Executive coach or Trusted Advisor?

Bridging the gap between business and psychology

In a very complex and isolated world at the executive level, business leaders are striving for external guidance. The Executive Coaching profession has increasingly filled this void, yet there is still controversy surrounding the role of advice in professional coaching. While Executive Coaching is not yet measured scientifically, guidelines have been established and defined by The International Coach Federation. And the question defining Executive Coach versus Trusted Advisor remains.

How would we define Executive Coaching and what this really entails. According to the ICF, “Coaching is an ongoing partnership that helps clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance and enhance their quality of life”. Another definition by Sir John Whitmore defines Coaching as “unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance”.

Learning, performance and development are found to be common among these definitions. On the other hand the profession seems to shy away from proactive advise.

Below is a simple way to describe what the relationship between the Coach and the Coachee is today:

Help himself/herself

In other words an Executive Coach is here to listen, observe and customize his/her approach to individual client needs. They seek to trigger solutions and strategies from clients who are naturally creative and resourceful. The Executive coach’s job is to provide assistance in enhancing the skills, resources and creativity that the client already has. The coaching process should be limited to answering these three questions:


However many coaches are extending beyond this. In building long term relationships with executive clients, the Executive Coach becomes more of a Trusted Advisor, invited in a very narrow circle of trust, available at any moment but also allowed to voice his/her opinion and provide advice and directions.

As Karol M. Wasylyshyn described it, the Executive coach, or should we say the Talent Advisor, leverage four positions from which to consult. It can be described as follow:

Pi Executive Executive Coaching Echo Anchor Spark MirrorThe Echo dimension is to repeat leadership messages at appropriate times. Being a Trusted Advisor is to know when to be silent but also when to have the courage to reinforce messages and be a truth teller. It sometime requires a provocative stance which you can only afford if you have built strong and long term relationships. This can also describe the difference between an Executive Coach who will assist in a specific situation and a Trusted Advisor who will continuously be advising and influencing an Executive.

The Anchor dimension is probably the most obvious leverage a Trusted Advisor has. Thanks to long term interactions, the Trusted Advisor will use previous coaching sessions to reinforce certain directions and remind of past lessons learned.

While the Mirror dimension is commonly used by Executive Coach as well, the difference when you are a Trusted Advisor is the degree in which you convey messages. The right to engage gives you more authority to reinforce a message and remind your clients of previous behaviors – the mirror effect.

Finally because you have the benefit of a long-term interaction with your clients, you will be able as a Trusted Advisor to make sure that their intentions and plans are executed, should you need sometime to Spark these visions.

In conclusion Time is an essential factor to become a Trusted Advisor versus an Executive Coach. With Time you will earn the right to engage, with Time you will better understand the business constraints of your client, with Time you will become an Inside Outsider.

Article written by Pierre Trippitelli | © Pi Executive |   ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – 2016

From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.

Arthur Ashe