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

Corporate Trends in diversity coaching

Diversity in Corporate America.

I recently did some research on trends in diversity and leadership coaching.  As you may know, an international assignment is often mandatory for high potential employees in global companies.  Recent research indicates that corporate leadership teams with more diversity yield higher shareholder values.  Initiatives within companies designed to identify and promote internal talent lead to higher retention and engagement rates.  Global markets require experienced leaders.  Many companies want to increase cultural diversity for the employees who are relocated, and for those in the host culture.  There is a subset of executive coaches who specialize in supporting the diversity goals of those companies.  That subset is called “diversity coaches.”

One article is an interview with Bo Razak, a senior consultant and diversity coach, conducted by Wendy Conklin, editor of The Diversity Factor (2006.) Razak specializes in diversity issues, and developing leadership skills that can support organizational missions such as increasing diversity awareness.

Razak states that executive coaching “for diversity” narrows the focus or framework to specific leadership capabilities that support the leader in developing his or her capacity to incorporate diversity into all aspects of work (37).  Also, the coaching engagement may be shorter term than another executive coaching engagement.  The diversity coaching engagement may focus on “leading by feeling” so that members of subordinated groups may feel supported with examples of empathy, or awareness of group identity and its effects.

Group identity is so central to Razak’s description of diversity coaching that I include his explanation.  “Everyone has multiple group identities, including age, ability/ ableness, class, education level, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, nationality, race, first language, religion / spirituality and sexual orientation. In organizations and society, the extent to which we are aware of the meaning and impact of these identities is key to understanding the impact of diversity and changing the status quo.”  (38)

Razak describes 4 critical factors for diversity coaches.

1) The primary factor is organizational support for diversity coaching, and diversity issues, that are tied to compensation rewards.  He states that leaders need to adopt a “diversity lens” and become inclusive in language, action, and words.

2) Leaders need to become comfortable with a common language that is inclusive and enables them to discuss words like “gender” and “sexual orientation” in any strategic or operational discussion,

3)  Leaders must pay attention to the dynamics of difference, and multiple perspectives from multiple group identities, by engaging a broad range of perspectives.

4)  And leaders must actively solicit feedback on how they are embracing the capabilities of diversity, and make open statements that reflect awareness of multiple perspectives.

My takeaways from this article include the following:

1) My 25 year-old nephew was recently promoted into a role that required an international assignment.  That experience is exciting for him, and he is young for such an assignment.  I cannot imagine that he will eagerly embrace that culture; he would benefit from such a diversity coach.

2) Diversity coaching requires a systems approach to others.  The coach must be aware of the layers of corporate expectations.  The leaders/ coaching clients must be willing to engage in anything called diversity coaching.  If it is an EEO requirement for compliance, or an extension of a training, those requirements may minimize the impact of diversity coaching.  Razak states that compensation must be tied to behavioral outcomes based on the diversity coaching.  That point reminds me of Peter Drucker’s maxim that “what gets rewarded leads to results.”

3) Selecting and matching coaches with leaders/ coaching clients requires a high level of awareness of group identity.  But there are no rules.  It may be ideal to match people from dramatically different group identities in order to be more effective.  For instance, if I were being coached by a Hispanic, lesbian woman from Brazil, and I am a Caucasian, heterosexual male from the U.S., we may be well matched.  Or it may be a setup for failure.

4)  Diversity coaching may be a shorter-term engagement than executive coaching engagements.  However, the effects of diversity coaching may be more anecdotal than measurable, and longer term rather than shorter.  And in a country that is more ethnically diverse, such as Canada, diversity coaching may be more effective than a country that is more ethnically homogenous, such as Japan.

Conklin, W. (2006). Executive Coaching for Diversity: An Opportunity for Leaders to Learn and Change. Diversity Factor, 14(2), 37-42.

What are some of your takeaways from this subject?

Call me or contact me to discuss them today.

How can I sell more to existing customers?

I do not know the answer for you. Yet.  And it would be presumptuous or disingenuous if I offered a trite response.


Instead I will give you some facts. Then the process. Then what I do know.


Many studies confirm that your cost of good sold (COGS) is 7x higher for a new customer than for a returning customer.  So you should focus on providing new value to old customers.


There is a former client who comes to mind.  He happened to be a 30 year old financial advisor.  But the story is relevant for most of us in specialized fields.  He wanted to grow his business. After 3 years he had exhausted leads from his friends and family.  He had networked so often that people avoided him at chamber and business development groups and even at Rotary meetings.  I asked him, “What kinds of clients do you want to serve?”  and “Who is likely to retire in 10 years with a strong book of business that needs to sell the bottom portion to a younger professional like yourself?”  and “How can you guarantee that you provide excellent service to that older partner or lead source?”  As you can imagine, he had a new partner and provided tremendous value for that person’s clients for many years.  However, his answer is not your answer.


