The Top 10 Reasons Leaders Get Coaching

The demand for coaching has been growing exponentially, within organizations and in our lives. But why are so many people coming to coaching? The short answer is that it’s effective! In fact, coaching is the only universal tool a leader’s toolkit. If you’re growing – or you want to grow – coaching just makes sense.

Most of us grew up with some form of coaching – sports, music, or pursuits of other kinds. But coaching is becoming mainstream and carries much less stigma than therapy. In speaking with a new client, she said, “I love how I feel after coaching! I feel clear afterwards, but I’m not drudging up the past – I’m moving forward.” That’s the primary focus of coaching.

So, imagine you were sitting across from a coach right now. What would you most want to talk about? What topics are critical to you to maximize your growth?

I was recently asked, “What do most people work on in coaching?” Many answers pop to mind, but I realized that I hadn’t actually analyzed data on this. So, I went back to my most recent 100 clients and examined their answers to what they wanted to work on. Then I coded the data in a similar way as my doctoral dissertation that produced the RESPECT Coaching Styles.

While the average coaching client wanted to work on 5 topics, below are their answers.

The Top 10 Most Requested Coaching Topics

I’ll give you the top 10 topics from my clients, along with a description of what they meant within the category. See if you can relate.

10.  Presentation Skills

“Oh my god, that was such a great presentation! You totally nailed it! Wow!”

That’s what you want, right? To get up in front of any group and feel grounded, powerful, and articulate!

From my research, this is the 10th most requested topic. They want to inspire others through what they say, how they say it, and what they present.

Not only do people want help with the planned presentations, but they also want to be able to speak in an impromptu way with clarity and humor. They want to be able to answer questions that sound polished and powerful.

Becoming a powerful presenter is fairly easy, but it takes practice. It also usually takes a trained set of eyes and ears to help you build this skillset.

In what ways would you benefit from becoming a more powerful presenter? How helpful would it be to get coached on this?

9.     Managing Up

Bosses, bosses, bosses…am I right?! These are critical relationships. You need things from them. Bosses can help you or hurt you. So how do you manage up effectively?

If you get things wrong with those above you, life and work can be hell! But often through upward coaching, designing communications, and helping them reach their goals, it can be a hugely rewarding relationship!

Managing up takes thought, reflection, and often coaching to create the best outcomes.

In my research, I found that the people “above” us have three to ten times more impact on our psyches than our peers. Think about it.

Imagine how you’d feel if someone you respect “above” you stopped you to say, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate you. I noticed that not only did you do a great job on the last project, but I can really see your potential for tremendous growth! Thank you and keep going!” 

How impactful would that be for you? Now take a moment and imagine a peer or someone “below” you saying that same thing. Not as impactful, right?

The art of managing up is essential to our sense of well-being, and it’s a very coachable topic!

How would you benefit from being better at managing up? What pains would get relieved (or doors would open) if you brought out the very best in those above you?

8.     Executive Presence

There’s nothing worse than being uncomfortable in your own skin in a room of high-powered people. But even worse is losing the room – or people’s respect – when you open your mouth.

Executive presence isn’t about bluster. It’s not about faking it until you make it. It’s about authentically showing up and embodying your power to the point that others stop and listen to your every word.

It’s about walking into any room, meeting, or situation without wavering, wobbling, or wishing it were different.

Executive presence is about being fully yourself and meeting others in ways that leave them respecting you and appreciating your point of view.

I’ve helped hiring managers (CEOs and down through the org) make decisions about who they’re going to hire or promote. They say, “Well, this person just isn’t ready.” Or “This person is a little too green.” Or “They just don’t have that ‘it’ factor.”

Those are all codes for executive presence. In a way, because you aren’t comfortable with you, they aren’t comfortable with you!

Executive presence is very work-on-able! I got this email from the chairman of a board the other day after one of my clients presented at the last board meeting. He said my client was, “…clear, articulate, and thoughtful. This is a huge change from six months ago when you started working with him. Great job! This is the presence we hoped for, but never saw before now.”

Is executive presence something you want to work on? Said another way, are there doors you want to open, now or in your future, that aren’t open to you? If so, coaching can help you open them.

7.     Work-Life Balance

Stress, strain, and burnout! The demands of work seem to be endless – often to the detriment of those around us and ourselves. How is it that our lives seem to revolve around work, leaving so little for the rest of the people we care about?

If you are a high performer, you likely pour a lot of yourself into your work. If you pour energy out into work through your week, how much gets filled back up before the next week starts?

