The life of an executive is often misunderstood.
You’ve likely seen a memoir or two from a CEO that caught your eye or have heard the word of mouth stories of rags to riches glory. While the glory is real, make no mistake about it—living the executive journey is a lifestyle and not something that simply happens upon you.
This life is a labor of love and one that you need to be dedicated to completely. It is rooted in purpose and fueled by performance.
When you are on the executive track, you need to learn leadership qualities, continuously find sources of inspiration, and stay ahead of the game with your industry of choice.
Whether you’re already a CEO or you’ve just taken your first entry-level job but have huge aspirations, it all starts with creating a roadmap that works.
A person on the executive track needs to take care of their health while being willing to sometimes sacrifice sleep. It means becoming more enterprising, while also learning when to defer and listen to others.
Most of all, becoming a successful executive is entirely possible. With the right blueprint, an indomitable spirit, and the help of good coaches and mentors, you too can live this dream.
What’s more, it will become an inevitable reality as long as you are willing to put in the work. Get started in the right direction by using this executive coaching roadmap.
Know What You Want From Your Career
Before you jump the gun and hire an executive coach, keep in mind that this journey will go wherever you take it. No coach can do for you what you are not willing to do for yourself.
You have to have the vision to know exactly what you want from your career. You don’t have to have it all carved out in stone right away, but you should at least have a foundation to turn back to if you get off track.
Start with these points when you are dreaming up what you would like to achieve on this journey:
1. Set a Goal for Your Earnings
Money isn’t everything, but don’t make the mistake of believing that it is not essential.
While living a life of giving and helping others is noble, you will always be able to give more when your needs are met. If you don’t have a clear idea of how much money you would like to make, you probably will never make it.
When you are on the executive track, your career choices are wide open to you. By having a benchmark for how much you would like to earn, you will also have more autonomy over the decisions that you make and the roads that you travel.
Start big by dreaming up the ideal amount of money that you would love to earn.
Don’t be afraid to dream big, even if it scares you to say out loud or write down. In fact, you probably aren’t on the right track unless it does give you this reaction.
The biggest reason to shoot high is that it sets a standard that you will have to live up to. If your goal is to earn $50 million, what it really means is that you have to become a $50 million person.
This helps you decide who you want to be when you get out of bed every morning and how much you will have to invest in yourself as a professional on the executive track.
It also lets you know what not to settle for. If you know that you have larger aspirations, don’t allow yourself to be pigeonholed into decisions that keep you playing small. As the late motivational speaker and entrepreneur Jim Rohn said, the point isn’t just to achieve the goal, but what the goal makes of you.
2. Think About What Industries Excite You
On the surface, being an executive is an arbitrary title. These are people in the upper tier of companies and industries who set the tone for those who work under them. It is up to you to put the meat on the bones and figure out what it means to you.
The first thing you should do is get to know what industries excite you. This will let you know whether or not you are passionate enough about the industry enough to become a standard-bearer and influencer. Many people on the executive track got their start in some form of sales.
The reason for this is that sales is a skill that transcends just about any type of business. At its core, salespeople are skilled at researching, finding out the needs of customers, finding ways to fill those needs, and communicating to the customer in a way that makes them receptive to what the salesperson is offering.
All of this sounds simple, but it is an art and a skill that can feed you and others for your entire career.
Perhaps there are some specific industries or niches you would like to explore. The tech industry is booming right now and is clearly the industry that will lead the charge for the next century or so.
Society is only now closing the last few years of the Industrial Revolution. As advanced as tech is now, we have yet to scratch the surface of the sheer amount of change that will happen in our society. If you are a tech-oriented CEO or executive, you get to be on the front lines of these changes as they happen in real-time.
Choose an industry that inspires you so that you are willing to put in the hours that it will require. The executive track is filled with a lot of work that is done in the dark that no one will ever see or know about unless you tell them.
You will be more willing to invest in this time and energy if you are working in a field that you believe in with your full heart and being.
