How to Get Executives to Coach for Life

Mar 9, 2017

“Why do you ask me to waste time exploring emotional issues while coaching executives? Companies don’t want any of this!” countered an executive coach when I was mentoring him on how important emotions are in coaching.

“Well, you need not if you can cut the executive into work and life halves!” I responded.

Variations of this question are common while I supervise, mentor and train coaches, since most I work with are executives and professionals. Their background is mentoring. Companies expect their executives to perform productively at work. That is what they pay them for. Why waste time on personal issues?

The metaphor of cutting the person in two halves is what I see most mentors do instinctively. In the traditional work place, even with the current buzz on engagement, the majority of conversations including internal coaching are work centric, not people centric. Focusing on the individual, especially on how one feels, is perceived as a waste of time or worse. Several men I interact with do seem to believe that “grown men do not feel,” let alone not cry.

Work life balance

Mentor managers in prescriptive leadership style are at the first level of the Situational Leadership matrix. Fortunately, several companies I work with realize this as a liability. They initiate programs to familiarize their executives in Situational Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Appreciative Inquiry and such other people centric concepts. These help develop a coaching culture in organizations, helping experienced mentors become effective as internal coaches.

A coach I was supervising brought up the issue of a client facing a time management issue. He had worked with the client using a two-by-two matrix of urgent and important issues in prioritizing. This approach seemed to make no difference to the client.

We then discussed using a coaching approach of exploring how the client feels about managing time and how work related time affects life related time. The client came up with life issues she faced as a caregiver to her elderly parents. She eventually found a workable solution to integrate her life and work priorities, both of which were important and urgent.

When a mentor deals with work with no reference to life, he cuts the client in half, choosing the work half to prescribe solutions. This adds more stress to a client already disempowered with work-life struggle. A coach is trained to explore the executive, helping the client develop and own solutions rather than trying to solve the issue.

TO become true leaders, mentor managers need to transform into coaches to change their mindset to people centricity. A trained coach is able to deal with a work or life related behavior issue holistically including the emotional level. As coaches, we can help executives we coach to be coaches in their own environment through a few effective steps:

  • Engaging with subordinates and colleague as human beings, not cogs in the corporate machinery
  • Communicating with the other person holistically, as a sum of parts including work, family, relationships and emotions; not as a challenge to cognitive logic
  • Exploring feelings and emotions. Thoughts can lie, emotions cannot. Emotional expressions destress. Thoughts stress
  • Creating a circle of trust through personal authenticity and empathy. Only relationship matters, not power

Work and life cannot be separated, cut in two halves. Work and life cannot be balanced as a mathematical time-space equation. Work and life need to be integrated. The two halves need to become one for us to feel happy. We are only as happy as we allow ourselves to feel happy.

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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