You can love your work and still be out of balance, burned out, and depleted. Work tends to be an insatiable beast…it’ll always demand or take more.

But it’s not work’s fault we’re depleted. (I know, I know – I’m on thin ice, right?!)

Most people don’t know how to create a harmonious relationship between work and life. They don’t have high-potency recovery activities.

Many times, in an attempt to recover, we find ourselves more depleted by the activities that were supposed to fill us up. Do you know what I mean?

Have you ever come back from a vacation so exhausted that you needed a vacation from your vacation? Too real, right?!

You can’t just pretend burnout isn’t happening and do nothing about it.

Coaching can help you solve burnout at the core and put in place real strategies to get you through it and out of it! 

How much is work-life balance an issue for you currently? How helpful would it be to have a coach help you create a synergistic relationship between work and life, so that they become mutually supportive and beneficial? (It’s not only possible – it’s reliable with coaching!)

6.     Self-Growth (Working on myself)

Some come to coaching because they LOVE learning, growing, and becoming better versions of themselves! This is how I got into coaching 27 years ago!

We have a natural drive or desire within us to expand our capabilities and find the edges of our potential. This force leads many people to coaching! After all, coaching is about our development. After doing this work for almost three decades, I haven’t found the edges of my own potential, nor anyone else’s!

What is it about improving ourselves that feels challenging, rewarding, and addicting at the same time?

There’s something wonderful about doing something we couldn’t do before… understanding something we didn’t understand before… creating something that didn’t exist before.

To truly know oneself, one’s capability, and one’s creative capacity has magic in it.

“I just want to work on myself – as a leader, a spouse, a person, a parent, and a contributor in the world.” That was one client’s answer. Can you relate?

How would you like to grow in this period of your life and work? How might coaching support your understanding of yourself and what you’re capable of creating?

5.     Relationships and Conflict Management

Relationships are a blessing and a curse for most people. We need them, but why do they suck sometimes?!

I’ve had many clients joke, “Work would be great – if it weren’t for the people!” Yet, organizations are built by and function because of people. People who all have different needs, views, and approaches.

It’s true, they don’t all suck. But when people come to coaching, they don’t usually say, “There’s no relationship that could be improved anywhere in my life!” Instead, people talk about the important relationships that are either causing friction or where they want more fulfillment.

Building or repairing trust, working out differences, and understanding where someone else is coming from are typical topics.

For instance, I had a client say, “I can’t work with this person! They’re condescending, critical, and passive-aggressive! It’s just not going to work!” But they came to coaching because this relationship HAD TO WORK! 

Within 3 months, the relationship tension was gone. Within 6 months, these individuals were working together. Their mutual boss said, “It’s amazing… you’d never know I had to stop each of them from quitting because of the other!”

Coaching is a powerful tool to boost and deepen the quality of your relationships! Through coaching, every relationship tends to get better…not just the one that the coaching focused on.

Which of your relationships may benefit from coaching? What is the cost of not optimizing them?

4.     Strategic Thinking and Decision-Making

Most people have their heads so far in the weeds, it’s no wonder they’re struggling with being more strategic! Almost everyone who comes to coaching wants to become more strategic and have help thinking through key decisions. I’ve never had anyone come to coaching saying, “You know, I want to be less strategic. Can you help me?”

Individual contributors often get paid to “do”. Your role likely has some individual contributor aspects to it, but the higher you go the more you’re paid to “think!”

Getting help with strategic thinking and decisions is almost ubiquitous in coaching – whether it’s mentioned it at first or not. Decisions and strategies always come up.

But what happens when you need to be strategic or make a decision, and you don’t have someone to coach you through the best thought process? That’s right – mistakes, failures, and flub-ups that cost you reputation at the least, but often more. 

Where could you be more strategic? What decisions are you facing now, or in the future, that would be improved by you working through them with a highly-trained coach?

3.     Communication

“What are you talking about? I don’t understand!” Communication issues are often at the heart of the request for coaching. It can be a real challenge to get through to others so they understand and are compelled by your message. Sometimes people understand part of your message. Other times it seems they do the opposite of what you asked, and you wonder if they ever heard you at all, right?

This is highly addressable, but frustrations with communication happen very often!

People don’t intentionally ignore or misunderstand you, though. Your communication just didn’t get through their busy minds, conflicting views, or ego defenses. You didn’t stir their hearts. You didn’t offer clarity that compelled them. You didn’t gain buy in… so the communication failed in some way.

