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Best Certified Executive Coach Training Programs for 2023

looking over balcony at night

Whatever your current profession, if you’re seriously thinking about adding executive coaching to your professional work in the near future, this article is for you. The goal here is to educate you about some of the best Certified Executive Coach Training Programs for 2023. In order to do this, I need to take you into my world as an Executive Coach.

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I’m fortunate to have started as an executive coach in the late 1980s and have been in mostly independent practice for over thirty years. During that time, I’ve provided executive coaching for approximately six hundred leaders, most of them in 1 to 1 coaching, although I have also done a good deal of group and team coaching in the last seven years. The first thing you might already know about the executive coaching field is that it’s a customized, competitive, boutique field. The match that an executive coach has with her Client is the engine that drives most coaching engagements. Clients who describe their executive coaches as “getting them” turn out to be some of the most satisfied consumers of executive coaching. The good news is that is often the case. Most coaching Clients like the executive coaching experience. Many Clients love it. A smaller percentage make transformational life changes in addition to changes related to behavior changes at work. Coaches who plan to attend better known executive coaching programs and who believe that bigger is better in finding a certified executive coaching program, may want to question that belief. Why? Because small, boutique-sized Certified Executive Coaching programs allow you to have a more personalized coach training experience which fits a huge need that newly minted executive coaches have. It’s true that some very large Coach Training Programs have been in business for years. They’ve trained tens of thousands of coaches. But the facts are that almost all large coach training schools and programs started out as Life Coach Training Programs. In the early 2000s, seeing the growing demand for executive coach training, almost all of these programs- I’m not going to mention any names here- modified much of their curricula to include courses providing executive coaching. The problem is that the world of executive coaching, mirrors the business world. It has its own vocabulary and required competencies. Executive coaches need to be good at developing relationships with key stakeholders in the Client’s world including the Client’s Boss, Direct Reports, Peers and Upper Managers. Executive Coaches need to be proficient in crafting and using 360 questions and then in providing feedback to their Clients based on the information from this 360 Survey. Executive Coaches need to be competent in administering assessments and providing useful feedback to Clients based on these findings. The fact is that most large Coaching Programs are unable to be customized enough to provide this kind of in depth experience for their would- be executive coaching participants. Participants end up getting lots of role plays practicing coaching and active listening skills with their fellow participants. These are excellent skills to develop. But it’s far from enough. To be an excellent executive coach, you need to learn to live in the world of executive coaching, including all the ins and outs. That’s absent from almost all large-scale executive coaching programs. They simply don’t have the ability to customize their programs to the actual needs of the executive coaching world. Moreover, most small certified Executive Coach Training Programs allow you the time and space to develop closer relationships with your cohort fellow participants, as well as Faculty and Mentor Coaches. The world that executive coaching resides in is a relationship world. Marketing for executive coaches is almost entirely about networking and building relationships. As executive coaches, we don’t have the financial capital, nor would it be effective to launch TV or magazine ads. We work through the people we know who introduce us to the people we’re going to know in the future who will award us with work. So, we need to think “small is beautiful” when we put our minds towards selecting the certified executive coaching program we’d like to attend.

Here are four of the best Certified Executive Coaching Training Programs that I recommend:

1. The College of Executive Coaching

The College of Executive Coaching has been training executive and personal coaches for more than twenty years. They are an ICF-certified ACT program, which will probably become a Level 2 Program, according the ICF’s new coach training guidelines. [The ICF is still in the process of re-grading all these coaching schools world-wide]. The founder, Jeffrey Auerbach, a psychologist and executive coach, says he is most proud of the Faculty at his program, which meets mostly online but also has some in person classes. A number of Auerbach’s Faculty are executive coaches who are well-known in the field. Another distinguishing feature of the COEC program is that all applicants need to have achieved a graduate degree to be participants in the program. My thought is that many businesses find this requirement reassuring as it works as a screening device to reward participants who have made a commitment to their field of study, which is often in a field related to executive coaching. All of this makes the College of Executive Coaching worth your time to look into, especially if you live in the Western part of the US, where COEC is based.

2. Georgetown Executive Coaching Program

Georgetown Executive Coaching Program has also been training executive coaches for more than twenty years. It is also an ICF-certified program. Participants are able to attend a series of three-day workshops over nine months to accomplish their training. According to the Georgetown Program: “Upon successful completion of the certificate, participants will be able to:

  • Articulate the role coaching plays in leadership, organizations, and transformation

  • Demonstrate the use of self as an instrument of change

  • Coach leaders at the Professional Certified Coach level as defined by the International Coach Federation

  • Apply adult development and complexity theory to coaching leaders

  • Coach leaders within a systems context

  • Identify the role culture and identity play in coaching and leadership

  • Recognize the polarities that impact a leader at the level of self, team, and system

The Georgetown University Certificate in Leadership Coaching program is certified as an Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) by the International Coach Federation- and since ACTP Programs are changing the Georgetown Program will probably become an ICF-accredited Level 2 Program, pending ICF Approval.

