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Psychologists Coach Executives To Help Businesses Thrive

by Richard R. Kilburg, Ph.D.

Nobody's perfect. Not even executive level managers and chief executive officers.

Executive coaching is taking the corporate world by storm, creating new opportunities for both psychologists and executive level employees.

Many organizations spend significant time and resources on finding and preparing people to lead. However, little time is typically spent with corporate executives after they begin to lead. This special issue focuses on the pivotal role psychologists play in helping executives focus on areas that may be holding them back or holding back the organization.

Not all coaching is for with executives in trouble. As one author points out, "Coaching is done less to fix a weakness than to capitalize on potentials." The journal highlights case studies of all types of executives from for-profit corporations to non-profit organizations.

Coaching Executives describes one approach to coaching that allows for ongoing, continuous learning and feedback. The article points out that "coaching can be used when there is no specific problem that has been identified, but where an executive wishes to enhance his or her style, future options, and organizational impact."

In the case study presented, upper management, concerned about the future of one particular manager, employed a psychologist to work with the manager and the rest of the management staff to enhance this manager's potential.

Business-Linked Executive Development focuses on the use of coaching to enhance not just the executive, but also to enhance the bottom line. The author stresses that the psychologist needs to be involved directly with the issues of corporate performance and individual effectiveness for the coaching to be effective.

In the case study presented, feedback was used to coach a vice-president to take over as chief executive officer of a company, with all parties keeping in mind the bottom line goals.

Coaching can help improve the work culture of the organization, including diversity issues that can block important contributions with untapped skills, talents and other unused energies of the workforce. Psychologists can help management to recognize the diversity of an organization as a valuable resource and utilize the full talent of a staff.

Executive Coaching looks at what makes coaching different from psychotherapy even though the principles of psychology must be applied to help executives reach their potential. The author advocates dealing with the root of the problem, not only the way a problem manifests itself through aggressiveness, backstabbing or unrealistic expectations.

A coach can do this by learning about the personal family interactions of a client to overcome performance problems they may be having performing at work because of those early dynamics.


Richard R. Kilburg, Ph.D., Guest Editor. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol. 48, No. 2.

This information received from the American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC.

Originally published 4/17/98
Revised 10/02/08 by Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D.
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