3. Find Out Your “Why” for Your Life and Career
When carving out your executive coaching roadmap, you always have to start with your “why.” On the surface, earning more money or getting the perks of a successful career sounds like enough. However, plenty of high-level professionals scratch off every goal, but ultimately feel empty on the inside because they were not clear on their why.
This part of the game requires some serious soul-searching since it will inform every step that you take for the next 20 years or so. As a helpful hint, a “why” that sustains you is typically rooted in a higher-level purpose that you are willing to give tirelessly to.
This way, you can put your head down and live your purpose rather than counting the cost every step of the way.
An example might be a financial advisor who was passionate about making other people millionaires because they went from eating noodles in a studio apartment to living financial freedom that buys them the time to do whatever they want in life.
If they hadn’t found out the keys to success, they wouldn’t be able to take summers off to spend time more time with their family or donate millions of dollars to charitable causes.
Another example is the single mother who was forced to become an entrepreneur because her job wasn’t giving her hours and her child was growing faster than she could keep up with. When her back was against the wall, she learned how to build a life that can take care of herself and others, and became passionate about teaching others how to do the same.
This is the factor that will inform your entire career, even if on the surface you appear to simply be a board director or the president of a company. The “why” will shape the type of business person that you become and will give you the fuel to work tirelessly and sacrifice for the greater good.
4. Determine the Areas You’d Like to Live
Because executive positions are high-powered jobs that not everyone can fill, you might find yourself having to relocate to take on some of the bigger and better opportunities. While there are certainly some years that you might have to pay your dues, have an idea in your mind about where you would like to ultimately end up.
Carve out a list of about 10 cities that you wouldn’t mind planting roots. You can always be flexible, but knowing that you are a warm-weather person or someone who appreciates midwestern sensibilities to the east coast is something that you want to find out about yourself before you are issued an offer of employment.
In fact, when you have a dream location, it puts more intention behind your grind and allows you to be at the cause of your road map, rather than the effect.
Think about the long-term ramifications of living in any area that you are attracted to. This means getting to know a bit about the cost of living and what it will be like to raise a family in that area. Do some painstaking research into this by scoping out properties and even taking the time to plan a visit.
When you are clear on where you might want to live, it can help you land that first job in one of these cities so that you can find out which companies are the best places for you to begin climbing the ladder.
5. Develop a Timetable Based on Your Age and Career Experience
Have a definitive timetable for the things that you would like to accomplish in your career as an executive. Rather than making them arbitrary, always attach some form of a timetable.
It doesn’t have to be written in stone, but you should always have a clear timetable and direction for where you are headed. This way, if you are off track, you will have a sense of urgency that can steer you back to the right direction.
This is particularly important on the executive track because it is a career path that can be so open-ended. Several professionals have had lofty aspirations, and as time went by, they forgot what path they were originally on.
If you have a clear direction for where you are headed based on years of experience, you can get into the right training programs and coaching regimen for people also on this track.
With this said, don’t get so caught up in arbitrary benchmarks based on your age that you forget to enjoy the ride or stress yourself out about what you haven’t yet accomplished. The key is to use this as a reference point for your executive roadmap and not a setup prison bars that makes you unhappy every step of the way.
The key is to outline this part of your career in pencil rather than pen so that you can make the vision plain, while also having the willingness to change what does not serve you.
6. Think About What You Want From Your Personal Life
Make no mistake about it— your personal and professional life converge when you are on the executive road map. This is not a nine-to-five, so you will be constantly seeking balance and recognizing that there is always intersectionality between these parts of your life.
For example, if you would like to start a family, the executive track might dictate moving to a different location and taking on jobs that require extreme hours or lots of travel. This sort of decision informs your dating life leading up to even starting a family, in addition to choosing a partner that is flexible.
At the same time, you will have to understand how to strike the balance between tackling your executive career head-on while still giving your partner and children their just due.
Several executives started with good intentions but quickly saw either their career or family life crumble.
