5 Traits that Define The Ideal Executive Coach, According To Their Clients!

I recently interviewed a series of senior corporate executives who all had experience with executive coaching and asked them “what characteristics define the “ideal” executive coach?”

The interviews were part of a branding project I was hired for, to help an Executive Coach define and sharpen his value proposition, align his values with his public image and develop a go-to-market strategy. Instead of simply relying on referrals and inbound activities, he wanted to develop a more proactive approach to grow his business. 

So here is how those corporate executives defined the ideal executive coach? 

  1. He/She empathizes and listens to understand:

The ideal coach is often described as someone who listens to understand, is observant, supportive and compassionate. The ideal coach has a “Servant Leader” type of personality and the result is typically that their clients, with their very unique circumstances, feel understood and heard. 

2. He/she provides a fresh insights and thus unlocks his client’s potential:

The ideal coach is also perceived as someone being able to look at the situation described to them differently than the person that’s actually living it day to day. It’s typically about helping the client change the way he perceives his situation (or thinks or feel about it) and in the process unlock new opportunities or at least a way forward. Part of this process is about helping the client vet a variety of options and help him select a course of action that works best for him or her. 

3. He/she provides a holistic perspective:

Executive coaches get typically hired for a specific task. But being able to read all the dynamics that are going on in their clients’ lives both personally and professionally is nonetheless perceived as essential, allowing the coach to fully understand how they can help maximize their client’s potential both personally and professionally.

4. He/She has a broad knowledge and experience base to draw from:

A big part of the respect and trust a client develops for his executive coach comes from the actual experience as well as from the “tool kit” around psychological or behavioral coaching the coach brings to the table. His knowledge base, his organizational savviness, his experience and understanding of human nature gives the executive the authority and respect needed for effective coaching. 

5. He/she holds his client accountable:

Part of every coaching session and process is typically the development of an action plan that the client commits to. But these clients are typically extremely busy running their business and therefore value -and frankly expect- their coaches to follow-up on them to make sure that they are taking action. In other words, they typically expect their coaches to hold them accountable. 

So if you are an executive coach, feel free to use these learning as a benchmark for your own coaching and ask yourself following questions: 

  1. Do I listen to understand and empathize with my client’s situation? Would my clients agree?
  2. Do I help my clients look at their situation from a fresh perspective that unlocks their potential and energizes them? Would my client agree? 
  3. Do I frame my coaching sessions in a more holistic context than what I was specifically hired for?  Would my client agree? 
  4. Does my client appreciate my wide and deep professional and life experience and do I have a broad enough “toolkit” to draw from?  
  5. Am I holding my client accountable in following through after our coaching sessions? Would my client agree? 

What are clients looking for in an executive coach? LinkedIN article for coaches with my pitch!

  • Understand how you are perceived
  • Understand what you would be qualified for and what not?
  • Understand your net promoter score, i.e. would your client recommend you, why and why not? 
  • Uncover the immediate short term new business opportunities. While this is not the primary objective -and shouldn’t be- this type of research typically uncovers a client’s intention to re-hire you, and recommend you. 
  • The investment in this type of project usually pays for itself right away through these new business opportunities. 

If you are an executive coach, you should look at your coaching services and business as a brand. Questions that will help you grow more successfully include: 

  • What is your perceived value proposition, i.e. how do your clients perceive your coaching, what makes it unique, where is the value? And can this information be used to attract new clients. 
  • Understand your net promoter score, i.e. would your client recommend you, for what specific type of coaching services, why and why not? 
  • How is your fee perceived? Are you perceived as charging too much or too little? Are your clients aware of all the work it takes to coach them and is that work reflected in your fees? 
  • Who amongst your clients would be willing to endorse you or even actively recommend you. Equally importantly, which client is considering hiring you again in the next 6 to 12 months.

Getting the answer to these questions can be eye opening, is sometimes difficult (after all your coaching style is a reflection of your personality), but is always helpful in helping you sharpen your brand and go-to-market approach. Last but not least, and more often than not, investing in this type of project pays for itself by uncovering those short term business opportunities while enabling you to strengthen your brand in the long term. 

Interested in learning more about how we can help you sharpen your brand and grow your coaching practice through an informal conversation? Then I’d love to hear from you at Ulli@first-the-trousers.com

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