From Judith:

A recent review and analysis "Coaching: A Global Study of Successful Practices - Current Trends and Future Possibilities 2008-2018" commissioned by the American Management Association demonstrated an expanding interest in and use of executive coaching worldwide, primarily aimed at increasing individual performance.

At the same time, there are serious concerns about the efficacy of executive coaching. Most notably, anyone can call themselves an executive coach. And as the above cited Global Study reported "...there’s a lack of standardization or credentialing in the coaching industry....coaching has not met the criteria for a profession because it lacks barriers to entry, formal university-level qualifications, regulatory bodies, an enforceable body of ethics, and state-sanctioned licensing. There isn’t even a shared common body of knowledge."

And I would add that even most people who attend coaching institutes have little or no understanding of psychological dynamics—that is not part of their training—so they can only provide tactical advice and prescriptive guidelines.

That may be all that’s needed if the issue is one of improving step-wise team leadership, or redefining one’s career objectives. But it leaves the executive coach sadly lacking when the client needs help with identity-oriented issues like:

*** discovering what is holding them back from greater success;

*** what is limiting their freedom to assert leadership;

*** and/or what is blocking their availability to manage-up in order to make themselves and their benefits to the company clearly visible to appropriate executives in the company.

Many executive coaches use digitized 360 assessment programs that can provide some good general feedback, particularly with respect to identifying behavioral trends and the assessment of colleagues, but often fall short of plumbing the depths of an individual’s issues. They may also supply pre-packaged support materials that do not address the specific needs of the specific client as I have heard from any number of people how disappointed they were with this type of generalized "help."

Ask yourself, what would you want if you were using your precious time to seek help developing your professional and leadership expertise, learning from your career challenges, and/or charting your course toward your next promotion? A mechanized and generalized program. I hope not.

Therefore, when researching and interviewing executive coaches, be sure to ask the following questions:

* What is your psychological training and background?

* Please describe your orientation to and experience with executive coaching.

* What is your experience working with unconscious resistance and internal holdbacks?

* How many years have you been doing executive coaching?

* Do you also do "life coaching" and are comfortable with personal lifestyle issues?

* How many clients have you worked with for more than 2-6 sessions of immediate support?

* Have you been a coaching client yourself?

* How well do you handle anxiety and/or depression about career objectives?

These questions will help you weed out those people who are beginners, surface issue oriented, and/or who cannot, with confidence, respond to your taking an initiating role in the relationship.

When you do find someone who responds well both to the content of your questions and in the spirit of a mutually respectful relationship, be sure to immediately give them all the pertinent information you can while trusting your observing-self to see if they pick up on the deeper issues that you are wanting to work on.

A seriously competent executive coach should inspire you to say one time or more during the first session, "Wow, I’ve never thought about it that way." Someone who hasn’t yet learned the art of Deep Listening for Unconscious Content will leave you feeling that nothing happened.

Executive coaching can increase expertise and improve performance only when the client’s character structure and identity issues are freed up and allowed to grow. And that requires the expertise of a psychologically-oriented executive coach who knows how to break through old limitations and false-beliefs.

I’ll be exploring this topic further and look forward to your comments.

Author's Bio: 

Judith Sherven, PhD and her husband Jim Sniechowski, PhD have developed a penetrating perspective on people’s resistance to success, which they call The Fear of Being Fabuloustm. Recognizing the power of unconscious programming to always outweigh conscious desires, they assert that no one is ever failing—they are always succeeding. The question is, at what? To learn about how this played out in the life of Whitney Houston, check out

Currently working as consultants on retainer to LinkedIn providing executive coaching, leadership training and consulting as well as working with private clients around the world, they continually prove that when unconscious beliefs are brought to the surface, the barriers to greater success and leadership presence begin to fade away. They call it Overcoming the Fear of Being Fabulous