So you think you want an executive coach?


Guest post By Brian O. Underhill, Ph.D. and Victoria Hendrickson

Executive coaching is a booming industry worth over a billion dollars across the globe. According to our latest research*,
97% of organizations indicate that their primary use of coaching is for leadership development. Whether you have observed improvement of someone using a coach, you’ve read about coaching or coaching has been suggested to you, its’ best to ask yourself a few questions before you start working with a coach.

Are you ready to work both smart and hard?

  • Your coach is here to guide you through a development process, but you must do the heavy lifting.
  • Coaching requires a serious commitment of both the coach and coachee. Plan to commit 10-16 hours a month, to be spent with your coach, getting feedback from stakeholders, and completing development activities.
  • Be honest with yourself, are you ready to make serious changes? Real development requires time and energy. If you feel you are already stretched too thin, consider a more appropriate time to begin using a coach.
  • In a recent survey*, when asked for advice for first time coachees, one leader said, “Be honest with yourself and be willing to share where improvements can be made. Be open to change and trying something new.

Are you ready to pick the right coach?

  • In order to get the most out of a coaching engagement, its important to find a coach that you can connect with, who can push you to the next level.
  • Ask your organization for a list of pre-approved coaches. You should be able to review coach bios, and interview potential coaches to find a good match.
  • According to current research*, the most important criteria to leaders selecting a coach are: experience dealing with specific leadership issues, experience and skills as a coach, and the ability to build rapport.
  • One leader said, “Matching is everything!”

Are you ready to measure results?

  • Yes, it is possible to measure the results of an executive coaching engagement, so please take advantage of it!
  • Your coach should suggest methods of measuring progress. Some methods of measuring progress are mini-surveys, mini-360s, and interviews with stakeholders.
  • Inform your boss of your development goals and action plans. This way, they can support you and offer helpful input along the way.
  • Your boss will be especially helpful when its time to assess progress and areas for future development.

If you think you’re ready for a coach, you are in for a life-changing journey. A manager surveyed told us “I would say if you have coaching done well, you change your life, and your life as a leader.”

Keep in mind that while coaching is an integral part of your development, it should not be the only means of your development. Most coaching engagements last between six and twelve months, sometimes longer. By this time, coached leaders have met important goals, and learned how to lead themselves through the developmental process. Be sure that you and your coach keep a dialog about when the end of the coaching engagement might be, and how you will continue your learning and development efforts after that.

*Research in progress.

Brian Underhill, Ph.D. is an industry-recognized expert in the design and management of worldwide executive coaching implementations. Brian is the author of Executive Coaching for Results: The Definitive Guide to Developing Organizational Leaders (Berrett Koehler: 2007). He is the Founder of and CEO of CoachSource.

Victoria Hendrickson is a doctoral student at Alliant International University. She leverages her human resource background and interests in organizational change to contribute to the field of leadership development.


I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.