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Six Key Trends in Executive Coaching

If ever there was a time to be considering changing pressures and impact I guess it would be now, as we reflect on a year which saw life and work disrupted beyond our imaginations. So, what about trends in executive coaching? As well as enjoying stimulating and insightful conversations on this subject with colleagues over recent months, I’ve also been doing some reading. Here’s what I am noticing:

1. Coaching is a big spend activity. And getting bigger. The estimated global total revenue from coaching in 2019 was $2.849 billion U.S. dollars, representing a 21% increase over the 2015 estimate (source: International Coaching Federation Global Coaching Survey 2020). And…

2. There are more people getting involved – and they’re increasingly well trained. The continuing growth of executive coaching as a valued intervention within organisations is matched by the growing number of people engaged in coaching. The 2020 ICF study found worldwide growth and a widening spread of coaching, with an estimated 33% rise since 2015 in the number of ‘coach practitioners’ (i.e. external and/or internal to the client organisation who describe themselves as business, leadership or executive coaches). This term doesn’t include the growing number who use coaching skills within their managerial or professional role (e.g. HR professionals) who, the survey finds, are generally well educated and, in coaching terms, well trained. While harder to measure, the ICF survey estimates nonetheless that the number of managers/leaders using coaching skills has risen by almost half (+46%) globally since 2015. It’s an increasingly competitive marketplace.

3. Training, qualifications, and accreditation are therefore somewhat unsurprisingly all growing in demand – An increasing majority of those surveyed (55% compared with 37% in 2015) indicated that those who receive/use coaching expect their coaches to be certified/credentialed (*NB the survey was conducted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers on behalf of ICF which is a certifying professional coaching body), and that a reported 99% coach practitioners and 93% of managers/leaders using coaching skills had received some coach-specific training, including 79% through programs accredited/approved by a professional coaching organization.

4. How coaching is delivered is changing Even before the tsunami of change precipitated by covid, we were aware of a shift from ‘face to face with occasional online’ towards the online presence we now experience. The ICF survey reports that although coach practitioners most frequently engage with their clients in person, the use of audio-video platforms had doubled in the past four years, from 24% in 2015 to 48% in 2019. We now know how much further that direction of travel has taken us and, wherever the balance between ‘in person’ and online may eventually settle, executive coaches will need to work harder and more skilfully at finding meaningful ways of building rapport and creating safe, trusting spaces within which their clients can freely work with them. There are too reports of AI in coaching coming over the horizon and I wonder how that will sit? Perhaps another topic for a future blog article…

5. What coaching is delivering is also changing As coaches we’ve always been about change and hold ourselves to account on our own continuing professional development. Just as well. This year many of us have seen wellbeing and resilience rise up the list of key objectives that our clients bring to coaching, requiring shifts in our own coaching focus. Ongoing, leaders as ‘framers of the new normal’ will need skills which will become critical differentiators of competence, helping their people navigate through fluid and changing landscapes, and enabling more effective remote working. Think, for example, of the challenge of joining a new organisation where you have no personal contact with key stakeholders, customers or team members. Managers must find new ways to enable cultural integration and provide personal support in this new post pandemic environment. Coaches can play a valuable role helping people to find their own response and leverage their strengths as they learn to swim in new waters. (Jan 2020) highlighted the ‘democratisation of leadership’, where everyone needs to be a leader who actively engages their people. Potentially, awareness of this will see leadership development pushed down through the organization: for organisations who can’t afford to pay for one to one coaching for all, group coaching provides a better value offer. Executive coaches have opportunities to develop understanding and proficiency in these different forms of coaching, including team coaching which also continues to rise in demand (Ridler report 2016).

6. Fees and expectations are up for renegotiation: coaches will need to prove their worth. Unsurprisingly, given all the above, conversations with colleagues reveal that traditional arrangements are now in question. About 15 years ago I remember working in leadership and talent within financial services, when I was involved in the engagement of an Executive Coach for one of our senior team. The coach presented me with a fait accompli set of terms which included an upfront payment of £13,000 for the six session, year-long coaching assignment. Needless to say I was somewhat flabbergasted! However, while niches may still exist for ‘platinum’ coaching relationships (was it fact or fiction that a certain global coaching superstar was – still is? - charging prospective clients $1m a year for the privilege?) my sense is that for most coaches the new world order will likely see downward pressure on fees. Coaches will need to ensure they are on their toes - offering the best value while also reflecting their competence, training and depth of professional expertise.

The good news is that coaching is about change, harnessing it, building readiness and making it happen. Our skills as executive coaches will be required, as keenly focused as ever, to support others in navigating the uncertainties that face them today; those same skills will serve us well in innovating and adjusting to the environment.

Routes to a recognised qualification and accreditation are both provided in the Taylor Clarke Executive Coach programme.

At Taylor Clarke we have a depth of experience supporting coaches on their professional and personal development. The programme carries an ILM Level 7 Qualification at Certificate or Diploma level.

Gwynneth Rees-Kenny, Consultant & Coach

Gwynneth has been coaching senior leaders and high potential individuals for over 20 years enabling clearer vision, renewed energy and focus, and values- based decision making to shift from ‘stuck’ into action and change.

She delivers executive coaching to individuals as well as team coaching with a focus on the collective agenda and shared relationship within and beyond the team. Gwynneth is a tutor on our ILM Level 7 Certificate/Diploma in Executive coaching.


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