Family issues aside, think about the kind of person you would like to become before you set out on this executive journey. If there are parts of the career that just don’t interest you, don’t feel the need to keep up with the others in the name of achieving arbitrary goals.
The more you know yourself, the better you will be able to enjoy both a fruitful personal life and professional life.
7. Concretely Figure Out What Contributions You Want to Make
After you have stepped foot onto your executive road map, the biggest decision you need to make is figuring out what you want to give to your industry. When your goal is to affect change and leave the industry or world better than you found it, this becomes a lifelong journey.
Big names that have climbed the ladder in their industry and achieved start status often have purposes to change the world that eclipse their original talent. By the time it is all said and done, you likely will have forgotten the thing that made them stars in their industry in the first place.
This is because of their greater contribution manifests in a number of different ways and is not limited to a single company or product. Figure out what talent or gift you have and squeeze the juice out of it so that you can leave your mark in a way that makes the most sense for you.
Understand the Life of an Executive
Once you have handled your preliminary soul-searching, it’s important that you actually learn what the life of an executive entails. Anybody can take a look at the fancy wardrobe or expensive cars, but do you really know what it means to be an executive?
Here are some perspectives that you should take on before you start seeking out executive coaching:
1. Expect Longer Hours Than the 9-to-5 Grind
First things first, put the idea of 40 hours completely out of your mind. Seriously. This is the first part of the roadmap that separates the dreamers from the people who really want to live the executive journey.
The simple fact of the matter is that when you hold an executive position, your days are driven by results and time on task, rather than counting the hours that go by. This doesn’t mean that you will always have your nose to the grindstone or even necessarily that you will work extreme hours, but what it does mean is that your days of trading time for money are done.
Don’t expect overtime or to hold off on giving your efforts because you have surpassed a 40-hour workweek. CEOs, in some form or fashion, have to be locked in around the clock.
It doesn’t mean that you have to take your work home to the point that it wrecks your personal life, but it does mean that developments might break in your industry or company at any time around the clock.
You might get a phone call in the midnight hour about a deal that is about to go through or may even have to answer a question about something pressing while you are on vacation. It is important to set boundaries and space, but you also have to be realistic about the fact that you are indispensable once you reach a certain level.
2. Get Used to Doing More Than You Get Paid For
If you are going to reap the rewards and recognition of this high-profile position, you also have to be willing to do more than the minimum laid out by the job description. In fact, the heart of true leadership is being willing and ready to be the first person in the building and the last to leave.
Leadership gurus often profess the importance of leaders to act as servants rather than bosses. When you can lead from the front, people are more likely to follow.
When the people that work under you see you giving 100% and not counting the cost, this is how a person getting paid a fraction of what you take home will feel compelled to give their all when they see you aren’t above doing even the most menial tasks.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to make a show of things, and you must learn to delegate. But the point is that your North Star should be making sure that the company is headed in the right direction even if it means giving tirelessly of yourself to make sure of it.
3. Plan to Become a Leader, Rather Than Waiting to Be Told What to Do
Executives have to be decisive self-starters. If you always have to be told what to do, you might cap out at a management position, but won’t be able to crack the grass glass ceiling into reaching the executive level.
The reason for this is that the company or industry will only go in the direction that you set. This means being at the cause, rather than the effect, and finding creative solutions that you may not currently have an answer for.
Decisiveness is the keyword here.
In most situations, it’s not that people don’t have good ideas or direction, it is that they second-guess too much to pull the trigger and decide. One of the best mindset switches you can ever make on the executive level is to not get caught up in purely make the right decision, but instead, making the decision right.
What this means is that after doing a reasonable amount of assessment, pick a course and see it through. This will prevent you from getting caught up in analysis paralysis because you won’t go in any particular direction.
When you make a decision, have the confidence that you will edit and fine-tune until you achieve the desired results. This means being willing to make mistakes and be wrong in the short-term so that you can win in the long term.
