Do You Need an Executive Coach?


Are you already a wildly successful leader in your mind and in the minds of others? Are there specific leadership skills you want to improve? Is your leadership strategy (i.e., how you intend to align relevant others around your business strategy) top of mind and quickly repeatable? Can your team easily summarize your leadership platform and defining values when asked? Are you improving your leadership better, faster or cheaper than last year or can you afford to stay the same course?

An effective leader must envision — and then convey and deliver — a better state to other people. And, to be successful in both the short and long term, this state must be created cost and time efficiently as well as ethically, responsibly, and legally.

Executive coaching is one tool that many leaders use to ensure they are achieving this goal and experiencing genuine fulfillment with their work and career choices. Coaching is also a way to ensure that individual leaders are improving at least at the same rate that their businesses must improve every year.

To help executives determine if coaching might be valuable for them, I developed The 15-Minute Leadership Quiz©. Each question on the Quiz represents a critical area of executive success. As you read through the questions, note how easy or how difficult you find them. The goal is not to arrive at just any answer in less than 15 minutes. Rather, it is to have smart, clear, and concise answers that are top of mind and immediately actionable for you. Why? Because these answers represent decisions that strong leaders execute against routinely to be maximally effective, in both their eyes and the eyes of history.

So, if you can answer these questions in fewer than 15 minutes and be content with your answers, then you likely have no pressing need for the kind of executive coaching that I offer or recommend.

Check your watch now and go:

The 15 Minute Leadership Quiz©

1. How is a leader different from a manager in your work? How much time (i.e., in percentages) do you dedicate each week to leading versus managing?

2. In your work world, what characterizes a GREAT leader from a good leader?

3. Are you a great leader? If yes, how did you determine that? If no, do you want to be a great leader? How will you know when you’ve become great?

4. What is your individual leadership vision relative to your current assignment? Would key staff, key colleagues, management be able to articulate your vision immediately if asked?

5. What makes your leadership distinctive (even from other great leaders in your organization) and how do you currently leverage your strengths to better deliver targeted results, motivate your team, or gain alignment with your colleagues?

6. How will you be measuring your individual leadership success for this year? What one thing do you most need to improve to ensure success against those targets?

7. What new approaches are you using to improve your leadership efficacy? Are these approaches better, faster, or cheaper than what you have done previously? Will they guarantee a rate of improvement equal or better to the improvement rate expected of your business unit?

8. What are your individual accountabilities in terms of: values, behaviors, and results?

9. Who holds you accountable for those contributions? How often do you calibrate with relevant others about how you are doing in each of those key areas (i.e., values/behaviors/results)?

10. What are the three most important steps you routinely take to align people with your leadership vision? Are you confident that those are the most effective initial steps for building alignment efficiently?

11. How would you grade the balance you have now between work and life outside of work (A-F scale)?

12. What would it take to get a higher grade next year without losing any substantial effectiveness?

13. What are the two things you could master to make you a candidate for a tougher assignment next year?

14. What do you want your legacy to be? Does it matter that you have a clear intention now around your leadership legacy or should time tell us what your leadership signature was?

15. Who are the smartest, best-informed people you count on regularly from outside your organization to challenge your thinking and build your understanding of key trends and best practices? How did you select those people? How often do you consult with them?

16. Are you deeply fulfilled with your career in general and your current leadership assignment in particular? What might make you more fulfilled and are you working now on implementing those adjustments?

17. Which of these questions would you say is irrelevant to your individual leadership success?

So, how did you do? Most clients tell me that answering these questions wasn’t as easy as they thought. Why? Because these questions force executives to assess four key elements of a leadership platform—elements that should be, but are not commonly, top-of-mind to the individual leader or the people he/she wants to lead.


What is your essential purpose as a leader? What are your core operating principles, values, or behaviors that you are committed to modeling as a leader? How is your mission relevant to you, the organization, and the marketplace?


Do you have a concise, differentiating, understandable, relevant, timely, memorable call-to-action for people to follow? Do people know what they should start doing AND stop doing to manifest this new state or do they think you are just asking them to do more (i.e., what you want now in addition to what you wanted yesterday?)


Have you figured out, or do you have the resources to help you figure out, how your particular call to action should best be achieved? Can you, with confidence, show the way? Do know the critical success factors and the elements that will guarantee your failure? Remember: people want to be win but in the most effective and efficient way. Noone hopes only to survive the change — we want to prosper with it, and through it.


Have you selected the core measures that you will track to ensure your progress and bragging rights? Are the metrics you’ve chosen credible and simple to remember, track, and report? Does everyone know and agree with how success will be determined?

The four elements of mission, message, method, and metrics are key to your leadership platform. These choice-points will broadcast: (1) what your leadership is about and why it matters to you, the organization, the market, and the community (mission); (2) how you will consistently reference your platform (message); (3) your implementation strategies (method); and (4) how success will be determined (metrics).

It is hardly easy to drive change successfully in today’s organizational and market place environments. In fact, when recently studied, 75% of change efforts fail. And when asked, individuals are more quickly able to identify examples of failed leadership than examples of great leadership.

So leaders have their work cut out for them. And coaching is a proven way to accelerate skill development and drive success by helping individuals frame their essential purpose, why it matters, and how they will be successful both ultimately and at engaging others on the journey.

But coaching may not be right for everyone. These 17 questions can help answer if it might be right for you.


Laurie Anderson, PhD, is a clinical psychologist with over 20 years experience as an executive coach to leaders in organizations ranging from Fortune 100 companies to the World Bank. Visit or call 1-708-524-2444 for more information on Laurie’s services for individuals, groups, and organizations.

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