For almost two decades, there has been an ongoing trend within executive circles of assigning or hiring coaches to help leaders become better — better at managing their workloads, motivating their teams, making decisions and more.

Undoubtedly, this seems like a good idea. Coaches, who might be psychologists or industry experts, can help executives identify their strengths and weaknesses and build positive habits that lead to improved performance for themselves and their teams in the workplace.

However, an executive coach is not always the best solution for helping a new or struggling executive find their feet. In fact, executive coaching has a number of downsides that many organizations overlook. Executives eager to become better should consider the advantages and risks of executive coaching — and most will actually find what they are looking for in executive education, instead.

Risks of Executive Coaching

You Don’t Need an Executive Coach, You Need Executive Education
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Ostensibly, executive coaches provide top business leaders one-on-one attention from experts equipped to identify weaknesses and teach effective strategies for improvement. Yet, in practice, there is no guarantee that an executive coach can offer these advantages. Because executive coaching is not a regulated field, essentially anyone can award themselves the title of “executive coach” and potentially find clients in the highest levels of business leadership.

The “experts” who function as executive coaches can have any type of background — from former business executives to career academics to athletes — and many have little to no training in coaching-related fields like psychology.

Though there are multiple paths through coaching certifications, the fact remains that many, if not most professionals, who call themselves executive coaches cannot provide the benefits business leaders and their organizations may expect.

You Don’t Need an Executive Coach, You Need Executive Education
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The primary downfall of the majority of executive coaching experiences is the reliance on simple answers and quick results. Executives who hire their own coaches are often looking for tips and tricks that they can easily enact to improve their performance in the workplace. Similarly, businesses that bring on executive coaches to work with “problem executives” want those coaches to find ways to fix problematic behaviors fast.

The issue is that many problems cannot be resolved quickly and easily; in fact, because executives tend to be older and have many years of work experience, their patterns of thought and behavior may be incredibly entrenched, demanding extra time, effort and expertise to unwind and rewrite.

Executive coaching is not always ineffectual. Plenty of coaches trained in psychology and certified through reputable associations can provide the level of improvement that executives and businesses hope for, and plenty of coaching clients can attest to improved workflow, attitude and performance as a result of their coaching experience.

Still, because the quality of executive coaching can be so unreliable, it is appropriate for most executives to seek a more consistently beneficial method of becoming better — like executive education.

What Executives Need Instead

You Don’t Need an Executive Coach, You Need Executive Education
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Executive education, often shortened to ExEd, consists of graduate-level business courses and programs developed to provide the highest level of business leaders with additional knowledge and skill. Some of the best universities in the world offer access to executive education online, which makes it easier for busy business leaders to fit schoolwork into their schedules.

Most ExEd consist of short courses, which may or may not offer a certificate and rarely contribute to a degree. Instead, ExEd is purely for a student’s personal and professional improvement.

There is a wide variety of ExEd courses available to executives, so every business leader can find formal education in the field that fits their professional needs and wants. Some examples of available ExEd courses include:

● Values-based Leadership
● Sustainability management
● Global business and politics
● Strategic digital marketing
● Negotiation strategies
● Engineering administration
● Healthcare management

Organizations and executives should work together in the pursuit of ExEd. Businesses willing to cover the costs of executive coaching should also be willing to compensate executives for formal education.

In fact, education benefits programs are some of the most sought-after benefits, and offering these perks to business leaders will help companies attract and retain top talent.
Executive coaches are popular, but they are not always the best option for executives looking to improve their knowledge and skill.

Executive education provides business leaders with expert instruction in highly specific fields, so they and their employers can have greater confidence in their ability to become better.

Images: Canva