4. You Might Have to Travel a Lot
When you’re on the executive level, travel isn’t a perk, it’s an obligation. Whenever people get their degree and eagerly set out into the workforce, travel is often one of the most sought-after job opportunities they seek.
However, don’t be surprised if travel begins to become a burden or obligation that isn’t always as romantic or fun as it once seemed.
However, on the executive level this is what you signed up for. You are the brand and the brand sometimes has to travel to make appearances or participate in meetings of the mind that require racking up frequent flyer miles and hotel stays.
Make sure that you put your routine together so that travel can be straightforward. This could mean gathering frequent flyer miles, purchasing high-quality luggage, and arranging for drivers that can pick you up when you touch down.
Collect hotel reward points and keep track of your expenditures for write-offs and company reimbursements. Always have an itinerary for your travel as well to stay on task.
5. Get to Know the Appearance and PR Part of the Gig
You will also have to set aside a budget for upgrading your appearance. No matter how well you do your job, deals get closed and new business is garnered when you create excellent first impressions. A CEO or other executive will have to invest in some high-quality attire and learn the unspoken and unwritten business dress codes and formalities.
It doesn’t mean that you have to purchase name brand designer clothing, but understanding the impression you give off is part of the gig. In fact, people that seek out executive coaching are given entire classroom sessions on what to wear and how to wear it.
The points on your resume help get you the executive job, but it is the soft skills that keep you in the job. This also means being mindful of any statement or written word you issue to the public.
While everyone has freedom of speech, the CEO of Exxon doesn’t get to go on Twitter and rant about whatever comes to their mind. In a world where everyone is put under a microscope, you will become attached at the hip to your company’s public information officer. These PR professionals will help to run your social media and will coach you on what to say and not say online or in interviews.
It’s okay to be yourself, but once you reach the executive level, you are representing your company every time you are in the public eye for any reason.
6. Shadow and Develop Relationships With Some Executives
Some of the best executive coaching you will ever get comes from nurturing relationships. As you make your way through your industry, start developing relationships with people who are already on the executive level that they reach.
This way, you will get to receive a bird’s-eye view on what the job actually entails and how these professionals live their lives. The relationship acts as a sneak preview to the professional life that you hope to someday lead.
Once you have a rapport, don’t be afraid to ask questions or even ask if you can shadow them. It will surprise you to see just how open even the most high level professionals are to this.
They were once where you are and understand what it is like to have a desire but not know exactly how to get there. By nurturing these relationships and learning, you’re getting a valuable education that money can’t buy.
Play the long game with this relationship and get to know them as a person rather than simply taking it as an opportunity to cash out on quick favors.
7. Research Some Executives That You Can Study From Afar
You can also learn more about the executive roadmap by having some personal heroes. Thanks to YouTube, social media, and the internet as a whole, finding out how executives live and what shapes their mentality no longer has to be a mystery.
You can gain a lifetime of valuable insight by simply studying these people from afar. What you will realize is that there is a staggering amount of common mindsets and disciplines that people in all industries have stuck to to get where they are today.
You can replicate what worked and avoid the mistakes so that your track is more straightforward.
Seek Out Coaching and Guidance
Once you are clear on your intention and ready to travel the executive path, it’s time to get the coaching and skills you need to stand out and grab those positions. Use these tips and start reaching out to some professional coaches:
1. Build Your Library and Become a Voracious Learner
The greatest thinkers and achievers in history are often men and women who were also voracious readers. The simple fact of the matter is that lifetimes of knowledge and wisdom are stored in books. If you decide to become an executive, you have to become a scholar.
Start building your library and take it upon yourself to grow it by volumes each and every year. Begin with some classics that teach you how to set your finances up, set and stick to goals, and grow as a leader.
You can also dive into books specifically catered to your industry or other areas of personal development. With that said, don’t make the mistake that so many make, of using these books as infotainment, rather than putting them to use.
Take out a notebook and write some notes of each book that you read. You should come away with at least a few bullet points that you can put to use in your life today. You’re not going to retain every bit of information the first time, so these are books that you will have to revisit time and time again.
