What is the best certification or methodology for executive coaching?

Recently I was asked this question by someone who desperately wanted to be certified as an “executive coach.”

Be careful.  Here are the facts.

There is not one “best coaching certification or methodology for those who work with executives,” for several reasons.

1. Executive coaching is a new approach with a short history (about 20 years) within psychology (about 100 years). The protocols that would be “certifiable” have not yet been well defined.  There is no external board or established practices, as in other professions such as healthcare, finance or law. I often ask, “Who certifies the certifiers?” (And I have been certified by several coaching providers for decades.)  One example of certification based on my dissertation research with global professional coaches is here.

2. The coach training industry is estimated at 53,500 global coach practitioners and over $7B in annual revenue, with 115 accredited coach training programs (ICF, 2016). The reality is that coaching certifications and silly acronyms abound.  I co-developed one back in 1999, when there were only about 20 ICF accredited coach training programs.

3. There is market confusion about definitions and coaching outcomes. The result is that vendors have responded to the market confusion. A gap exists between theory and practice because executive coaching lacks rigorous measurement, evidence-based protocols and standard processes. The largest organization, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) stated “the top future obstacles for coaching are (a) untrained individuals and (b) marketplace confusion (ICF, 2016).” That survey understates the confusion. Your question illustrates the desire by many to “get certified.”

4. In any marketplace vacuum, competitors emerge. Countless colleges and universities will declare that their certification programs define standards. Be careful. That archaic model presumes that academics know best, and we are increasingly aware of disruption in the marketplace. I like academics. My dissertation explored the competitive advantage of coaching protocols, using global professional coaches. As the “coaching profession” develops momentum, I encourage you to study the practical market demands for coaching protocols. You may want to be cautious. “The top future opportunities for coaching are (a) increased awareness of the benefits of coaching, and (b) credible data on ROI/ROE/outcomes (ICF, 2016)”. In short, we need to define protocols for outcome-based coaching, including useful certification programs.

5. Certification programs exist. I favor the ROI methodology described at the ROI Institute, and a 2-level executive coaching certification process. Last week the co-founder, Patti Phillips, and I discussed certification programs that moved beyond knowledge to practical demonstrations of mastery. She encouraged me to focus on practical applications. (Disclosure: I trademarked the AD-FIT coaching protocol when some F500 clients asked “How do you operationalize what works?” Those details are at Products Archive – Action Learning ( and throughout this website. The fact is that “Many professional consultants or coaches do not adhere to evidence-based protocols (Foster & Auerbach, 2015; MacKie, 2014. Citation sources available upon request.)

6. Organizational clients may design their own executive coaching certification programs. They are cost-effective and foster cultural expectations. (Disclosure: I also serve as an engagement manager and executive coach at CoachSource | Executive Coaching Excellence (, the largest global provider of executive coaching.)  Those internal coaching certification programs are customized internally, with expertise from coaches like me, for specific business outcomes that are proprietary.

Bottom line: Certification for executive coaching implies a mature profession with protocols that satisfy a market demand.

If useful, please contact me here. I’d love to discuss your interest in executive coaching certification programs.

All the best, Doug

3 Managers Walked Into A Bar Last Friday During Happy Hour…

Three managers walked into a bar to complain about organizational leadership…

The first manager, Mr. Ph.D., said, “organizational change requires clear definitions of terms and adoption of a theoretical model for our success.”

The second manager, Mr. Charisma, said, “That’s B.S. We just need common sense to get these people moving toward a common goal.”

The third manager, Mr. Technical, said, “Until we adopt better IT and process deliverables we cannot achieve our intended outcomes.”

The bartender leaned forward and asked, “So, where do you three work?”

The bartender’s implication is that these three voices represent three different organizations. But these perspectives could represent three conflicting voices within one manager’s head. Or your head. Or my head. And we process these conflicting voices in a millisecond.

Whatever you think (your theoretical construct or mental model) determines how you interpret the world (external stimuli or stresses) and make decisions (internal adaptation).

One manager turned back to the bartender and replied, “We all work on the same team at the same company.”

And the wise bartender asked, “How’s it going for you?”

There is a gap between those 3 models. Imagine a Venn diagram with Technology, Process, and People.

  • Technology can be bought and sold, and used by competing organizations.
  • Processes can be adopted or improved, and used by competing organizations.
  • People and their social capital determine the unique success of your organization. Or your failure.

Organizational theories fail when they don’t provide systems for managers to make sound decisions. So, what works best?

Coaching people based on their expertise to make smarter decisions is the only solution with over 200% ROI. We guarantee that outcome. Since 1997.

But, not every person is coachable. You do not want to waste money.

Here is a 7-question assessment to find out whether you or your team members will benefit from coaching or not. It is based on my global dissertation research using professional coaches to accelerate leader outcomes.

Coach-ablility Scale

Coach-Ability Scale

P.S. Let me know if any of these 3 managers sound familiar to you. Or if you are coachable.

P.P.S. Or reply to the wise bartender’s question, “How’s it going for you?”

Action leads to learning.  What are you waiting for?

To contact Doug Gray, CEO, PCC, call 615.236.1892 or contact us here.  Today.

How Can Positive Psychology Help You Be A Better Leader?

You may have heard about Positive Psychology. But, you may not know “What it is? Why does it matter to you? How can it help you or your team?”

Here are some quick answers and 5 riveting videos for you to share.

1. Let’s start with “What is Positive Psychology?”

In simple terms, it is the art and science of well-being. Think of you “at your best.” Maximizing your strengths. Asking, “What would make my life more meaningful” or “How can my team flourish?”

