Life Coaching Vs Executive Coaching

Smita Raghum  •  Jul 21, 2021  •  4 min read

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Life Coaching Vs Executive Coaching

In my 4-year journey within the coaching space, the most common question asked by the learners is: What kind of coach can I become? What should I pick as my niche in coaching? To that, the answer is simple: whichever group/segment you are passionate to work with. 

Is passion enough to choose your niche? Maybe, maybe not. We think that based on the specialized coach that we are, we need to do something different, something unique for that particular segment. However, it depends on the client – what they bring to the table in that session and in subsequent sessions.

Let’s explore what could be the possible differences and similarities between a life coach and an executive coach.

To start with, the coach chooses the prefix to her coaching title based on the experience/passion that the coach has for a particular segment, like parent coach, executive coach, CEO coach, relationship coach, and life coach. The title is defined by the clients’ needs and the goal they identified in the session. 

Life coaching is where the goal might start with an internal examination; working on the “Who” of the client right from the start. Executive coaching is simply coaching an executive on her goals pertaining to being an executive. In that case, the coaching would start with the goal of an external manifestation.

For example:

Life Coaching: 

  • Type of client – Can be anyone from any sphere of life
  • Goal – I want to work on my confidence

Executive Coaching:

  • Type of client – An executive working within a corporate at a senior level 
  • Goal – I want to ensure the Team collaborates well so that we can achieve our sales goals for each quarter.

Life Coaching is all about working with the individual. Executive coaching might start with the executive and then go on to involve the teams and groups.

Life coaching primarily examines who you are and how that way of being translates into your actions and results. Executive coaching focuses primarily on what you do and what you have, with a secondary focus on who you are, while analyzing what you do/didn’t do to get the results achieved so far. After 2-3 sessions the executive coaching might also start focussing on the “Who”.

For example:

Life Coaching: 

  • Type of client – Can be anyone from any sphere of life
  • Goal – I want to work on improving my listening skills

Executive Coaching:

  • Type of client – An executive working with a corporate at a senior level 
  • Goal – I want the team to trust me.

(In further drilling down this goal, we can identify that listening better may be the key to gaining trust from the team members. The coaching can then be focussed on working with the client on what makes listening so important, what are the roadblocks, what can support them to become better listeners – Internal exploration which will lead to an external manifestation – gaining the trust of the team)

The type of client attending might differ for executive coaching and life coaching, but it’s important to know the process of coaching – whether executive, or life, or any – would remain the same. The ICF Core Competencies remain the same. Whether life or executive, as a coach one needs to be present for the client, listen generatively, ask questions that trigger powerful thoughts, and empowers the client to move to a more resourceful state.

Executive clients will be inclined to choose a coach who has a background and experience of working with executives, with the expectation that the coach might also do some mentoring. The executive coach mostly after 3-4 sessions moves from the “what” to the “who” of the client and thereby is “life coaching”. However, since the coach is still coaching the executive, it is called executive coaching. Coaching purely is about asking questions with the belief that the client is the best person to know the answer and those answers lie within. 

In my opinion, all coaching is life coaching. A person cannot be divided into two, as work and life. Mastery in coaching is to partner with the Whole.

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Smita Raghum



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