A guide to executive coaching

Photo copyright Oxford Leadership
  1. How you can benefit from coaching
    I’ll explain the main reasons executives and companies hire coaches, and what the main benefits are.
  2. How to measure the impact of coaching
    It’s difficult to put a monetary value on investment on coaching. Therefore, according to surveys, most companies use qualitative indicators to measure impact. This section will ask a few critical questions and share the most common methods.
  3. Tips for hiring a coach
    These days, everyone seems to be calling themselves a coach, making it rather tricky to pick a good one. This section will walk you through the key selection criteria for hiring a coach.

First, the word coach… What does the word evoke in you?

I don’t really like the word “coach” because it’s used in so many contexts, and so many people are calling themselves coaches, without proper training, experience or an ethical foundation for their work. The word “coach” is a diluted term so let us distill the practice of coaching to what honours the potency of skilful coaching.

What is coaching?

A professional coach is a master of the process of cognitive self-development, is focused on the here and now, and is a catalyst for reflection and change.

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

A professional coach will help you explore and deal with this resistance.

What coaching is not

Surprised I have to write this but coaching is not a pink unicorn that aligns your chakras. Nor will coaching make the car of your dreams magically appear on your driveway if you manifest it daily.

Maybe you need a mentor instead of an executive coach?

If your primary reason for hiring support is enhancing your skills in your professional field, rather than cognitive exploration and development, a mentor can be very valuable to help you plan your route, guide the way, help you avoid the pitfalls, and cheer you on when the going gets tough.

Not ready to move forward until you’ve sorted out issues from your childhood?

Another common misconception is that coaching is similar to counselling or therapy. Like I said before, coaching is focused on the present and the path to the future and will only address past issues if it’s relevant for helping you move forward in the here and now. If you need to untangle issues on the path from the past to the present, you’re better off seeing a therapist rather than a coach.

Just want to get the job done? Hire a consultant.

The distinction between coaching and consulting generally well understood, but just to be clear: A consultant is hired to come with the right answers, a coach is hired to come with right questions.

The weird and wonderful world of “internet coaches”?

In the weird and wonderful world of internet I see a lot of “coaches” making bold extrinsic promises like the business coach who will help you build a six-figure income in one month as you work from home (along with many other, occasionally more realistic and credible pitches).

How an executive coach can benefit you

The essence of coaching is to help a client to clarify and calibrate their inner compass, and take steps towards living more true to themselves.

  • Not working well in a team
  • Poor interpersonal relationships

Measuring the impact of coaching

It’s difficult to quantify increased motivation levels, greater creativity and innovation, more effective teams, and the other ingredients of a successful and effective leader, in financial terms.

  • What is the cost of a dysfunctional management team?
  • What is the cost of lost opportunities because the executive doesn’t take time to reflect, dare to be challenged, nurture talent and look towards the future?

Most companies use soft indicators to measure the impact of coaching

A common method for evaluating the effectiveness of coaching is to perform a 360-evaluation or a self-assessment, or both, at the beginning of the coaching relationship and do the same at the end, or after sufficient time for behavioural change to be experienced, to get a qualitative indicator of the return of investment.

Two tips for hiring a coach

There are two things you need to consider when hiring a coach, experience and personality, and in that order.

How to evaluate a coach’s experience?

Evaluating experience of an executive coach means looking at two things: (a) coaching experience and (b) relatable experience.

Personal chemistry is critical for a rewarding coaching relationship

This is more important than coaching qualifications but make sure your shortlisted candidates understand and practice professional coaching.

  • Clear methodology

In summary

I wanted to write article this to help clear up the confusion around coaching and provide practical tips for how to identify and work with an executive coach.

  • When looking to hire a coach, make the long-list based on accredited coaches (I recommend ICF), then a shortlist based on experience and methodology, and finally meet a couple of coaches to evaluate personal chemistry.
  • Rather than focusing on ROI, ask yourself what’s the cost of not supporting your executive, and then measure impact with 360 feedback (in my experience the Leadership Circle Profile is by far the best tool for this).


HBR, Sherpa, CCL, ICF.

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Fredrik Lyhagen

Fredrik Lyhagen


Ready to become who you could be? I’m an Executive Coach and Leadership Consultant writing about Leading Self & Others from a lens of Integral, Jung and Zen.