Many executive coaches I know believe that executive coaching is executive coaching. In their minds, if you can coach an executive then CEO coaching is no different. After all, they say, coaching isn’t about giving solutions or advice or consulting, so whether you are coaching a mid-level executive or coaching the CEO, it doesn’t matter.
I disagree. CEO coaching, or coaching at the C-suite level, is different from coaching other levels of managers or executives. It’s not that the C-suite faces different challenges than others; that’s a given. It’s not that they are bombarded from all sides, are answerable to a board or even that they are expected to be strategic thinkers. What makes CEO coaching different is the level of accountability they have. They are on the firing line all the time and the decisions they make have wide-spread implications across the organization. And this is magnified with the CEO. Coaching a CEO requires sophistication, finesse and skill on the part of the coach.
I’m not suggesting that only a handful of coaches have this combination. What I am saying is just because you coach managers or even 2nd-line executives does not mean you can coach at the C-suite. You don’t have to agree or take my word for it. Ask CEOs and other C-suite executives their opinion. Contact HR VPs of corporations and find out their experience. I’m betting they will concur: CEO coaching is not the same as executive coaching.