I do know the answer for hundreds of other business leaders who are former clients. Since 1997 I have consulted and coached business leaders in manufacturing, health care, education, HR, safety, technology, finance and accounting. I have guaranteed results for clients ranging from executive teams at F500 companies to small business owners struggling to make ends meet. I can provide best-of-class solutions or referrals to other consultants who can likely help you solve your problems.


I do know the process.  I do know what works.


Here you go:  you need to 1) define the problems, 2) provide solutions, 3) model accountability.  I call this the “3A Coaching process.


These “A letter” words are Assessments, Constructive Actions, and Accountability.  Too many  “coaches” stop after providing assessments, or constructive actions, because they do not know how to provide individual or team accountability.  That’s about as smart as running 2/3 of a marathon and stopping.  Make sure that you hire a coach who will get you past your finish line goals.


You are probably struggling with the following challenges:

people challenges
strategy challenges
execution challenges
cash and financial challenges


Typically, I define the problems using organizational and individual assessments. I determine where you are making money. And where you are losing money.


I may ask the three big questions: 1. can you define the problem? 2. do you need to solve that problem? 3. who can solve that problem? In today’s market, the buyer-seller dance has evolved into a transparent process of answering those 3 questions. Then adopting the best solution. Vendors are secondary.


Then I provide a host of best-in-class solutions for you to sell more to your existing customers. They already know you. They are inclined to purchase more products and services.


Then I model accountability so that you move beyond good intentions. I want you to sell more services.


Ready to talk? Call us soon at 704.995.6647 or contact us here.  Once we determine your needs, then we can define a more specific answer to this question.  Schedule your initial consultation here.


We all need to sell more to our existing clients.


What are you waiting for?

Download this list of services and investment levels now:

How can I lead others?

This is a common question.  With both a simple answer and a complex answer.

The simple answer:  Serve others well.  Provide tremendous value.  

The complex answer has at least the following 5 points.


1.  Choose a BIG WANT.  Humans are aspirational- we aspire to do constructive work.  We aspire to build families, companies, wealth, happiness.  Our aspirations are reflected in art, architecture, net worth, hobbies, etc.  However, too many people lose their focus.  Perhaps you are representative.  As a child you may have had aspirations defined by others; such as get a job, or go to college or take care of your siblings.  As a young adult you may have had aspirations defined by you; such as, build a happy family, serve others, develop my business.  And all of us struggle.  Challenges exist.  Suffering exists.  In response, we need to choose an aspiration that is BIG.  When we choose a BIG WANT, not a small want such as material comfort, we become leaders.  The bigger our want, the bigger our impact as leaders.  A key coaching question is “What is your BIG WANT?”


2.   Choose a GREAT TEAM.  Humans are social creatures.  We evolve as a result of strong relationships.  Selling is based on strong relationships.  We can assess the market needs.  We can assess the strengths of others.  And we can build a great team to respond to that market need.  The most successful leaders have at least 6 people on their team who create creative tension and focus on results.  You may need to hire or develop a great team.  A key coaching question is “Who can you add to your team?”


3.  Choose constructive DAILY ACTIVITIES.  Leadership is not an occasional event.  Leadership is an ongoing process of daily activity.  Choose your activities carefully.  You have access to more digital information than ever in recorded history.  You should know WHAT works:  Good diet.  Regular exercise. Focused activity. Finding problems.  Solving problems.  Serving others.  Tracking activity.  A key coaching question is “How are you certain that you are making constructive daily activities?”


4.  Measure your Key Performance Indicators.  KPIs are used in all businesses.  What we measure leads to results.  Sadly, too few people measure their leadership efforts.  For many years, I have provided scoresheets, templates, spreadsheets to help others measure their KPIs.  A little structure helps.  Daily and weekly accountability sessions help.  Metrics define the score.  They are data points.  Like a line on computer software, KPIs determine your impact as a leader.  A key coaching question is “What KPIs do you need to measure today?”


5.  Remain humble.  I have had countless great teachers, from the finest universities on the planet.  Clients are the most instructive teachers.  Children are a close second.  All constructive leaders in recorded history shared the same trait:  we are all humble.  A key coaching question is “How are you showing your humility?”


If I had more time I might add more to this list…


Bottom line:  YOU can save time and money.  YOU can be a smarter leader today.


