Choosing the right executive coach

Choosing the right executive coach

More and more, executives and senior leaders are turning to executive coaches for help. In the United States, more than $1 billion was spent on coaching in 2017, an increase of approximately 20 per cent from 2012. The number of executive coaches in the marketplace worldwide has grown by 60 per cent from 2007 to 2012 based on research commissioned by the International Coach Federation. 

The expanding popularity of executive coaching is a response to compelling demands both leaders and organizations face. In the early 1980s, leaders in fast-moving, lean organizations began to recognize the need for a set of skills not traditionally taught in business school. Communication and relationship skills required to engage and influence employees, versatility and adaptability in the face of rapid change, and cultural sensitivity among people with diverse backgrounds are mandatory attributes for today’s leader. Recent research finds nearly all senior executives want outside leadership advice, but almost two-thirds do not receive any. Employees expect emotional intelligence from supervisors and colleagues, yet find it’s in short supply. 

Many talented, motivated, and highly capable executives rarely pause to reflect on their own behavior. As a result, they may reach the highest echelon of an organization without addressing their most pressing weaknesses. Coaching allows for leaders to slow down, become more self-aware, and understand the impact of their words and actions on their teams and the organization as a whole. Coaching doesn’t end with self-awareness. It is a form of active learning that transfers essential communication and relationship skills. Strategic coaching integrates personal development and organizational needs. 

The hazy executive coaching landscape 

Executive coaching engages with people in personalized ways to help people know themselves better, be more present, and realize their own potential. The essentially human nature of the coaching process is what makes it so effective — and also what makes it nearly impossible to quantify. 

The practice of executive coaching itself is rooted in small number of disciplines, including management, consulting, organizational behaviour, and psychology. With so many influences on the profession of coaching, executive coaches can come from varying backgrounds with wildly diverse qualifications. 

So far, a set of criteria that demonstrates conclusively what makes an executive coach has yet to be established. Coaching certifications offered by self-appointed organizations or associations are difficult to evaluate. Barriers to entry of the coaching profession are nonexistent – many self-proclaimed executive coaches know little about coaching, and some know little about business. In addition, the advertising pitches of many coaches raise false expectations and can be designed to deceive the naïve.

How to select the right executive coach

Typically, when sourcing an executive coach, executives tap into their professional network to solicit referrals. What better way to find a coach than to find someone trusted by someone you trust?  But when it comes to coaching, referrals aren't enough. For instance, an executive coach with a background in psychology may be highly beneficial to a close friend. Indeed, mental health professionals often transition to the executive coaching profession and many do excellent work. But an adept psychologist may not possess the required business knowledge to be able to relate to the issues an executive encounters day-to-day. By relying solely on referrals, valuable time may be wasted with a coach that is the wrong fit for both the individual and their organization. 

Because no universally reliable credential exists to identify credible coaches, it’s important to scrutinize an executive coach's experience and education. Currently, the majority of the coaching industry relies on a linear approach to coaching development and certification. For instance, some certification models assume that coach practitioners develop in consistent and predictable ways and that coaching expertise is a fixed, definable end state. However, the practice and mastery of coaching itself is an ever-evolving process. A true coaching certification must be able to define the kind of work coaches are capable of, their ability to stay up-to-date with current coaching best practices, and include ways of assessing the calibre and impact of their coaching interventions.

Enter the Ivey LIFT Advanced Coaching Certification Program.

The Ivey LIFT (Leadership Insights for Transformation) Coaching Certification Program is North America’s first advanced-level coaching certification program for experienced executive coaches, rooted in university-based business education. The LIFT program accelerates a coach’s professional and personal development by combining leading edge research and practice, interaction with professors and expert practitioners from Canada’s leading business school, and dialogue with like-minded professionals who challenge each other and grow together.

This coaching certification is the first of its kind in Canada – an advanced coaching program rooted in university-based business education. These coaches will be recognized as the most effective and skilled business coaches in Canada, and some of the best in the world. They can confidently be dropped into any team, organization, or situation and elevate performance.  

Not only will the LIFT program provide experienced executive coaches with a platform to engage in their own development to empower leadership transformation, but it also provides a strong community of practice for coaches. This community provides lifelong learning opportunities so that coaches may continue to evolve and stay relevant for their clients.

Coaches leave the program with enhanced capacity to adapt to any coaching context and elevate the performance of individuals, teams, and organizations, armed with a powerful credential from Canada’s top business school. 

Not only is the LIFT program a great way for established coaches to differentiate themselves in a hazy coaching landscape, it provides a pool of trusted coaching candidates for executives to draw on to find the right coaching fit. An Ivey-certified coach will not only have the fundamental coaching skills, but they will possess the requisite business knowledge attained from the top business school in Canada. These two key competencies enable executive coaches to not only affect deep transformation, but also support peak performance.

For more information on the Ivey LIFT Advanced Coaching Certification Program, download a program brochure. The program begins March 1 in London, Ontario. 


About The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School
The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School is the home for executive Learning and Development (L&D) in Canada. It is Canada’s only full-service L&D house, blending Financial Times top-ranked university-based executive education with talent assessment, instructional design and strategy, and behaviour change sustainment. 

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