So, whose fault is it that the communication wasn’t clear? We often think that communication is about what we say (write, draw, etc.) It’s not. Communication is about what’s heard and internalized by the other person. Your job isn’t to present the information. Your job is to make sure the communication is received, digested, and implemented. With that lens, communication can be designed to maximize internalization.

Coaching helps you to talk through the specific aspects of communication. To refine it. To troubleshoot it. And you’ll replace frustration and failure with clarity and team engagement.

What communications are most problematic or strained for you? How helpful would it be to have someone skilled in the nuances of people and the subtleties of communication helping you become a superstar communicator?

2.     Emotions

Ah yes, emotions! Frustration. Confidence (or lack of it). Imposter Syndrome. Anxiety. Anger. And more! Oh yeah – it’s the second most requested topic, but from the outside you’d never know it! Emotions are a funny thing. Most leaders, and people in general, think they need to put on a strong face or front for others. But what happens to all the emotions you override to show your strength to others? That’s right, they don’t go away. You get stuck with them, and they become problematic when not resolved.

But if you’re a leader, to whom do you turn to discuss your frustration, fear, or lack of confidence? You can’t go to those within your organization beneath you, since that’s dumping on them. You often can’t go to your boss and say, “I’m really insecure, I feel like you shouldn’t have given me this job, and I’m pissed at you half the time!” Right? You could try HR, but that often feels charged too.

Maybe you can go to your friends, significant other, or family. But unless they’re highly skilled and neutral, they will likely listen and take your side. They may even give you well-meaning but bad advice. So where do you go?

This is the role of a coach. A coach is free of political charge. A coach creates a space to discuss your experience and to help you gain new perspectives. A coach will often even challenge you. They will likely help you process the current emotions and learn to deal with future ones that arise.

After all, you don’t want to just get through one round of emotions. You probably realize that if you don’t get to the core of the emotions, it’ll just happen again! To make matters worse, your emotions may even spill out onto others, right?

Emotions and emotional challenges are completely normal to bring to coaching. Which emotions would you want help moving through? What if emotions turned into creative, rather than destructive, forces in your life and work?

1.     Coaching, Leading, and Developing Others

Whether through pain or proactivity, people problems and opportunities are by far the most requested topic. Some want to learn to coach others to bring out their best or have them stop doing “that thing” that annoys them. Others want to expand their leadership styles – becoming more motivational and inspirational.” Still others talk about building a true culture of thriving.

Boil it all down, and this one has to do with people and how to interact with them as a leader who coaches.

Coaching, leading, and developing others is nuanced. It also doesn’t have rules or principles that always work. Plus, it’s a non-renewable resource. When someone moves out of the organization, there’s little left behind, unless they were very intentional about growing others.

Developing others requires every leader to learn what that means for them. And it’s not only about learning, it’s about applying the knowledge to elicit the best outcome. There are countless factors to weigh: the circumstances at play, the people involved, the severity of the issue, and a thousand others. Is it any wonder people turn to coaching to work through all this?

How do you want or need to grow as a leader to handle the complexities and personalities you have in front of you? How might coaching support your growth as a coach, leader, and developer of teams and cultures?

Which coaching topics matter most to you?

Imagine meeting with a coach whose whole job is helping you reach a whole new level! Which topics would you want to work on most?

What’s the cost of you not working on these topics?

Finally, not all coaches will be skilled in all topics. Nor will all coaches approach the coaching with a wide array of styles. A coach doesn’t have to be an expert in a topic to help…but they need to be skilled in how they approach coaching.

You might want to ask them if they’ve been trained in RESPECT Coaching Styles™. The world’s best coaches are calling RESPECT “The biggest coaching breakthrough in decades!”

If you’re not getting coaching currently, and you’re interested in it, consider working with an OwlHub Certified Coach™. Our coaches are certified in the RESPECT Coaching Styles™ and will give you an assessment at the start of your coaching engagement to understand exactly how you want them to coach you.

We’ll pair you with a coach who has been deeply trained in all seven RESPECT styles, and whose natural style strengths match your stylistic preferences. You can bring all the topics that resonated with you from the above list, and even ones that I didn’t mention, and they’ll be ready to handle them with you!

David Morelli, PhD

David Morelli, PhD

David is the CEO and co-founder of OwlHub and the creator of the RESPECT Coaching Styles™. He has 25 years of executive coaching and leadership development experience. When he's not inspiring people to grow, you can find him making a fool of himself onstage as an improviser.