When you’re constantly taking in information, these books will have a funny way of finding their way back at the top of your reading list at a time that you need them the most.
You will really multiply your learning when you start listening to audiobooks. Whether you have a lengthy commute, spare time while cooking and cleaning, or hours on a flight, audiobooks let you take in impeccable amounts of information in a fraction of the time it would take you to read the entire book.
You will also find these books to be ice breakers, because other executives on the path are always reading. In fact, you’ll end up reading and recommending many of the same books no matter who you meet.
Getting or giving a book recommendation is a great way to open the door to conversation and have a reason to follow up with people.
2. Subscribe to Publications in Your Industry
Aside from books, you always need to know what’s going on in your industry and the business world as a whole. Start by subscribing to the go-to publications that others on this level are reading.
That way, you will be caught up on current events and able to know exactly what is going on. You will be in a better position to brainstorm how you can get in on the cutting edge of business and industry changes.
3. Hire a Professional Executive Coach
A successful executive roadmap will always involve hiring a professional executive coach. Think of this as an investment into you your career and brand, and not some form of extra credit or an optional expenditure. All of the best executives in the world get coaching, and their track record speaks for itself.
Executive coaches are the kingmakers of the business world that groom the future leaders of tomorrow. They will sit down with you to assess your goals and will hammer out concrete plans of action to get you there.
These plans involve shoring up your weaknesses and building on your strengths. Maybe your resume is weak in certain areas. An executive coach can recommend training and workshops that will get you the experience that you need.
For others, perhaps you are great at the work you do, but are a poor communicator. Executive coaches can help you develop the skills to work on your pitch and take over a room with confidence and congruence.
All of these matters add up, and having frequent access to skillful coaches will be the difference-maker that you need to thrive. Rather than treating this like a one-time fix, treat executive coaching the way an actor does acting classes. There is never a time that you stop learning, and the constant coaching sessions is what keeps your skills sharp.
Make sure that your executive coach also understands the industry and has a background that lets you know that they are credible and what they do. When you know your executive coach has been around some of the top executives in the industry, it becomes easier to submit to their expertise in the name of getting better and boosting your career.
4. Start Attending Seminars Related to Executive Leadership and Professional Development
Some of the best coaching happens when you attend seminars and events. No matter what industry you are in, there are plenty of executive leadership training opportunities available.
These events consist of workshops and panels you can attend, in addition to a wealth of networking opportunities. You will come away with so many valuable insights that you can take back with you so you can immediately affect change at your company and in your career.
Consistently filling your schedule with these sorts of events also pushes you out of your comfort zone and helps you to add new pivots to your game. When you are constantly putting yourself out there, getting better and learning new information will become your new comfort zone.
These events also put you in the same room as some of the biggest movers and shakers, and give you opportunities to get critiqued in a way that sharpens you and makes you immediately better than you were before attending the event.
5. Become a Better Communicator
Without question, communication is a skill you will have to keep improving for the rest of your career. The best ideas in the world don’t matter if you cannot communicate them effectively.
Executives are responsible for getting people to follow them, and people only follow leaders whose message and mission they understand. Your executive coach can assist you with public speaking, interview skill, and other forms of training that help you effectively express yourself in any setting.
Believe it or not, many people on the executive level today are even taking improv classes regularly so that they feel comfortable existing in the present moment and communicating themselves without getting too trapped in their heads.
This training will allow you to be more spontaneous and to clearly express yourself under pressure.
Use This Executive Coaching Roadmap to Build the Career of Your Dreams
When you follow the executive coaching roadmap above, you’ll always be headed in the right direction. What you will find is that the road to executive career excellence involves a mixture of doing for self and learning when to lean on the help of a professional coach that can push you further.
Throughout the way, you’ll need to master everything from social media marketing to public speaking. In the end, you will be in the driver’s seat no matter what area of business interests you the most.
Take the time to get in touch with us today to learn more about sales, executive development, and so much more.