3. iCoach Global [formerly known as iCoach New York].

Caveat emptor - this is a Program I helped co-create along with the Founder Bob Lee [of Lee, Hecht fame], and colleagues Michael Frisch, PhD, and Karen Metzger, CSW. Judy Rosemarin, MSW, and Donna Marcus, MS, joined the Faculty in later years. Current Faculty include: Karyn Gallant, PCC, Sarah Savella, PCC, Jacci Johnson, PCC, David Sarnoff, ACC and Bart Feder, ACC. Distinguishing differentiators of the iCoach Program is that the Program finds an executive coaching Client for all its participants, also providing each participant with Supervision and Mentor Coaching. The executive coaching with the Client runs parallel to the course work, so there is both a “learning by doing” experience as well as an immersion experience into the world of executive coaching. Another distinguishing feature of the iCoach Program is its small, cohesive class size. Since the Program runs for sixteen consecutive Friday mornings starting in February, the way the Program is designed is parallel to an actual executive coaching engagement. Many coaching schools overlook the power of Peer learning. In a program like iCoach, a number of the graduates have gone on to either form group practices with one another, or are currently subcontracting to other graduates, who have started their own coaching and consulting companies. So the participant bonds in the iCoach Program are strong. The iCoach program is an ICF-certified ACSTH program and will become an ICF Level 1 Program, pending ICF approval. The Program requires submission of your resume or Linked In profile, plus an admissions interview in order to be accepted into the Program.

4.Mentor Coach.

Mentor Coach was founded by Ben Dean, a psychologist in the late 1990s, Mentor Coach offers a number of different coaching tracks including one on executive coaching. The Mentor Coaching Program has been around the longest of all the four programs listed here, although its executive coaching program is only one of several other programs at Mentor Coach. One particularly interesting thing about Mentor Coach is that it has classes in Positive Psychology and places an emphasis on the positive psychology lens throughout its different programs [including a series of classes on Positive Psychology]. Mentor Coach is an Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) by the International Coach Federation- and since ACTP Programs are changing the ACTP programs, Mentor Coach will probably become a ICF-accredited Level 2 Program, pending ICF Approval. The relatively small class size at all of these four Programs allows participants to raise questions which aspiring executive coaches need to ask.

Some of these questions include:

1. What are the best first steps I need to take to set up an executive coaching practice? 2. How do I get into large organizations- or any organizations if I don’t feel I’m particularly proficient at marketing myself? 3. Should I offer other services in addition to my coaching practice like Assessment and Feedback or some type of Training in a field where I’m knowledgeable- in addition to Executive Coaching? 4. How do I use what I’m learning in the Program to set up an Internal Executive Coaching Practice in my organization? 5. As I start out, should I consider subcontracting my executive coaching services to larger consulting organizations. If I do that, which ones are the best ones to look into? It should be noted, many folks who have gone on to become exceptional executive coaches, have received their coach training at large coaching schools. Participants who already had the skill set and the grit to ultimately become exceptional executive coaches are likely to succeed using almost any educational environment as their training. But I’ve also had feedback from a significant number of exceptional executive coaches who trained at large coaching schools who became very discouraged by the poor quality of their student peers at these large coaching schools, and ended up either abandoning these programs or speaking about them in negative ways. The choice to attend an executive coach training program is an important career decision. Making sure you have done all your best due diligence to find the executive coach training program that is a best fit for you can actually contribute mightily to your work satisfaction as an executive coach- or may also weigh heavily in your ability to sustain your career as an executive coach. Executive coaching is a great field to be in when you’re succeeding. But it’s a challenging one to be in if you find yourself unable to support yourself financially. Almost every person I’ve ever taught or trained loved doing the actual executive coaching work. But making it sustainable and attainable for themselves as a professional is something all new executive coaches need to ask themselves about as they start or continue their executive coaching journeys. In my mind, this makes it even more important that as a newly minted executive coach you put together a strong, compassionate network which will end up being an amazing support system which will help pick you up when you fall into the valleys of defeat, as sometimes happens in the executive coaching world, when you’re competing for a coaching assignment, and you don’t get it. I recommend that you look into a small certified executive coaching program for your training. The fact that the program is certified through the ICF will be another credential you can add to your list of accomplishments as you present yourself for hire. The fact that the program is small should mean that you’ve put together a network or perhaps a series of networks which will become part of the larger system of networks you’ll need to spin to create your executive coaching career. In a future post, I’ll write about why “small is beautiful” in thinking about what executive coaching firm you should join to work at either full-time, part-time or do subcontracting work with. But for the moment, that “small is beautiful” post is for another day.


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