What’s the Difference Between a Life Coach, A Personal Coach and an Executive Coach?

By May 13, 2013April 20th, 2020Personal Executive Coaching

“I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.”

~Bob Nardelli, former CEO, Home Depot.

Elizabeth asks: How can I tell if I need a life coach, a personal coach, or an executive coach?  Is there a difference?

Joel answers:   The kind of coach you need depends on the area in your life you want to focus on.  As I explain the differences between life, personal and executive coaches, you’ll see what I mean.

  • Executive coaching:

    Focuses on helping the person achieve more at work.  It may deal with peer relationships or communication. It might help the worker advance in his or her career or understand how to add value to the company.

Executive coaching helps turn managers into leaders, increases job satisfaction and reduces job stress.  This coaching focuses on the relationship between the client and his or her work situation.

For example, Nathan felt like he was ready to take on more responsibility at work, but felt “stuck.”  He had always avoided what he called “office politics” and just did his job. He didn’t know how to position himself to get promoted.

When Nathan hired an executive coach, the coach helped Nathan to verbalize his goals. Together they set up a strategy so Nathan could broaden his visibility and increase his influence.

He looked for places he could add value to the company and was soon in line for a promotion.

Executive coaching is about personal discovery, goal setting, planning, and achieving. This benefits both the individual and the organization.

  • Life coaching:

    Views the person as a whole.  It includes work and may cover stress and overworking, but it also covers family and personal goals.

The goals set for a person working with a life coach may be internal- feeling better, better relationships or dealing with bad habits.

Karen was shouldering all the responsibility of caring for her elderly parents.  While there were other siblings close by, they chose to let Karen handle it all since she worked from home and could be “flexible.”

Karen chose a life coach to help her balance her work and family responsibilities and also deal with the emotional burden of resentment toward her siblings.

The life coach helped Karen see options and choices. Through her support, Karen was able to call a meeting with the siblings, establish responsibilities, and share her burden.

  • Personal coaching:

    Is much the same as life coaching.  While the goals of an executive coach are specific, measurable, and focused on improvement and success in the work environment, personal coaching is based on empathy.

It is more reflective, allowing for introspection and for the person to grow in self-understanding.  Personal coaches can be used as a sounding board and a cheering section.

However, some personal coaches also work with clients on their business, financial, or spiritual concerns.

As you examine your primary goal you’ll be able to determine the kind of coach you need.  If you are looking for measurable action to conquer work challenges, choose an executive coach.  If you have personal, family, or life concerns with internal or less measurable goals, you may find a personal or life coach will support your needs better.

To learn more about executive coaching and see if this is a good fit for your concern, contact Joel and he’ll be happy to talk to you about it.

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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Joel, I’d like to add a nuance to the distinction you’ve given for executive coach. The presenting goal may be better leadership (for example), but we often find that we need to delve into areas of the life of the executive besides work to get there. I believe that looking at the hole person and setting goals based on that (which sometimes include the person’s spiritual, physical, or emotional life outside of work) are often necessary to achieve the work goals. There is a blurring of the lines between types of coaches.

  • Hi Mary Jo,

    I always appreciate your comments. I agree. The whole person does need to be looked at. However, I find that in the beginning it’s important to establish a result-oriented relationship with the executive because they desire results and value from the coaching. Once trust is established, I begin to bring the whole person into the coaching.

  • The difference between a Life Coach, A Personal Coach and an Executive Coach will be as
    Life Coach helps you get to choose your path to success.
    Personal Coach helps you get out of your individual (personal) problems
    & Executive coach is one who help your professional career move forward.