Consumers Checklist for Executive Women Considering Coaching

Blog Post created by john.reed Champion on Feb 16, 2015

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Career ROI: 

The Buyers’ Checklist for Executive Women Considering Coaching


As the executive coaching market surpasses $3B, the most popular question from discerning executive women considering coaching is “Minimizing risk – how do I most wisely choose from a seemingly endless list of ‘executive coaches’ for the best bottom line results?” Professional women ‘get’ that accelerating their leadership development can drive individual and corporate success and that a top quality coach can help.


We know that for 30+ years, the coaching field has had no barriers to entry or consumer protection. An estimated 70,000+ people globally market themselves as ‘executive coaches’, confusing executives trying to vet and select the most qualified.  


The good news? Executive women increasingly report success in vetting coaches by focusing on the 4 fundamentals. It is increasingly clear that the 4 ‘must have’ competencies for executive coaches are: coaching (obviously), ethics, business and psychology. Below is a practical checklist for keeping our eyes on the ball and detailed information is provided in the book Pinpointing Excellence: The Key to Finding a Quality Executive Coach (   


Competencies #1 and #2 – Coaching and Ethics


Executive women are proactive in developing themselves – in ‘continuously improving’. They expect to be judged and rewarded on substantive training, education and merit. As such, then, they of course expect coaches to be fully educated and trained. So they’re often surprised to learn that most ‘executive coaches’ have little to no training in – amazingly – coaching! These women often respond as consumers, hoping to minimize risk and confirm service quality, by then asking if a coach is ‘certified’. 


Coaching Certification


While the supply of ‘executive coaches’ is huge, so is fast-growing number of ‘coaching certification’ programs. Some view this as positive because it provides more training options for aspiring coaches. Estimates are that 1000+ programs exist and, in the best of cases, provide reasonable training not just in coaching but also in the 2nd of the 4 fundamentals – ethics.


Others view these programs skeptically. There is no analog yet in coaching for single, industry-wide professional governing bodies like the American Medical Association or the American Bar Association, for example, so nobody certifies the certifiers. This means ‘coaching certification’ programs range enormously in quality from almost free, 1-hour dial in sessions to multiyear graduate training. No single certifying body is recognized as the legitimate global or even national standard and people with no knowledge of coaching start ‘certification programs’ to capitalize on confusion in the market. The bottom line then is that there are no minimum standards to be an executive coach and also none for creating and marketing a program certifying executive coaches. This essentially makes the term ‘certified executive coach’ unreliable and ambiguous.


Emerging Certification Standards


Lest we despair, a small number of programs can be considered solid. Opinions vary, but it could be argued that the following offer reliable training in coaching and ethics:


Association for Coaching

Association of Corporate Executive Coaches 

European Mentoring and Coaching Council

International Coach Federation

International Coaching Association

Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching 

Worldwide Association of Business Coaches 


A coach certified through these organizations may usually be expected to have a solid base in 2 of the 4 competencies: coaching and ethics. Keep in mind however that this coaching certification is a complement to – not a substitute for – depth the 3rd and 4th must have competencies, business and psychology.


Competency #3 – Business


Executive women make another assumption – often incorrectly – that coaches working with executives and their corporations have substantial experience and training in business. Be careful – most ‘executive coaches’ actually do not. Clarify for example how many years of practical management experience the ‘executive coach’ has and the quality and ranking of the MBA program from which she/he graduated.   


Competency #4 – Psychology


Executive women are typically psychologically sophisticated. Yet they can make one other false assumption – that coaches responsible for helping others change are extensively trained in key aspects of psychology including, for example, human behavior, adult development, personality and psychological assessments for identifying leadership styles, problem-solving skills, conflict management preferences and other executive characteristics. Again, be careful about assuming psychological depth and formal training in the ‘executive coach’ in front of you. Clarify for example how many years of psychological training and experience the ‘executive coach’ has and the quality and ranking of the doctoral or other graduate program she/he completed. 




Rise above confusing ‘noise’ in the executive coaching market by staying focused. Avoid distractions. Laser in on the “Big 4” – coaching, ethics, business and psychology – to accurately sift through options and pinpoint coaches best qualified to help reach your critical goals, for the best return on your investment of time and money.