Professionalism in executive coaching


This post is meant for the readers of this blog who are coaches or thinking of becoming coaches, whether as a leader/internal coach in a company or as an external coach. Leaders who hire coaches might also be interested. It was inspired by the recent receipt of my own credential, a process that was surprisingly rigorous and years in the making.


I could have decided to proceed differently when I chose to become an executive coach. Some might argue that my years as an executive were enough to prepare me to do this work. Most of my clients would be satisfied with that background alone.

Instead, I chose a path to becoming (what I’ll call) a professional executive coach (emphasis on “professional”). I was interested in standing out from other coaches, and to do it in a way that modeled high standards, professional conduct and a code of ethics.

Your work history or background may not be enough to become a professional executive coach and sustain a business. Most markets are becoming crowded with coaches competing for work and many coaches who can’t make a living. You need to stand out to compete. Consider the following:

Get trained: Coach-specific training will teach you methodologies that get results. The International Coach Federation, or ICF accredited coach training provides a solid foundation from training organizations that have been vetted. The coaching models used seem simple, but are actually hard to put into practice; learning comes with plenty of practicums and feedback at most of the schools. What you pay for this training will pay you back many times financially, but also in your own personal/professional development.

Get coached: Hire a coach right away to help synthesize your learning, strengthen your confidence in using what you are learning, and get you started in your coaching business if you plan to start one. How can you coach others if you’ve never had the experience of being coached yourself? It was an incredible learning experience for me to work with that first (professional executive) coach, and many coaches (myself included) continue to hire coaches regularly.

Get clients: Most of you can showcase your corporate/business or executive background to land clients. Honestly – clients probably won’t ask you if you took any kind of professional coach training. Besides your background, they’ll care about the connection they make with you as well as your level of professionalism, which coach-specific training can help you with. If you perform in a professional manner, your first clients will provide referrals to more clients, giving you the practice you need to become an even better coach (thus getting more clients).

Continually learn: Corporate and business clients work in very complex organizations, providing lots of opportunities for coaching blunders that can cause problems for you and for them. The profession is changing fast. There is always something new to learn that will help you to get better at assisting your clients. Join your local/regional coaching organization. Read, attend conferences, webinars, seminars, and forums to keep up with changes.

All of these things are important to you as a coach and to the professionalism of the coaching industry. I highly recommend them if you want to be a professional coach with clients that get results. Clients and potential clients will notice your hard work and dedication.

The list above is the start to earning your coaching credential, something that will set you apart from other coaches. We’re noticing that organizations are beginning to ask for coaches with a credential.

I support the stance the International Coach Federation has taken on training and credentialing coaches. If you don’t know what that is, you can find out more here. It matters that coaches represent the highest standards, including becoming trained by institutions that exercise rigor, teach the core coaching competencies, and support a code of ethics. Browse the ICF website for more information.

If you are a coach or thinking of becoming a coach: get trained and get credentialed. I believe the future of executive coaching belongs to those who are professional in the work they do. The steps outlined above are a good way to start.




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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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