Businesses find it hard to identify fit-for-purpose coaches

Senior talent professionals find identifying external executive coaches with the right mix of skills and experience a frustrating experience.

This was one of the key findings of a study by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) UK and the Institute of Business Consulting (IBC).

Coaches need to explain and distinguish themselves with greater precision and subtlety and buyers need to show greater finesse in drawing up person specifications for coaches and in their approach to coach selection and recruitment, says the report, External executive coaching: a joint study of sponsors´ experiences and perspectives, by Paula Roberts, the report’s author and a member of both the EMCC and the IBC’s Steering Committee for Coaching

Diane Newell, managing director, EMCC UK, said, “It is clear that in selecting coaches buyers are looking for surety around their practice and ethics as a base line, through qualifications and accreditation. To find the coaches who really meet the organisation’s need they also want to be able to differentiate at a higher order for example around a coach’s general business acumen, sector specific experience and the ability to work credibly and effectively at a senior level”.

The study set out to gain a better understanding of corporate buyers’ perspectives on coaching and the coaching profession through interviews by experienced coaches with 20 senior decision-makers.

Structured reflection, raising self awareness and confidence were highlighted as the most significant benefits of external executive coaching. Other benefits include better strategic working and networking, and countering loneliness in leadership. Concerns include sustainability of behaviour change, risk of dependency and that some types of intervention originating in therapy are unsuited to business context.

There was wide divergence in perspective as to “the right conditions” for effective and cost-effective coaching, particularly between the public and private sectors.

Public sector sponsors tend to be more “light touch”, with heavy reliance on robust coach selection procedures for quality assurance and accountability. There was often an assumption that business benefits would naturally follow wholly client centred coaching programmes although this is shifting.

Private sector sponsors were highly conscious of value for money, with robust contracting and close sponsor involvement the cornerstone of ROI. There was strong support for a non-directive approach in coaching, with emphasis upon vigorous challenge and skilful feedback and unwavering focus upon agreed agenda and outcomes.

There was little appetite generally for formal and quantitative ROI evaluation and widespread frustration that line managers are insufficiently engaged in contracting.

The IBC was created by the merger of the Institute of Business Advisers and the Institute of Management Consultancy, previously two separate organisations within the Chartered Management Institute.

For a copy of the report, contact Paula Roberts: paula.roberts @
See X, pages 12 and 13 (Selection report)

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1 reply
  1. says:

    Working in both the public and private sector as an Executive Coach I have encountered a variety of ways of being selected. The worst was in the private sector where an experienced coach interviewed me without me knowing it was an interview and proceded to make assumptions about me as a coach based on a few examples of experience. As an Executive Coach I encouter many different scenarios and could be ‘boxed’ differently for each. My specialism is being an Executive Coach and not a specific field within that. This broad approach and ability to be flexible in my approach is crucial for the successful achievement of both the coachee’s and organsiational client’s goals. If we become too ‘boxed’ this flexibility of approach may be lost which I feel would be very detrimental to the success of coaching.

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