Hiring an Executive Coach

Hiring an Executive Coach

Hiring an Executive Coach

In the ever-evolving landscape of business, executives face numerous challenges that require not only strategic thinking but also personal and professional development. Recognizing the need for continuous improvement, many executives turn to executive coaching as a valuable resource. However, not all executive coaches are created equal. To maximize the benefits of coaching, it’s essential to identify and work with a coach possessing specific critical skills. In this blog post, we will explore the key certification and skills that make an executive coach effective and valuable for the growth and success of today’s leaders.

  1. Professionally Credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF, PCC)

As mentioned before, not all “coaches” are created equal, and not all individuals calling themselves “coaches” are professionally trained and credentialed. Credentialing by the International Coach Federation is the globally recognized credentialing program that is rigorous in both the required training and continuing education requirements for coaches. In the United States, any coaching engagements with the US government must be performed by an ICF, PCC level coach. With a credentialed coach, you are hiring an individual that knows the value in providing true coaching and how it differs from mentoring and consulting.

2. Deep Industry Knowledge or Strong Business Experience?

A valuable executive coach must have a strong business mind and business experience, but there is no need for an executive coach to have specific, deep industry knowledge. In fact, often, when a person is hired as a “coach” with the expectation that they are bringing “deep industry knowledge,” what the coachee is hiring is a consultant. 

Deep industry knowledge can often get in the way of invaluable coaching around “rethinking” and the challenging of assumptions. It is this type of thought partnership one finds in coaching that does not arise in consulting. I have done both coaching and consulting, and each have their value in the right place at the right time.

Both coaching and consulting go beyond the surface and can provide targeted and relevant guidance/coaching, helping executives navigate challenging complexities. Consultants lean on their expertise to solve your problems. Executive Coaches lean on general business knowledge and intense coach training and behavior change techniques to help you solve problems and create lasting change.

3. Exceptional Communication Skills:

Effective communication is at the heart of successful coaching. An executive coach must be able to convey complex ideas clearly and concisely, fostering a strong coach-client relationship built on trust and understanding. This involves active listening to grasp the nuances of the executive’s communication style, challenges, and goals.

Furthermore, a skilled coach should be adept at asking powerful questions that provoke thought and self-reflection. The ability to facilitate open and honest communication is crucial in helping executives explore their strengths and weaknesses and develop actionable plans for improvement.

Excellent coaches have also mastered the art of listening, to use a line from Simon Sinek. Coaches are trained and have natural skill in listening to what is spoken and unspoken to not only hear the words but understand the meaning.

4. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence:

Empathy is a cornerstone of effective coaching. Executives often face high levels of stress, uncertainty, and pressure, and an empathetic coach can provide the emotional support needed to navigate these challenges. Moreover, a coach with high emotional intelligence can accurately perceive and understand the emotions of their clients, enabling them to tailor their approach to each individual’s needs.

By fostering a supportive and non-judgmental environment, an empathetic coach helps executives feel comfortable sharing their concerns and vulnerabilities. This, in turn, enhances the coaching process by promoting a collaborative and constructive relationship.

5. Goal Setting and Action Planning:

One of the primary objectives of executive coaching is to help leaders set and achieve meaningful goals. An effective executive coach should be skilled in guiding executives through the process of defining clear, measurable objectives that align with both personal and organizational aspirations.

Moreover, a coach must assist in creating actionable plans to reach these goals. This involves breaking down larger objectives into manageable tasks, establishing timelines, and identifying key performance indicators. The coach’s role is to provide the necessary tools and frameworks for executives to stay focused and motivated on their journey to success. Beyond this, a coach must have a “bag of tricks” that support behavior change and help clients get out of their own way!

6. Adaptability and Flexibility:

The business landscape is dynamic, and executives must be agile in their decision-making and leadership approach. Similarly, an effective executive coach should demonstrate adaptability and flexibility in their coaching style. Different executives have unique personalities, learning preferences, and leadership styles, and a one-size-fits-all approach is rarely effective.

A coach’s ability to tailor their methods to suit the individual needs of each executive ensures that the coaching process remains relevant and impactful. Whether it involves adjusting communication styles, modifying coaching techniques, or incorporating new tools, adaptability is a critical skill for an executive coach to possess.

7. Credibility and Professionalism:

Credibility is paramount in the realm of executive coaching. Executives are more likely to trust and engage with a coach who has a proven track record of success, relevant qualifications, and a strong professional reputation. Credentials such as certifications from reputable coaching organizations, relevant degrees, and a history of successful coaching engagements contribute to a coach’s credibility.

Furthermore, professionalism is crucial in maintaining the integrity of the coaching relationship. A coach should adhere to ethical standards, maintain confidentiality, and approach coaching engagements with a high level of integrity. This not only builds trust but also ensures a safe and confidential space for executives to address sensitive issues.

8. Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking:

Executives often seek coaching to navigate complex challenges and solve problems that may be hindering their professional growth. A skilled executive coach should possess strong problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities to help clients analyze situations, explore alternative perspectives, and develop effective solutions.

By guiding executives through a structured problem-solving process, a coach enables them to address challenges with a strategic mindset. This involves identifying root causes, evaluating potential solutions, and implementing action plans that lead to sustainable results.

9. Continuous Learning and Development:

The business environment is in a constant state of flux, with new trends, technologies, and challenges emerging regularly. A successful executive coach recognizes the importance of continuous learning and professional development to stay abreast of industry changes and coaching best practices.

Engaging in ongoing education, attending relevant workshops, and staying informed about the latest research in leadership and coaching are all indicators of a coach committed to personal and professional growth. This commitment ensures that the coach remains a valuable resource, equipped to guide executives through the evolving landscape of leadership.


Choosing the right executive coach is a crucial decision for any leader committed to personal and professional growth. By prioritizing coaches with business experience, exceptional communication skills, empathy, goal-setting expertise, adaptability, credibility, problem-solving abilities, and a commitment to continuous learning, executives can ensure a coaching relationship that is not only productive but transformative.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of executive coaching lies in the collaborative effort between the coach and the executive. When these critical skills are present, the coaching experience becomes a powerful catalyst for leadership development, empowering executives to overcome challenges, maximize their potential, and achieve sustainable success in an ever-changing business landscape.

Interested in hiring an Executive Coach? Reach out to Kimberly at KimberlyPutmanCoaching.com to learn about her experience, success stories and methodologies.