• Dr. Jeff Doolittle

Is Executive Coaching Really Worth it?

Is there anything more unsettling than making big decisions alone? Thankfully, it's been a while since I've tried. But in the past, I've made my share. I can tell you firsthand that having a coach has benefits beyond making better decisions. Leaders are constantly navigating competing priorities. Team members, customers, and of course, family and friends all have needs. Business owners and executives must carefully explore and assess ideas and opportunities to survive and thrive in a crisis-driven marketplace. Executive coaching is a thought-provoking and creative partnership that inspires leaders to maximize their personal and professional potential. Before exploring its costs and benefits, the first question is, are you ready to do the work? Like most leadership development opportunities, you will get the most significant return when you do the work. If you are prepared, here are a few thoughts to help answer the question, is executive coaching really worth it?

"We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves." — Galileo Galilei

What executive coaching is not?

Working in human resources for over 25 years, I realize that if you ask five people about executive coaching, you will likely get five different answers. So let me clarify what executive coaching is not.

An executive coach is not a counselor or mentor. Counseling deals with past or current trauma, mental health, and symptoms, with the goal of restoring emotional wellness. Executive coaching focuses on the future and not the client's history. A mentor, unlike a coach, sets the agenda for their client using their experiences to guide the relationship. While that approach can be helpful in reality, we are all created with different strengths and backgrounds. A coach draws out the executive's desire and works to co-create options to achieve the executive's goals with individual and organizational benefits.

Executive coaching isn't just for executives. And it might not always be focused on traditional leadership growth. I have clients that are CXOs and some that are recent graduates in individual contributor roles. I have clients focused on accelerating their careers, transitioning out of a job, and wondering what's next. I also have clients. I also have clients working on becoming more self-aware and developing trust-based relationships.

Why do leaders and business owners need coaching now more than ever?

Today's reality for a senior leader is that the marketplace is changing rapidly. You are either ripe and rotting or green and growing. So, how can an executive effectively stay green and grow in such a fast-paced environment?

In an extensive quantitative study by Stanley Black & Decker, the Sasha Corporation found that executives receiving coaching increased goal performance by 15% compared to executives not receiving coaching.

In a literature review of 81 executive coaching studies, researchershttps://www.organizationaltalent.com/executive-coaching found that executive coaching positively impacts the leader and the organization. These benefits range from becoming more confident to contributing more effectively to empowering employees and improving employee retention.

Some of the most admired companies in the Fortune 100 contribute to the $1 billion executive coaching industry. Coaching is a fast-growing sector, and the broad support for executive coaching and its effectiveness is undeniable.

“It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.” — Denis Waitley

What do you get from executive coaching?

Outcome 1. Resilience

Resilience is a fundamental outcome of executive coaching. Frequently leaders look for a coach to help adapt their leadership style, deal effectively with change, or build high-quality trust-based relationships. As executives work to achieve their goals, barriers and challenges have to be overcome. In the process of overcoming these barriers, leaders build resilience and self-confidence.

Outcome 2. Shifting Assumptions and Perceptions

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are key growth strategies for many organizations: entering new marketplaces, acquiring new technologies, and leveraging scale and size. Culture is acutely critical during notable change, such as M&A, and executive leaders increasingly work with and lead multicultural teams. Coaching helps leaders shift assumptions and perceptions and adopt positive cross-cultural motivation, vision, and cultural agility.

Outcome 3. Improved Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

A recent Harvard study revealed that a leader's emotional intelligence (EQ) matters more than their mental ability (IQ). And a key outcome of executive coaching is improved emotional intelligence. Often leaders pressed for time move from one urgent task to another and miss the advantage of pausing to reflect and become self-aware. An executive coach's use of assessments like a 360-leadership survey and purposeful reflection helps leaders learn and enhance their emotional intelligence. Reflection improves performance.

Outcome 4. Growth Focus and Accountability

Any road will get you where you want to go if you don't know where you are going. Setting direction is vital to growth as a leader. An executive coach ensures development goals are purposeful and bring perspective to the best areas to focus. Leaders are busy, and without accountability, miss opportunities for learning and growth. In the executive coaching relationship, external accountability is a crucial benefit. A coach can help the leader prioritize critical topics to change in the best direction.

