The limits of “Certification”

At the Center for Executive Coaching, we are lucky that our students are almost uniformly people with an outstanding track record. Seasoned executives, entrepreneurs, psychologists, and degreed professionals complete our program.

They already have the credentials required to build credibility with a C-level executive.

But every once in a while a prospective students calls and says, “Tell me about how powerful your Certification is in the marketplace…” When they do, I roll my eyes, because this person does not quite understand how CEOs go about hiring a coach.

First, CEOs don’t wake up one morning and say, “Gee, I need a coach.” And, if they do, they don’t say, “Gee I better find one who has a Certificate.”

We show you the effective way to communicate what you do and position your coaching services.

In brief, it comes down to a few keys:

1. Choose a target market.

2. Show the executives in that market how you can solve their most pressing problems and bring immediate, compelling value.

3. Get visible in your target market.

4. Be credible, trustworthy, and somebody that an executive can relate to.

A piece of paper doesn’t achieve any of those goals. It doesn’t hurt, but it isn’t anything near the determining factor(s).

Furthermore, many certifications focus on the hours you have spent coaching clients. That’s wrong, because the focus should be on results, not how long you spend getting the results. Suppose you spend 2,000 hours with clients getting no results? Should you be “Certified”? I know a financial coach who can increase the enterprise value of a company by a factor of 10 or 100 with his advice to CEOs — and it takes him about 3 phone calls to give that advice and start getting results. He would have to coach 700 CEOs to be Certified by some organizations, and yet his results on a dollar basis (and the fees he earn) exceed 99.9% of Certified coaches.

Now, if your goal is to coach middle managers via the HR department of a large company, certification can be useful. However, I believe that it is much better if you start at the top (and C-level executives usually don’t turn to their HR administrator for recommendations for coaches), and then have the top send you around the organization. That way, you command much higher fees and have access to people who can make required organizational changes when needed.

Be careful of hiding behind Certification. Being “certified” as a coach might help your own confidence and self-esteem, but it won’t get you many clients or top fees.

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