How would you describe a “good coach”?

When I've asked people that question, here's what they say:

A good coach has: 

  • Listening skills
  • Empathy
  • Genuine interest in the person
  • Ability to deliver honest and direct feedback
  • Has integrity
  • Trustworthy maintains confidentiality

Now, when I ask what makes a “great coach,” I start to hear different things. 

A great coach...

  • Digs deep
  • It gets the person to reflect
  • Inspires people to want to change
  • It takes people to higher levels
  • Gets results
  • Passionate about helping others

So what’s the difference here between good versus great executive coaching?

A good coach focuses on the skills and techniques of coaching. The doing of coaching. 

A great coach is focused on the person they are coaching, supporting the learner and the outcomes they are trying to achieve. 

I still think there is one big gap between good versus great, and that is an understanding of how people learn and develop. 

If we can agree that coaching is to help people learn new things, gain insight, be more effective, and improve performance, then it seems essential for coaches to understand how humans learn. 


It's easy to be a "Good Coach." 

Given the proliferation of new coaches entering the field and that there are virtually no barriers to entry, there is some concern regarding the quality of coaching delivered. 

Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1986) created a five-stage model to discern levels of coaching proficiency. They state that good coaches are at level 3 (competent) and great coaches are at level 5 (expert): 

Level 1: Novices focus on accomplishing immediate tasks, typically requiring clear rules which they follow closely.

Level 2: Advanced beginners begin to use the rules as guidelines, applying them in new situations, but are not able to handle exceptions or unforeseen problems.

Level 3: Competent performers begin to create their own conceptual models of what they are doing and can handle more complex situations based on their experience.

Level 4: Proficient performers have advanced beyond competence by experiencing a wide variety of situations and challenges and have developed the ability to see the big picture, monitor their own performance, and interpret underlying principles to adjust their behaviours as needed based on the context to effectively handle relatively novel situations.

Level 5: Experts have such a high level of experience that they are able to identify and solve problems intuitively, with little explicit analysis or planning. They see underlying patterns effortlessly and they apply appropriate solutions, even to complex and unique situations, in such a way that they generate consistently superior performance.

I' d add that in order to be a great coach today you need to have extensive knowledge in the following areas:

  1. Psychological knowledge, including an understanding of personality, motivation, learning and behaviour change, adult developmental theories, stress management, emotional intelligence, feedback, gender differences, and social psychology.
  2. Business acumen, including an understanding of basic business practices and financial concepts, management principles and processes, strategic planning, information technology, global business dynamics, and human resource management.
  3. Organizational knowledge, including an understanding of organizational structures and functions, organizational design, organizational culture, team effectiveness, leadership models, systems theory, consulting theory and practices, business ethics, and leadership development.
  4. Coaching knowledge, including an understanding of executive coaching models and theories, coaching competencies, specific coaching practices (such as managing confidentiality, assessment, goal setting), various roles of a coach, coaching research, the history of coaching, and developing oneself as a coach. 

As an executive coach, I'm always trying to sharpen my saw.

Right now I am engaged in three different coaching training programs to enhance my practice, including pursuing my Master's in Executive Coaching with Royal Roads University.

As I'm working on my journey to mastery, I’m reminded of how important self-awareness and self-discipline are to the pursuit of excellence. This is true for my developmental journey but also for my clients. 

In that spirit, I close this post with recommendations for practice in self-reflection. 

Look inward: What is most important to you? What values matter most and how are you manifesting them in what you are trying to achieve?

Look outward: What matters most to others? What expectations do they hold that you need to address in order to be successful in your endeavours? How do they perceive you?

Look back: What have you been trying to learn and what new things have you tried? What has worked well and what hasn’t worked? What have you learned?

Look ahead: What will you do differently? What do you need to keep learning? Where are your opportunities to try new things? 

Only those coaches and leaders who are self-reflective, intentional about their learning, and continually seeking to improve are likely to thrive in today’s complex environment. 


“'The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it." - Michelangelo.

Looking to hire an executive coach? Here are some things to consider before hiring an executive coach. 

Coaching is an unregulated profession. ANYONE can call themselves a coach with ZERO qualifications.
The CBC just did an expose about the life coaching industry, and documented "certifications" being issued in 2 hours 🤯
In my opinion, and that of the CBC these coaches are untrained and are coaching serious issues involving mental health which is incredibly dangerous.
There is no question there is an immense need for help out there, and a lot of people who want to help.
If you are considering hiring a coach, here are my recommendations on what to look for because I'm sure there is a lot at stake for you and for others.

✔️ Qualifications: Vet a coach's experience carefully by inquiring into what kinds of coaching experience they have. What training credentials do they have ( ICF is respected worldwide), what level of credential do they hold ( also is that credential up to date), and a number of hours of experience.
✔️ Methodology: Look for a coach who has developed their own methodology over time. Be wary of individuals who sell a one-size-fits-all approach to coaching.
✔️ Coaching engagement: In addition to asking about the length of the coaching engagement, find out what the structure of the sessions will look like, how often you will meet, and what you should expect in the conversation.
✔️ Personality Fit. It's a good idea to meet with prospective coaches before engaging in an agreement. You should feel very comfortable with your coach, that you can be vulnerable and candid.

I offer free Discovery calls if you are looking for a qualified executive coach.

Book a call with me so we can discuss your goals. I'd love to meet you!