also consider how the leader can leverage their current expertise to overcome it.

Corporate coaches sometimes have a relatively greater focus on the organizational objective, or a single executive intent, than they do on an individual leader’s personal growth or ambitions. 

Executive coaching facilitates leadership development at the individual level. It takes into account the individual's ambitions and concerns. Corporate coaching fosters team development in the broader business context in which it operates. 

Corporate coaching considers an organization's needs, hopes, and goals when facilitating team development. It enables a team to grow in ways that complement the values, vision, and mission of their company. 

To further understand corporate coaching, it’s beneficial to understand how it is distinct from other types of coaching.

Remember these 6 types of coaching

Let's dive into several alternative types of coaching. Discover how corporate coaching incorporates elements of each of them. 

1:1 professional coaching. This form of leadership coaching enables executives and leaders at all levels to receive personalized hands-on guidance in navigating their careers at large and performance within their current job. 

This type of professional coaching focuses on the whole person for personal growth and professional development. BetterUp's 1:1 professional coaching uses the Whole Person Model to kickstart a participant’s journey. 

This holistic self-assessment enables individuals to understand their strengths and areas of improvement before coaching even begins. In this way, they approach their sessions with an understanding of what they'd like to address and improve upon. Coachees are their own agents of change within their sessions. 

Performance coaching. People often seek out performance coaching reactively or as a form of remediation for a team member. It is used to improve current performance or accommodate for past performance. 

Peak performance coaching. During high-stakes moments, peak performance coaches are key. They enable us to navigate a tight deadline, a production delay, or a sales pitch that can make or break our promotion. Peak performance coaches tend to be professionals who have overcome their high-stakes moments time and again in their careers.

Nutrition coaching. What we eat affects who we are during and outside of work. Nutrition affects our physical health. It impacts the effectiveness of our sleep hygiene and exercise. It plays a key role in determining how awake and engaged we are at work

Nutritionists and health professionals facilitate these coaching sessions. These health specialists guide us in redefining our eating and exercise habits. They enable us to recognize there is no one-size-fits-all solution for healthy eating. They help us develop sustainable routines that work best for us.

Job coaching. This type of coaching hones in on an individual's performance within a particular job. These professional coaches take a different approach than career coaches, who work with individuals to navigate their goals and interests across occupations and sectors more so than within a single job. 

Job coaching is often completed by a supervisor. It can incorporate developing soft, transferable skills. But it tends to focus on improving more technical skills that are pertinent to one’s current or upcoming role. 

DEIB coaching. This type of coaching is intended to help individual team members, larger departments, and entire organizations push past surface-level diversity. BetterUp's DEIB coaching enables individuals to engage in diversity and inclusion learning resources. It works with individuals to foster diverse and inclusive company cultures

DEIB coaching can help individual leaders and team members determine diversity and inclusion strategies that complement and enhance the company's strategies. DEIB coaches also guide individuals and teams in developing new strategies that place diversity and inclusion at the forefront of their company's business model, not pose it as an afterthought.

Corporate coaching can incorporate components of other types of coaching. While it isn’t scalable, the focus on skilled group facilitation combined with the hands-on approach of executive coaching enables corporate coaching to be flexible to an executive’s specific, in-the-moment needs. 

The issues and concerns addressed in corporate coaching sessions may overlap with any topics addressed by other types of coaching when they affect the dynamics of the inner circle or impact the leadership team’s development. 

The difference is that corporate coaching is a one-off approach to 1:1 coaching. It recognizes individual interests and concerns while optimizing success during high-impact issues. Used well, the customized approach of corporate coaching can help a leadership team and its related departments grow and mature.

Does corporate coaching work?

Critics have been hesitant about the effectiveness of coaching, especially executive coaching. A common critique is the handling of psychological problems by coaches instead of mental health professionals. Another is that bringing in “organizational consultants” can be perceived as them taking on the role of the executive.

In a survey Harvard Business Review conducted of 140 leading coaches asking them about the growth of their industry, they found “blurry lines" between challenges that can, and should, be addressed by coaches or mental health professionals. 

This critique gives us insight into how to enhance corporate coaching. It helps us develop corporate coaching programs that do not improperly label problems based on one's skill set or external factors when in fact, they are rooted in internal factors related to innate qualities and conditions.

The questions below serve as a guide. They help organizations implement corporate coaching sessions with high potential for positive change. They enable corporate coaches to improve this style of coaching at large and its approach. 

1. What problems in behavior and performance result from psychological challenges and which stem from situational factors such as one’s promotion, project deadline, or relationship with a manager?

2. Which challenges are best solved by talking through emotions and which are best resolved by looking into and developing strategies? 

3. When are both needed and what does this look like?

These guiding questions propel us to consider how and why corporate coaching programs do not aim to address psychological challenges.

What corporate coaching isn't

To fully understand corporate coaching, it’s important to define what it's not.

Corporate coaching is not emotional therapy. It’s not a reflection on the past. Its orientation is forward-focused. 

Instead of asking ourselves, “why did I do that then?,” corporate coaching pushes us to consider “what will I do next?”

Corporate coaches do not identify dysfunctionalities, abnormalities, or persistent conditions and accredit innate predispositions for current problems. They frame challenges as the result of unresolved, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable interpersonal or contextual factors. 

