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How Executives Choose Their Coaches by Anita Stadler, PhD

Apr 24th, 2010 | By | Category: Business Coaching

What do executives look for in a coach?  What influences their selection process?

Reaching Executives.  A research study by Dr. Stephen Bistritz (2007) confirmed that the top reason an executive will grant access to a salesperson is because of a recommendation from a credible source from the executive’s own organization.  The second reason is a referral from an external source they respect such as a business associate, consultant or friend.  Why is this?  It is a prudent risk-reduction strategy.  Executives are busy and don’t want to waste time, so they choose to grant access to a salesperson based on a proven track record.

Buying Executive Coaching.  Many executives adopt the same selection process when choosing an executive coach.  They choose the coach who represents the least risk.  How do they assess that risk?  They want a coach who is a top tier-coach.  They also want a coach who understands the pressures they face, the complexity of their challenges, and “what it’s like” to be in their role.  To ensure your credibility as an executive coach, you must be able to effectively convey your understanding of their executive world.  As a trained coach, you are aware that your effectiveness as a coach is more a function of your coaching skills than your experience base, but a potential client will probably not understand that.  Ideally, you should create the opportunity to educate a potential client on what makes an effective coach.  However, the reality is that you often don’t have that chance, so your credibility as a coach will need to be conveyed in a language that will make sense from the executive’s perspective.  What language is that?  It’s the language of business; and it is both spoken and unspoken.  It can’t be fabricated.  It must come from your authentic self.  You must convey your credibility as someone who understands the executive world.  You must convey that understanding through your speech as well as how to look and act.  If someone were to observe you at a coffee house, would they know you are a business professional from your demeanor, interpersonal style, and attire?  Are you comfortable having a discussion about market share, financial results, and the latest legislation that affects their business?

You are Selling Yourself.  As an executive coach, you must realize that you are selling yourself – your experience, your insight, and your perspectives – as well as your coaching skills.  Many coaches express discomfort at the thought that they have to sell themselves, but that naïveté won’t result in access to the executive suite.  Identify the most pertinent aspects of your business background that apply to that client’s industry.  Articulate what you uniquely bring to the coaching relationship from your experience base that will supplement the executive’s knowledge base.  Be clear about the niche of executives you serve.  Your personal credibility is your greatest asset and, fortunately, it is one that you have a great deal of control over.  As Christian executive coaches, our personal ethics should be impeccable, our word true, and our motives pure.  In addition, we must be exemplary coaches who bring results that lead to a positive reputation in the marketplace.  Then you will become the recommended coach.   Your business card will be the one passed from executive to executive with an enthusiastic comment.

Referenced Article:

Bistritz, S. J. (2007).  Selling at the executive level. Retrieved April 16, 2010 from

Anita Stadler, PhD coaches Christian executives in corporations who want to connect their career and their calling through her coaching company Horizon Executive Coaching.  She is also a full-time executive coach and leadership development consultant for a Fortune 100 corporation.  She can be reached at (714) 952-0995 or For more information, see

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