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Percentages of respondents ranked these qualifications as ‘Very Important’

And the Survey Says ...

Ingredients of a successful coaching relationship:

Question: Is the executive highly motivated to change?

Yes : Executives who get the most out of coaching have a fierce desire to learn and grow.

No: Do not engage a coach to fix behavioral problems. Blamers, victims, and individuals with iron-clad belief systems don’t change.

Question: Does the executive have good chemistry with the coach?

Yes: The right match is absolutely key to the success of a coaching experience. Without it, the trust required for optimal executive performance will not develop.

No: Do not engage a coach on the basis of reputation or experience without making sure that the fit is right.

Question: Is there a strong commitment from top management to developing the executive?

Yes: The firm must have a true desire to retain and develop the coached executive.

No: Do not engage a coach if the real agenda is to push the executive out or to fix a systemic issue beyond the control of the coached individual.

Question: Does the focus of coaching engagements shift?

All but eight of the 140 respondents said that over time their focus shifts from what they were originally hired to do.

“Absolutely! It starts out with a business bias and inevitably migrates to ‘bigger issues’ such as life purpose, work/life balance, and becoming a better leader.”

“Generally no. If the assignment is set up properly, the issues are usually very clear before the assignment gets started.”

Coaches were asked what companies should look for when hiring a coach.

Here’s how various qualifications stacked up.

Coaching in a Similar Setting

Certification in a Proven

Background in Executive

Quality of
Client List


Ability to

as a
Psychological Coach

Working in
a Similar Role as the Coach

   65%        61%       50%     32%       29%        27%       13%            2%

    YES                                                                        NO

     3%                                                                        97%
    76%                                                                       24%

Are you hired to address personal issues?

Have you ever assisted executives with personal issues?

Advises individual leaders on business matters

Involves management in goal setting

Paid for by the company

Paid to come up with answers

Focuses on organizational performance

Provides quantitative analysis of problems

Focuses on the past

Diagnoses and treats dysfunctional

Based on medical ethics

Paid for by the individual

Focus on the Future

Fosters individual performance in a business context

Helps executives discover their own path

Help achieved by direct questioning

Paid to ask the right questions

Tackles difficult issues at work & home

Helps executives discover their own path





The Coaching Field is Filled with Contradictions

Diane Coutu and Carol Kauffman

Coaches themselves disagree over why they’re hired, what they do, and how to measure success. Here’s what you should know.

In the seventeenth century, the French statesman Cardinal Richelieu relied heavily on the advice of Father François Leclerc du Tremblay, known as France’s éminence grise for his gray monk’s habit. Like the famous cardinal, today’s business leaders have their gray eminences. But these advisers aren’t monks bound by a vow of poverty. They’re usually called executive coaches, and they can earn up to $3,500 an hour.

To understand what they do to merit that money, HBR conducted a survey of 140 leading coaches and invited five experts to comment on the findings. As you’ll see, the commentators have conflicting views about where the field is going—and ought to go—reflecting the contradictions that surfaced among the respondents. Commentators and coaches alike felt that the bar needs to be raised in various areas for the industry to mature, but there was no consensus on how that could be done.

At one time, Coaches were most often hired to usher toxic leaders out the door. Now, they are more useful to develop executives and act as mentors and advisors.

Develop high potential or facilitate transition.

Act as a sounding board.

Address derailing behavior.




How Much it Costs

Most often you can expect to pay about $500 an hour, though the amount for a business/executive coach ranges from a low of $200 an hour to a high of $3,500 an hour. Lifestyle coaches can range from an hourly rate as low as $50 to $2,000, with most on the $100 an hour range.

How Long it Takes

Most coaches like to sign initial contracts of three to six months, though most corporate coaching engagements last seven to twelve months. More and more companies are bringing coaches in-house as full time employees.

Top 3 Reasons Exec Coaches are Engaged

What to Look for in a Coach

Responding coaches had mixed views on what qualifications are important.

Very                                      13.2%      

Not at all                              45.9%

Very                                       29.2%

Not at all                                28.5%

Is Coaching Personal?

Companies may not hire coaches to attend to issues in executives personal lives, but more often than not, personal matters creep in to the coaching/client relationship.

top. Today, most coaching is about developing the capabilities of high-potential performers. As a result of this broader mission, there’s a lot more fuzziness around such issues as how coaches define the scope of engagements, how they measure and report on progress, and the credentials a company should use to select a coach.

The Survey Methodology and Respondents

The analysis presented here is drawn from an online survey developed by senior editors at Harvard Business Review and Carol Kauffman of Harvard Medical School. They compiled a list of potential participants through their direct contacts, referrals from senior executives and HBR authors, and executive-coaching training organizations. Nearly 200 survey invitations were distributed by e-mail, and data were compiled from 140 respondents.

• Respondents were divided equally into men and women.

• The coaches are primarily from the United States (71%) and the United Kingdom (18%).

• 66% of respondents disclosed that coaching is their primary source of income.

• The group is highly experienced: 61% have been in the business more than 10 years.

• 50% of respondents come from the fields of business or consulting.

• 20% of respondents come from the field of psychology.

Do companies and executives get value from their coaches? When we asked coaches to explain the healthy growth of their industry, they said that clients keep coming back because “coaching works.” Yet the survey results also suggest that the industry is fraught with conflicts of interest, blurry lines between what is the province of coaches and what should be left to mental health professionals, and sketchy mechanisms for monitoring the effectiveness of a coaching engagement.

Bottom line: Coaching as a business tool continues to gain legitimacy, but the fundamentals of the industry are still in flux. In this market, as in so many others today, the old saw still applies:

Buyer beware!

They did generally agree, however, that the reasons companies engage coaches have changed. Ten years ago, most companies engaged a coach to help fix toxic behavior at the top.