I frequently get asked – “What is the difference between executive and life coaching?”

“Which one will help me more?” Let me share with you about both and how you can use both executive or life coaching for the result you desire.

When I first started my course to become a coach, I was confused between the two as well, however after five years of coaching I have realised that executive and life coaching are pretty similar. In essence, both types of coaching use similar techniques, the difference simply lies in the approach used.

The following are the similarities between executive and life coaching :

  • Coaching, unlike counselling, focuses on the present and is intended to mirror what happens within a person into the external world and vice versa.
  • From working on yourself or on your professional life, the external result could be the same.
  • Coaching- either executive or life is a collaborative process in which the coach supports the client in his/her enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and personal growth. This partnership between a coach and an individual supports the achievement of goals set by the individual.
  • In coaching, the clients being coached are seen to have the “right” insights to answer their own questions. The coach does not come into the conversation as the expert in the client’s life; rather, the coach holds the client as resourceful, creative and whole – very capable of finding her own solutions. The value of the coach here is in helping the individual to see in a new way, so that the answers, which were transparent to the client earlier, become more visible and therefore attainable.
  • The coach in both executive and life coaching creates a safe environment for the individuals to see their own blind spots and, from this, to take actions in alignment with their whole selves.
  • Through the process of coaching, clients can expect to experience fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhanced thinking and decision-making skills, improved interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in carrying out their chosen work and life roles. With a commitment to enhance their personal effectiveness, they can also expect to see results in the areas of productivity, personal growth and satisfaction with life and work, and the achievement of meaningful goals.
  • Coaching unlocks a person’s potential to maximise their performance. It helps them to learn rather than teaching them. Broadly speaking coaching is a process that allows an individual or group of people to reflect and gain awareness of who they are, what is important to them, their strengths, challenges, options open to them and what action to take in order to make the changes they want in their work or life.

The following are the differences between executive and life coaching:

  • Executive coaching focuses on the external outcome – generally professional in nature whereas life coaching looks towards an internal change.The primary focus of life coaching is examining inwards whereas executive coaching is about resolving issues for an external manifestation.
  • Life coaching helps in figuring out and understanding the internal barriers coming in the way of your successful, happy life while executive coaching deals with the external stuff which serves as a reality check on the internals shifts.
  • Life coaching focuses on who you are and how that helps in achieving actions and results. Executive coaching focuses on what you do and what you have done to get the desired results.

An external issue always needs internal work, that’s where the two overlap and that’s what I do. I help clients understand this overlap with doing internal work as well as working towards reaping the external rewards of this internal work.

However, the choice between executive or life coaching depends on what results the client is looking for. A simple question of , “ WHAT NEXT IN MY LIFE?” can be tackled both ways depending on if the client wants to know more about who he/she is internally, then it needs life coaching. And if he/she wants to develop and work on which steps to take, what new territory he/she want to explore and develop, then it needs executive coaching.

All issues and questions need exploring before making a conclusion about the direction of coaching however, it always depends on the result the client is looking for.

Let me explain further by way of an example. A person applied for a job he really wanted. He worked and prepped for it before the interview but did not end up getting it. He is disheartened but is looking for a change and  wants to be coached to help him get another job.

Now let me show you how the approach would be depending on executive coaching or life coaching:

  • Life Coaching : I will ask the client why he is looking for a change? What is missing in the current role/job that he wants for himself. We will dig deeper into his values and belief system and help him understand his needs and wants better. Through this process, the client will be able to ascertain how his being is coming in the way of getting a new job and even help him understand himself better with what he needs and desires for a better, happier more successful life.
  • Executive coaching:  I as a coach will invite the client to examine his actions to get a new job. We will look into what are the requirements of getting the new job. We will look at his  capabilities and shortcomings as well. We will then make an action plan with steps to be taken to get the new job and get to work on it.

Ultimately, taking either angle of executive or life coaching depends completely on the client and his /her needs and wants. There is no better or lesser approach as both will lead to the result as desired by the client.