The Characteristics Of Exceptional Coaches

Executive level coaching appears a fairly common practice these days.  As someone engaged in coaching at this level I regularly wonder how to improve the service I provide.  In order to increase my own capability I recently attended a workshop on exceptional executive coaching run by Dr Gavin Dagley.  Dr Dagley’s workshop was based upon his findings that there are eight coaching practices or attributes that differentiate the exceptional coach from a good coach.

The first three characteristics held by exceptional coaches form the basis of the working relationship between coach and executive.  These are the factors of credibility, empathy and respect, and holding the professional self.   Credibility is based upon both performance in-the-moment and accumulated experience.  Empathy and respect are important among other factors leading to build rapport and trust.  Holding the professional self refers to the ability to stay in role when under personal or professional pressure.

The next two characteristics held by exceptional coaches are diagnostic skill and insight, and flexibility and range in approach.  Both of these characteristics lead to deeper conversations between the coach and executive.  Diagnostic skill and insight relates to a coach’s understanding of the human condition and an awareness of the systematic issues that may be at play.  The second characteristic regards a coach’s ability to flexibly adapt their approach to the particular needs of the executive and task.

The remaining three characteristics of exceptional coaches assist executives develop greater insight into themselves and an accompanying sense of personal responsibility for making changes.  These characteristics involve working to the business context in which the executive inhabits, maintaining a philosophy wherein the executive retains personal responsibility for change, and skilful challenging of the executive by making them aware of confronting and difficult observations and messages.   

Through experience some coaches will naturally develop and enhance the above attributes and practices.  Yet having an explicit outline of exactly what it is that differentiates exceptional coaches presents an excellent opportunity to identify our own areas for development, and expedient this process.

Copies of Dr Dagley’s findings and other studies in the Exceptional Executive Coaching Series can be downloaded directly from:


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