On Myths about Executive Coaching

von Karsten Drath

For the most part managers know what to expect from professional services companies. Strategy consultants will come up with lots of slides full of insightful analysis, headhunters will fill the open slot in your leadership team with seasoned talent, and auditing firms will help your company optimize taxes while hopefully staying honest towards the authorities. But what do executive coaches do? Hardly any profession has so many myths going around concerning what they actually do and don’t do. Here are the top myths about this profession and how the reality looks like. 

Everybody can call themselves a Coach.

True. Just as everybody can put “Consultant” on their business card, every person can call themselves a “Coach”. The title is not protected internationally. But how do you ensure quality and professionalism? Next to client references and own business experience managers should ensure the quality of their coach by one simple criterion: A serious executive coach will be certified by a professional body. Internationally there are three organizations considered top notch: The International Coach Federation (ICF), the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and the International Association of Coaches (IAC). The certification standards of these organizations are comparable, thus making the selection of a coach so certified almost risk-free.

Coaching Does Not Work.

Not true. The effectiveness of coaching as such has been proven in numerous studies. What is true though is that coaching hardly works if the client does not want to reflect, question himself or change. Matter-of-factly research has identified the following factors to accurately predict the success of an executive coaching process. Firstly, it is important that the client sees the coach as competent, experienced and trustworthy. A positive gut-feeling here makes a lot of difference. Secondly, it is important that the manager who decides to work with a coach kind of likes that person so that there is a good level of rapport. So good chemistry is also key. Thirdly, the motivation, commitment and endurance that the client puts into the process is a key success factor. Therefore, as said earlier, if you think about getting some coaching, your motivation to change is crucial for the success. Other success factors are ethical considerations like the confidentiality of everything which has been said during the coaching.

Coaching is for Managers in Trouble.

Partially true. Indeed in some cases managers are asked to work with a coach when they struggle to meet expectations with regards to leading people or interacting with key stakeholders. Luckily these mandates are the exception in our experience. In most cases successful managers with a high potential choose to work with a professional sparring partner to leverage the last 10% of their potential and to discuss leadership challenges that they need to solve. 

Karsten Drath works with top managers and their teams to improve their leadership effectiveness and resilience. He is a certified Executive Coach and Psychotherapist, a published author and keynote speaker, and is one of the Managing Partners of Leadership Choices, an international consultancy focusing on leadership development at Top Management level. Looking back on more than 15 years of own leadership experience in several international roles he knows the challenges that come with the executive lifestyle and also how to cope with them.