2. Why does it matter to you?

Here are some of the benefits of Positive Psychology:

  • Enhanced individual and organization learning
  • Improved social relationships
  • Better workplace performance and productivity
  • Enhanced problem solving and creativity
  • Increased job satisfaction

(Fredrickson, 1998E; Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005)

3. Now, how can it help you or your team?

Positive Psychology is a vast science with countless applications. The most inclusive model to describe well-being is called PERMA.


The PERMA Model was developed by my favorite psychologist, Martin Seligman. (We have met twice and discussed my research on positive psychology coaching.) I strongly recommend his seminal 2011 book, “Flourish”.

“PERMA” stands for the five essential elements that contribute to individual or team well-being. These are:

1. Positive Emotion (P)
For us to experience well-being, we need positive emotion in our lives. Any positive emotion such as gratitude, satisfaction, hope, curiosity, or love falls into this category. We each have subjective experiences of positive emotions.
I made a short video on Positive Emotion (P) for you. You can watch it here.

2. Engagement (E)
When we’re truly engaged in a situation, task, or project, we experience a state of flow. Time seems to stop, we lose our sense of self. We concentrate intensely on the present. We excel at challenging tasks. You can increase engagement for yourself and your team.
I made a short video on Engagement (E). You can watch it here.

3. Positive Relationships (R)
Humans are social beings and good relationships are core to our well-being. You can develop meaningful, positive relationships with others. We can measure fMRI images that describe the quality of your relationships. We can develop better relationships and accelerate behavioral or performance outcomes. (That was my dissertation research.) Curious about the details?
I made a short video on Positive Relationships (R). You can watch it here.

4. Meaning (M)
Meaning results when we serve a cause bigger than ourselves. Your meaningful outcome may be quantitative (e.g., earn $100k/year or give away 15% of earnings per year). Your meaningful outcome may be qualitative (e.g., care for your loved ones or serve humanity in some way.) We all need meaning in our lives to develop well-being.
I made a short video on Meaning (M) for you. You can watch it here.

5. Accomplishment/Achievement (A)
Many of us strive to master a skill, achieve a goal, or win some competitive event. Achievement defines us. Or not. Accomplishment is another element that contributes to our ability to flourish.
For specific details, I made a short video on Accomplishment/Achievement (A). You can watch it here.

Now that you understand the PERMA model, I hope you will use it to increase your well-being and help your teams flourish.

P.S. Let me know how you are flourishing?

P.P.S. Let me know if you like this long-form email or if you prefer the shorter ones?

Action leads to learning.  What are you waiting for?

To contact Doug Gray, CEO, PCC, call 615.236.1892 or contact us here.  Today.

What Is More Important For A Leader – Identity or Reputation?

Before you answer my question, let’s define both “identity” and “reputation”.

Identity: is how you see yourself.
Reputation: is how others see you.

Now, back to the question: What do you think is more important for a leader – Identity or Reputation?

Pick one before you read ahead or watch this video clip.

Here are some interesting facts regarding identity and reputation:


  • Self-awareness is inflated and inaccurate.
  • Self-ratings of performance underestimate our capabilities.
  • Less predictive of career success than feedback from others.


  • Other-awareness is variable and biased.
  • Based on what others think I do or say.
  • More predictive of future performance than self-ratings.

So, what’s more important? The answer to my opening question is Reputation.

That may seem counterintuitive. Executive presence is defined by reputation, NOT self-identity. Let me explain this with a short video.

Video Link - What do you think is more important for a leader - Identity or Reputation?

P.S. What do you think is more important for a leader – Identity or Reputation? Reply to this email. I would love to know your thoughts on it.

Action leads to learning.  What are you waiting for?

To contact Doug Gray, CEO, PCC, call 615.236.1892 or contact us here.  Today.

What I Learned Last Week From A Fortune 100 CEO

In my 20+ years of coaching leaders, I have learned more from them than I can fully describe. Here is a nugget that I learned last week. You may like it…

FACT: Great managers and leaders demonstrate outcome-based results. They measure actions. They can demonstrate the ROI of any initiative.

Successful coaches also demonstrate ROI, as explained in this 2-minute video rant that I recently created – ROI of your coaching service.

It doesn’t matter whether your client is a Fortune 100 CEO or a Small Business Owner. Everyone who buys my products and services has only one question in mind:

If I pay for your service, what will I get in return?

We pay for outcome-based results. Let’s say you are hiring a fitness trainer to lose some weight. You would ask:

  • How much weight will I lose in 3 months?
  • Does this person understand my personal situation?
  • Has this person helped other people lose weight?
  • Does this person have a tremendous reputation?

Some people spend more time assessing a personal trainer than a physician or a lawyer or a professional coach. Be smart.

Professional coaches need to demonstrate the ROI of your service. Your clients need to know the outcomes they can expect from your service.

If you don’t know how to show ROI, then you will lose clients and money.

And, I don’t want you to lose clients. So, I prepared a short exclusive video for you.

After watching this exclusive 2-minute video, you will:

  • Know how to quantify the ROI of your coaching.
  • Have a clear way to explain the ROI of your coaching to potential clients.
  • Start focusing on results which actually matter to your clients.

ROI of your coaching service

P.S. If you find it valuable, please forward this email to 2-3 friends of yours. We all need a little coaching at times.

Action leads to learning.  What are you waiting for?

To contact Doug Gray, CEO, PCC, call 615.236.1892 or contact us here.  Today.