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Unlocking Leadership Potential with Coaching: Finding the Right Match

Lone Figure Standing In Front Of Mountain

Change is relentless. As a growing array of new insights, technologies, and competitors emerge, organizations must constantly pursue competitive differentiation – meaning fixed long-term strategic plans start to look more like flexible collections of strategic projects. To stay nimble and seize new opportunities, organizations need leaders who are prepared to step up to these challenges.

Leading through uncertainty has never been easy. And with more leaders assuming larger mandates without clear succession plans, it’s even more challenging. Add in the overwhelming amount of information leaders must sift through, and finding the right development support is a make-or-break ingredient for long-term success.

80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence. Over 70% experienced improvements in performance, relationships, and communication at work.

International Coaching Federation

Keeping Pace: Where Leadership Coaching Fits

Leadership coaching is personalized leadership development, tailored precisely to address a leader’s unique priorities and context. In a dynamic, complex business environment, one-to-one coaching gives leaders a focused pathway for personal development and in-the-moment support needed to solve real organizational challenges.

  • Coaches help leaders cut through the noise.
  • Coaches create space for leaders to think and reflect.
  • Coaches target development.
  • Coaches challenge assumptions.
  • Coaches offer guidance.

While coaching for development isn't new, its reach has grown. Once limited to corporate elites, coaching now spans all levels, from senior executives to front-line and emerging leaders. And coaching is being delivered through more channels, from tech-driven platforms to highly personalized, intensive programs. More organizations have even developed their own in-house coaches. Coaching can serve as a potent catalyst for leadership development when aligned with strategy. However, with more available options, finding the right fit has never been more difficult – or important. Coaching is an investment of both money and time. A false start can represent significant lost opportunity cost; buyers, research your choices carefully.

Only 43% of respondents reported using a structured process to select their coach, indicating that many organizations may not be approaching the selection process in a systematic way.

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

Selecting the Right Coaching Option (For You)

In coaching, fit is key. What works for one leader or organization may not work for another. Because coaching is deeply personal, the right fit is essential — it's the bedrock of success.

Consider these success criteria and must-ask questions as you assess whether a coach or coaching provider is the right fit (for you or your organization):

‘Gets’ the Business Context 

Leadership coaching and business acumen go hand-in-hand. Coaches need a deep grasp of a leader's business context, encompassing their team, peers, customers, the organization, and the external landscape. This ensures coaching is pertinent and customized to the leader’s unique challenges and opportunities.

Questions: What is your background and leadership experience in a business context similar to mine? How will you ensure you understand the context in which I operate, including our market, organizational culture, and external pressures?

44% of executives who had received coaching said that their coach did not understand their business or industry well enough.

Manchester Review

Builds Commitment and a Path Forward

A vital aspect of coaching is ensuring leaders are fully committed and prepared for the journey ahead. This involves aligning priorities, areas of focus, and organizational goals, which can take time. The individual being coached must be ready to engage actively. They set the agenda. The coach facilitates the process, ensuring that agreed-upon objectives remain the central focus.

Questions: How do you collaborate with leaders to set coaching objectives? What role do I play in defining these goals, and how do you ensure they align with my organization’s priorities?

Sparks Self-Awareness

Successful coaching hinges on self-awareness. Coaches cultivate a growth mindset in leaders, often using assessment tools to deepen their understanding. These tools offer structured experiences, delivering honest feedback to reveal strengths and areas for growth. Enhanced self-awareness forms the foundation for leaders to refine their style and approach. Being open and curious is essential.

Questions: Are assessments like self-evaluations or 360-degree reviews part of your coaching process? How do you use assessment tools to enhance self-awareness and growth?

Research shows that coaching expertise trumps executive experience. “Ability to build rapport, trust, and comfort” is ranked as an important criteria in coach selection by 100% of leaders who received coaching. You can’t rely on CV alone.

Institute of Coaching

Challenges Assumptions

Coaches must challenge leaders to examine their leadership from varied angles, prompting them to challenge assumptions and explore fresh possibilities. While honest, direct, and occasionally provocative, the approach should always be respectful. The goal is to broaden leaders’ perspectives, nudging them beyond their comfort zones with supportive guidance.

Questions: Can you give an example of how you have challenged a leader’s assumptions in the past? How do you ensure that our coaching conversations are constructive and lead to meaningful insights?

Offers Alternatives and Teachable Moments 

Coaches guide by reframing options and presenting alternatives, pinpointing gaps and offering teachable moments. Instead of prescribing actions, they offer perspective, opening up new pathways and solutions for leaders to explore.

Questions: What approach do you take to guide leaders towards seeing different perspectives or exploring new pathways when faced with challenges? How do you ensure these moments are impactful and lead to growth?

Makes it Stick 

Coaches ignite leaders' potential through inquiry and facilitation, steering them toward effective leadership practices. Sessions should foster commitment, craft action plans, and pinpoint the next steps, ensuring that the learning translates into tangible behavioural changes.

Question: What strategies do you employ to help leaders integrate the changes and insights from coaching into their daily practices and decision-making processes?

Supports Personalized Lifelong Learning

Deeply engaged coaches can suggest relevant thought leadership and development opportunities specific to opportunities and challenges. This could be articles, podcasts, workshops or courses. In this way, coaching is a catalyst for ongoing learning and development.

Questions: How do you keep up-to-date with new ideas and knowledge? What resources do you share with your clients to support their learning and development?

Demonstrates Impact

Measuring coaching impact is crucial. Setting personalized, specific goals enables measurable outcomes and flexibility for adjustments. Success stories are vital for illustrating the concrete benefits of coaching, highlighting enhancements in leadership effectiveness and organizational performance.

Question: How do you know the coaching is working? How is success measured?

The Future of Leadership Coaching and Ivey’s Bold Ambition 

Looking ahead, coaching holds immense potential. With an embedded, effective learning culture, organizations see better engagement, creativity, and performance from their leaders – at every level. Coaching is proven to be one of the most effective methods to strengthen individual leaders and enhance organizational leadership effectiveness. Our vision for coaching at Ivey is bold and ambitious. With the right fit, we believe coaching can significantly benefit Canada’s leadership capacity, productivity, and standing on a global scale.


  • Lifelong learning
  • Evolution of work
  • Executive Education

About Ivey Leadership Coaching

The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School is Canada's top provider of leadership training and development. Offering expert guidance from a growing community of hand-selected leadership coaches, we provide personalized development for leaders at all levels where they need it most. Work with an Ivey coach and create immediate value for yourself and your organization. Click here to learn more about Ivey Leadership Coaching.

Founded on Ivey Business School’s real-world leadership approach, The Ivey Academy is a place where professionals come to get better, break old habits and establish new ones, practice, change, obtain coaching and support, and join a powerful peer network. Follow the Ivey Academy on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and Instagram.