Outcome 5. Developmental Feedback

Executive leaders receive feedback continuously from a wide range of sources on potential areas of development but also can struggle to make sense of the feedback. Proximity to a problem sometimes impacts the leader's clarity on importance. Also, general feedback often is not presented in effective or constructive ways. A coach assists the leader with filtering through various points of critical feedback to return focus on the essential constructive aspects.

How much does executive coaching cost?

Executive coaching costs and pricing strategies vary widely based on services offered, the executive coach's experience level, and the client's organizational level. Executive coaches commonly use an hourly, value-based, retainer, or productized pricing.

Studies by the Harvard business review and The Conference Board suggested executive coach rates range from $200 to over $3500 per hour. Some coaches like Marshall Goldsmith, who is frequently listed as the top-rated executive coach, use a performance-based pricing model. Simply stated, he only gets paid when his clients improve. Ready for the mic drop? He gets $250,000 per client for a year-long engagement.

Recently, virtual coaching has become more popular and offers added convenience, service, and affordability through reduced travel and costs from associated time out of the office. Although these benefits are advantageous, the research does not support replacing face-to-face coaching with virtual coaching. In reality, in-person and virtual coaching both have associated pros and cons.

What to look for in coaching qualifications?

A good executive coach is trained and qualified. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is a globally recognized association with evidence-based competency and code of ethics certification requirements. The ICF identifies the following eight core competencies updated as of 2019 based on empirical data collected over two years and from job analyses of 1,300 coaches globally:

  • Demonstrates Ethical Practice

  • Embodies a Coaching Mindset

  • Establishes and Maintains Agreements

  • Cultivates Trust and Safety

  • Maintains Presence

  • Listens Actively

  • Evokes Awareness

  • Facilitates Client Growth

Additionally, an excellent executive coach usually refrains from giving advice or sharing personal stories. Instead, the coach asks powerful questions to help the executive clarify their problems in achieving their goals. Peer review research found that a coach's academic background in psychology enhances executive coaching outcomes such as the client's self-awareness and leadership performance.

Conclusion: Is Executive Coaching Really Worth It?

The confidence and growth that comes from a creative thought partnership can't be beaten. Now more than ever, due to the complexity placed on senior leadership roles, executives need coaches that can support their continuous development.

Falling behind in a rapidly changing marketplace will not lead to success. The coach-leader relationship is essential to foster a leader's growth through purposeful direction, reflection, feedback, and accountability.

See how our goal-oriented executive coaching turns your aspirations into your future.

  • Accelerate your career - Coaching keeps you feeling challenged and increases your blind spot awareness.

  • Live life to the fullest - Coaching facilitates experimentation and self-discovery.

  • Shift your mindset - Coaching helps you challenge your assumptions and views.


Ahrend, G., Diamond, F., & Webber, P. G. (2010). Virtual coaching: Using technology to boost performance. Chief Learning Officer, 9,44–47.

Athanasopoulou, A., & Dopson, S. (2015). Developing leaders: By executive coaching. Oxford Press.

Athanasopoulou, A., & Dopson, S. (2018). A systematic review of executive coaching outcomes: Is it the journey or the destination that matters most? The Leadership Quarterly. 29(1), 70-88.

Berglas, S. (2002). The very real dangers of executive coaching. Harvard Business Review, 80(6), 86-153.

Clark, D., Cohn, A., & Goldsmith, M. (2019). A short guide to pricing your services as a consultant or coach. Harvard Business Review.

ICF. (2020). 2020 ICF global coaching study: Executive summary. International Coaching Federation.

Are you ready to unlock your
full potential?

Hi, I'm Dr. Jeff Doolittle. I'm determined to make your personal and professional goals a reality. My only question is, are you?

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About Dr. Jeff Doolittle

He is the founder of Organizational Talent Consulting in Grand Rapids, MI, and Program Director of online graduate and continuing business education at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Executive leaders who work with Jeff describe him as thoughtful, decisive, intelligent, and collaborative. Jeff is a business executive with over twenty years of talent development and organizational strategy experience working with C-suite leaders in Fortune 100, Forbes top 25 private, for-profit, non-profit, and global companies in many industries.

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