We all need coaches at times.  Call me at 704.995.6647 or subscribe now for details.  Or schedule your initial consultation here.


What are you waiting for?

Download this list of services and investment levels now:

How can I sell more to new customers?

I do not know the answer for you.  Yet.


I do know the answer for hundreds of other business leaders.  Since 1997 I have consulted and coached business leaders in manufacturing, health care, education, HR, safety, technology, finance and accounting.  I have guaranteed results for clients ranging from executive teams at F500 companies to small business owners struggling to make ends meet.


I do know the process.  I do know what works.


It costs much more money, time, and energy to attract new customers than it does to upsell to existing customers.  That is a fact.  Expenses vary from 2-7x the cost of upselling an existing customer.  Acquisition costs can be reduced when we work together.


You will need to 1) define the problems, 2) provide solutions, 3) model accountability.  I call this the 3A Coaching Process.


You are probably struggling with the following challenges:

  • people challenges
  • strategy challenges
  • execution challenges
  • cash and financial challenges


Typically, I define the problems using organizational and individual assessments.  I determine where you are making money.  And where you are losing money.  I determine how you need to present solutions to your target markets.


Then I provide a host of best-in-class solutions for you to sell more to your potential new  customers.  They must learn about you.  You must provide tremendous value.  (This website is an example.)  When your prospects receive tremendous value, then they will be inclined to purchase your products and services.


Then we model accountability so that you move beyond good intentions.  We want you to sell more services.


We have hundreds of executive consultants and behavioral coaches, with expertise in sales, so we can help you immediately.


Call Doug Gray, PCC, at 704.995.6647 or contact us to help you sell more of your services to your existing customers.  Schedule your initial consultation here.

What are you waiting for?

Download this list of services and investment levels now:

To ignore millenials is to commit marketing suicide

Open your eyes!  How much time do you spend with millenials?  Not only do millenials consume the most products, they also expect results.  They are 50% of the workforce in 2018.
To ignore millenials is to commit some form of suicide.

Here are 6 steps for you and your company:

1.  Mobile web-based experiences are a $10 billion dollar industry, with over 7 billion phones.  We now have nearly 4x more mobile browsers than the number of desk-based browsers.  Follow the numbers.  Follow the money.

2.  We can provide emotionally-provocative experiences that combine digital and physical activities.  Here are several examples.  When you go to the zoo you can now rent a GoPro or Segway to make your experience unique.  When you go to a park you can use your mobile device to geocache.  You can have a “Yelp Night” and move from restaurant to bar in any unfamiliar city.    When you go to a conference you can tweet about and score the presenters, in real time.  However, at most amusement parks and concerts we are not doing anything about the visitors who are standing in a line (bored) or tweeting or Face-booking their friends to “stay away” from your business or event.  As a more costly example, we are not doing anything about low compliance with incentive reward programs.  In fact, industrial organizational researchers tell us that some 35% of the US workforce is not engaged in their jobs.  We sorely lack emotionally-provocative experiences that combine digital and physical activities.

3.  In response to these market needs, I have developed a mobile web-based app that can guarantee engagement for any clients.  This app enables clients to have a pre-visit and post-visit experience that integrates their event with any content.  The event becomes a process.  For instance, if a client wants to assign pre-visit training or reading content, the app can assess their engagement.  Using a leader board and social media, they can increase accountability.  They can market and promote the company.  They can include video and photo uploads.  They can earn points by doing more activities.  They can return to the venue.  The app can be delivered in hours, under any name.  And it can be scaled for any sized organization.

4.  Large corporate clients expect global delivery capacity.  Every successful Free Agent has a network of alliance partners.  The myth of the solo-preneur as a lone wolf is dead.  For instance, the largest provider of leadership development coaches is, founded by Brian Underhill and Marshall Goldsmith.  Marshall is described as the #1 leadership consultant in the U.S., according to Harvard Business Review.  I am the southeast engagement manager, and represent 1,200 leadership coaches in 60 countries.  We can provide expert leadership coaching to any clients.  A bold claim, but a well validated claim.  We can deliver the value of global leadership coaching to your current clients.  And we can design programs that include a cycle of regular visits to any location with reinforcements from the very best leadership coaches.  Those individual and group agendas typically yield a 500% ROI.

Digital and Global solutions not only satisfy millenials.  They lead to results.  They are required solutions.

If you are a solo-preneur, develop strong alliance with the smartest partners that you can find.  Today.

If you are a business leader, call Doug at 615.236.9845 If I cannot help you I will find someone who can.  Today.