Aspiring coaches often ask me what it takes to succeed as a corporate or executive coach. I’ve come to understand that there are very often three things that successful coaches share. And yes, I know that there are lots of exceptions to these rules, and yes there are lots of coaches who do brilliant corporate and executive work without all of this behind them, but if I’m asked what I consider to be some of the keys to success, this is what I say:
The corporate or executive coaching client will connect most easily with a coach who has walked in their shoes. The coach who has owned a P&L, run a business, had a big staff reporting to them and had to present at the executive level will have an immediate understanding of the client’s world that cannot possibly be shared by a coach who hasn’t been on the front line.
The corporate client wants to understand that the coach “gets” their business. When coaching in the business environment, the discussions between coach and client will always include references to financial metrics, operational issues, talent management strategies, competitive threats and anything else that is core to what the client spends their day doing. The coach who understands all of the terminology and the essence of the issues has a way of connecting with the client that the client without business education does not. So that MBA or BComm degree means that the coach shares an academic foundation with the client that ensures they can speak the same language.
Those who know me know my relentless stand on coach training — get some. There are distinct skills necessary to do this work well, skills that are hard to learn by osmosis or life experience (although both of those help). The other reality is that corporate and executive coaches are most often referred into an organization by the HR leader, who is often filtering their search results based on whether the coach is trained and/or credentialed. So no, you don’t have to have a certification, but having one will give you access to more work — not to mention making you at least a little better at it than you would have been otherwise.
And of course, on top of all that – being successful as a coach requires the same kind of business skills that any other business requires. More on that in another post, but the short version? Be conservative, be patient, and be really, really good at what you do.