Individuals who benefit from corporate coaching do not anticipate becoming dependent on a professional to treat them and spark their recovery. They are open to the insight of a professional in structuring their goals and self-guided growth.

Corporate coaching is also not consulting. It’s not about fixing problems for people. It’s about empowering people to cultivate their own solutions. Corporate coaches actively consider an individual’s ambitions and competencies when sharing insights and crafting recommendations. 

Optimal corporate coaching pulls from consulting and therapy without trying to become or replace either one. 

Corporate coaching participants transform most when they are their own agents of change. Their coaches will support them in venturing outside of their comfort zones. Coaches do not provide a tutorial for where to walk next. They propose action plans enabling participants to shift from a state of self-awareness to self-control

For leaders interested in implementing corporate coaching programs for their teams, remember it does not, nor should it, replace therapy. 

Mental health professionals are equipped for dissecting challenges driven by psychological factors. Corporate coaches are experienced in unpacking problems shaped by external factors ranging from physical capacities to management transitions

Let’s dive into key considerations to further optimize corporate coaching at your company. 

7 key considerations for a successful corporate coaching program

Corporate coaching programs are transformative and sustainable when leaders who implement them take these 7 key insights into account.

Invest in corporate coaching for a purpose

Consider exactly why you are using a corporate coaching program. Is the change you’re seeking internal, interpersonal, or both?

If internal, are there better ways to accelerate practices and experiences for leadership development? Is it a personal need or a team need? How does your team's advancement impact your own?

If interpersonal, what changes in group dynamics are you hoping to achieve and why? What are the important objectives or transformations your team needs to reach? Do you hope to redefine your team's norms or core values? Is it an incremental change or something more significant? 

Consider the organizational context in which your team operates

Align your leadership team's potential for growth with your organization.

Failure to do so can undermine company-wide strategies and goals. It can also distance your team from the company's mission, vision, and values you intend to fulfill.

To know where you’d like to take your business, it’s crucial to recognize the role your team plays in its success. Incorporate current business challenges into leadership team conversations. Assess current organizational goals and create new ones during meetings. Set aside time to debrief on your company's progress and impact reports.

Ask yourself: 

1. How will corporate coaching enable my team to lead change and spark organizational success?

2. How do my company's culture, procedures, and big-picture goals shape my leadership style?  

3. How does my leadership style influence my team's development?

Choose a space and an environment for the leadership team to engage in the change or transformation. Content matters, but in moments that matter for the organization, the location and interaction space is crucial. 

Meeting spaces have the power to make or break inclusion and psychological safety. 

The design of the space and of the experience warrants more than just a last-minute thought. Good corporate coaching providers should have advanced experience design capabilities. 

For moments of significance, especially where some change commitment or transformation is required, you can’t just grab the open conference room. 

Team members may perceive meetings that take place in your office to give you a home-court advantage. There will be a power imbalance.

Team members will be more likely to feel intimidated, not included. They are likely to feel less comfortable speaking out. Or the predictable mundanity of a conference room may put people in a checked-out, status quo mindset. 

Consider seat arrangements and procedures for participation to ensure everyone has the opportunity to speak and actively listen.

Select, build, or determine a site where everyone can experience a sense of psychological safety

Understand the kinds of interpersonal and political dynamics currently existing on your team

Are these dynamics you'd like to change? If so, what dynamics would you like to achieve? How do you plan to get there? 

It will be difficult to determine where you’d like to see your team go if you are not clear on where they are currently. Be prepared to answer these questions, as corporate coaches will be intentional about asking them.

Expand 1:1 professional coaching to people at every leadership level

If the need isn’t exclusively in the upper leadership level, consider options outside of corporate coaching. 1:1 professional coaching can bring personal growth and professional development to the managers charged with performance and adaptability across the organization. 

Witness how the success of coaching is increased when expanded to all people and teams. As indicated by Stanford GSB Executive Education’s success in expanding coaching to its students, more inclusive coaching results in greater levels of energy and lower levels of burnout.

Consider well-being as an integral part of coaching

Some problems and challenges are driven by a lack of skills or situational factors. Others stem from inner challenges. Provide resources for mental health outside of leadership coaching to ensure that coaches do not dismiss, overlook, or misdiagnose psychological conditions. 

View coaching as a slow down; not a quick fix

Contrary to popular opinion, coaching is not a quick fix for increased performance. It is the creation of a relationship built on trust and vulnerability. This relationship takes time. 

It enables coaches to feel comfortable being transparent about who they are and who they intend to become. Invest in coaches who perceive performance development as a continuous journey. Performance does not have an endpoint. It is something coachees can continuously expand on, and it is not something to be rushed.

Adopt a people-first approach 

Invest in coaches who apply a holistic approach to their sessions. They take into account the whole person they are working with and recommend solutions tailored to that people's ambitions and achievements.

Professional and personal growth for all

Our organizations cannot evolve with change at the leadership or C-suite level alone. Its teams and individuals at every organizational level must thrive and grow as well. Explore BetterUp coaching to overcome challenges with breakthroughs and transitions. 

Drive professional development and personal growth for all. Go beyond corporate coaching to facilitate growth for managers and team members, and enable them to play a more active role in each others’ advancement. New call-to-action

Published August 23, 2021

Sydnie Kupferberg

Sydnie Kupferberg is a content marketing intern at BetterUp.

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