What I’ve Learned From Executive Coaching


Bill Campbell 

Called “The Coach” because he advised tech’s biggest executives, Campbell was arguably the most influential man — and one of the most beloved — in Silicon Valley.

In the 2019 book “The Trillion Dollar Coach,” authors Eric Schmidt (ex-Google CEO), Jonathan Rosenburg, and Alan Eagle recount the life and leadership principles of Bill Campbell, a legendary Executive Coach and mentor in Silicon Valley.

The authors share personal experiences working with Campbell at Google and interviews with other tech leaders he coached, including Steve Jobs at Apple, Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, and John Donahoe at eBay

The book addresses the question, “Is coaching really worth it?”

For many reasons, figuring out the return on investment (ROI) for Executive Coaching can be squishy. But it doesn’t have to be. More on that later.

Since stepping away from a full-time CEO Role in the social purpose Real Estate sector, I gravitated toward Executive Coaching. It seemed like a natural fit. After all, it is my default leadership style.

It’s  been a seamless way to harness decades worth of skills, training, and experience in ways that are impactful and helpful to others. 

Here are a few coaching scenarios in which I’ve been able to contribute :

Helping A New Leader Get Established

New leaders often land their roles based on their abilities as individual contributors or professional backgrounds (e.g., Law, Accounting, Academia, etc.).

As professionals move into higher-profile roles, they must shift from a mindset of tactical execution to strategic leadership. This change is challenging. Executive Coaching can help these individuals by focusing on leading others, effective communication, professional presence, navigating conflict, leading with empathy, and more.

Helping An Organization Navigate A New Growth Phase

Growth means change. Change is difficult.

In recent years, a well-established community-based business found itself poised for a new opportunity. I was invited to collaborate and create new ways to navigate this change. We devised new systems, structures, personnel, and policies to accommodate the rapid growth. Revenues grew from approximately $20M to $40M over a few short years. More importantly, the community is now much better served.

Currently, I’m helping establish a charity foundation to address the pervasive housing crisis in our country. This problem demands more creativity, growth, and change.

Coaching For Executive Potential

In one coaching scenario, a Senior Finance Executive was brilliant at his job but constantly at the center of team turmoil. He had an abrasive personal communication style and some unrealistic expectations on others. Somebody needed to embrace some soft skills!

As part of a larger initiative, my coaching assignment included helping the team address the self-inflicted turmoil and help the warring parties team up on the problems they faced instead of each other.

It required some soul-searching on the part of all team members, as well as a commitment to changing behaviours to rebuild team trust.

What I’ve Learned From Executive Coaching


1. Done right, coaching can have huge payoffs.     

The average cost of an MBA degree in Canada can range from $30K to $50K in tuition.

Given that context, it makes good sense to spend a fraction of that cost on specific, targeted one-on-one or cohort learning with a qualified coach.

Well-researched statistics from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) show the following benefits of coaching. 

  • 70% increase in individual performance
  •  50% increase in team performance
  • 48% increase in organizational performanc

The Metrix Global study of 2001 for a Fortune 500 company concluded that if broader factors like productivity and employee retention are considered, the ROI on Executive Coaching can reach up to 529%


2. When coaching doesn’t work.

If the person being coached lacks self-awareness and openness to change it’s not going to work!

No matter what anyone says or does, the individual doesn’t see it that way. Self-awareness is not something a coach can teach someone, nor can they teach someone to be receptive to feedback.

No matter how much effort or money goes toward helping the client be more self-aware, there is little that a coach can do about this. In cases like this, a clinical counsellor may be a better investment.


 3. Dirty little secret ….

A good number of coaches out there aren’t qualified!

In this emerging field, there are no barriers to entry. There’s an exploitative potential here.

Anyone can hang out their shingle and call themselves a coach. High-profile “celebrity coaches” write a best seller and then offer their “secret sauce” coaching technique in online diploma courses. These days, it’s easier than ever to be a self-proclaimed coach or expert.

When selecting a coach, I recommend that this person has the depth of knowledge and experience to provide the results you seek and the ROI you deserve. Me? I look for a track record of what the individual has accomplished.

Credentialing with a licensing body with established standards and a Code of Ethics is a must!


4. The boss and the board chair must be engaged.

Their support is crucial. The overall leader plays a central role in successful coaching. I have repeatedly seen that when the boss is engaged in Coaching, the odds of success increase dramatically.

On the downside, if the boss isn’t involved, the person being coached often flounders. Before anyone invests a dime, I ensure the boss of the person(s) engaged in Coaching is fully onboard.

It’s usually a good indicator that if someone seeks Coaching. In recognizing the need, they are well on their way toward a highly successful coaching engagement that will pay dividends for years to come.


Back to Bill Campbell

Campbell’s coaching legacy was building strong teams, fostering personal growth, inspiring courage, and resolving tensions through caring and compassionate leadership.

He believed that positive human values like love, respect, and trust generate positive business outcomes and drive team performance.

He emphasized operational excellence, putting people first, being decisive, communicating well, and focusing on product excellence as essential traits of effective leadership.


In Conclusion

Coaching at its best is an act of love: The wish to be genuinely helpful to another….To use what we know, feel or have endured in a way that lightens the weight on another.

  (A quote I adapted from Peter Block- Flawless Consulting)  


Until next time,