Top 5 Myths About Executive Coaching & the Truths Behind Them

Professional coaching is a rapidly growing field that continues to gain momentum as organizations and leaders recognize the benefits. Unlike other helping professions, however, coaching is neither well-understood nor officially regulated. As a result, myths about the discipline are prolific. These are 5 of the most common misconceptions about executive coaching and the truths behind them:   

  1. Coaching is just like therapy. People often confuse coaching and therapy but the two are different in several substantive ways. The International Coaching Federation (ICF), our profession’s governing body, defines “…coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching focuses on visioning, success, the present and moving toward the future. Therapy emphasizes psychopathology, emotions and the past to understand the present, and it works more with developing skills for managing emotions or past issues than does coaching.” Certified coaches receive training on when to recommend their clients consider therapy, as most coaches lack psychotherapeutic training. Knowing our lane and ensuring we operate within it is critical to ensure both client success and psychological safety.
  1. Anyone can be a coach. I agree that anyone can become a coach – but not without rigorous training. Many wonderful training programs exist, each oriented to different schools of thought (presence-based, ontological, etc) and specialties (executive, life, health and wellness, etc). All ICF-accredited programs, however, meet certain guidelines that include number of hours in practice, training and exams. Selecting a coach who has completed training and satisfied accreditation requirements is critical to ensure optimal outcomes and a safe process. 
  1. Coaching is remedial. For many years, organizations assigned coaches to employees with performance issues. Hiring a coach for several months to help someone improve before termination was a common trope. Thankfully, the world has evolved since then and organizations increasingly understand that coaching is an integral part of success, not a last resort. Leaders often find that as their seniority advances, their number of workplace confidants decreases. Coaches are invaluable neutral accountability and thought-partners. 
  1. Coaching is only for CEOs. The transition from individual contributor to leader is an inflection point for many people. Unfortunately, few receive the training and guidance they need. This career moment is one of the most important times for coaching. Engaging a coach before employees are promoted paves the way for a smooth transition into senior roles. 
  1. All coaches are the same. As with any relationship, the trust between coach and coachee must be strong to support growth. Not only do coaches represent varied experiences and approaches, but we bring our full selves and personalities to every engagement. Had a bad experience with coaching? Open your mind to the possibility that a different coach may be a better fit.

Coaching may be narrowly understood, but more organizations and individuals are embracing the practice and experiencing the personal and professional benefits. If you have questions or are ready to try coaching, get in touch by emailing me at

Leave a Comment