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Cognitive-Behavioral Executive Coaching – Thoughts Influence Behavior

Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area Firm Executive Coaching Helping  Companies Assess, Select, Coach and Retain Emotionally Intelligent Leaders; Strategic Talent Management; Leadership Development; Competency Modeling; Succession Management; and Leadership & Team Building Retreats

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach

Cognitive-Behavioral Executive Coaching

I recently spoke with the VP of Human Resources of a San Francisco Bay Area company regarding providing executive coaching for the company CEO. She asked some very insightful questions to determine fit. She specifically wanted to know how I worked with different personality styles, and my methods for initiating changes in thinking and behavior.

The VP of HR and I spoke about my approach to coaching, and my belief that possessing a psychological understanding of human behavior based on neuroscience and business acumen are important competencies for coaching executives. We also spoke of the need for her organization to create a culture where innovation flourishes.

The VP of HR is interested in partnering with me in helping the CEO to develop his executive presence, judgment and decision-making capability. We further discussed how company executives can benefit by working with a seasoned executive coach.

Cognitive Executive Coaching

The primary principle of the cognitive approach to coaching is that the client's thoughts influence their behavior. The executive coach helps the client increase their awareness of their "automatic" thinking. Coaching helps the client evaluate if their view of the situation is helpful, and then helps the client identify more accurate and useful ways of viewing the situation leading to more adaptive behavior. The client's more constructive and expanded thinking about his/her particular situation and goals will lead to desired outcomes.

Behavioral Executive Coaching

A stricter, behavioral approach to coaching is less concerned about the reasons why a behavior developed and instead will focus on identifying the desired behavior by taking a step by step approach to identifying specific actions that will lead to more frequent demonstration of the valued behavior or competencies. Behaviors that are recognized and valued will in effect be rewarded and thereby reinforced.

Thoughts Influence Behavior

As an executive coach, I'm often asked by executives to be a collaborative thought partner. As a thought partner, I help my clients think with greater depth, more clarity, and less distortion - a cognitive process. Executive coaching is primarily a cognitive method. Cognitive coaching tools are often the essential foundations of many executive coaches' toolboxes.

However, there is more to executive coaching than a set of methods - cognitive methods or any other. Executive coaching without engaging the humanistic side of a compassionate and trustworthy coach won't likely get desired results. An executive coach who ignores the emotions of his clients will miss a crucial element for success. 

Executive coaches who incorporate emotional intelligence and self-knowledge in their leadership development work know that feelings are to be attended to as potential sources of useful information. Emotional self-awareness producing self-knowledge is a foundation for success in life and work. Even the executive coach who uses largely cognitive approaches must incorporate emotional content. After all, emotions are linked to cognition.

Cognitive Coaching Theory

Cognitive executive coaches believe that your moods are strongly related to, and often triggered by, your cognitions, or thoughts. Cognitions refer to the way you asses a particular situation - your perceptions, mental attitudes, and beliefs. Cognitions include the way you interpret things - what you say about something to yourself. 

Cognitive executive coaching is also informed by what it is not. Cognitive executive coaching does not attempt to help a client by focusing on the past, uncovering repressed ideas and wishes or aiding in the translation of conscious thoughts into their symbolic meanings.

The cognitive executive coach does not work changing behavior by rewards and punishments or gradual exposure to anxiety -provoking events. Rather the cognitive executive coach assists clients in identifying errors in their thinking and aiding them in adopting more accurate, useful cognitions.  Moreover, the cognitive executive coach may identify whether there is an absence of accurate, useful realty-based cognitions, even if specific thinking errors are not identified. 

My Executive Coaching Approach

My personal style of executive coaching is collaborative, holistic, values-based and action-oriented. I focus on the complete person, achieving agreed upon goals which are congruent with their core values and purpose. 

Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to grow emotionally intelligent leaders? Does your organization provide cognitive executive coaching for leaders? Sustainable leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more compelling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Would I benefit by working with an executive coach as a thought partner?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their leadership development programs.

Working with a seasoned cognitive-behavioral executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help leaders develop their executive presence and decision-making. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

For more information, please go to, write to, or call 415-546-1252.

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