by Robert A. Isaacson, MA, MSS
©2018 All rights reserved. 

“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”  -Tom Landry.

  • Frank is a remodeling contractor, relatively new to his business. He’s disorganized and unfocused. When overwhelmed, he thinks he’ll fail. In this state of mind, Frank has difficulties completing projects and generating new business, despite being a fine craftsperson.
  • Overcoming poverty, Donna has built a thriving organization. She is highly charismatic, a role model for others, and powerful leader. Sometimes she doubts herself, particularly her ability to make the kind of sales contacts to propel her business forward. Donna’s management team needs help in working more cooperatively together and getting things done.
  • John is about to take over his family’s insurance business. A former military man with strong command-and-control skills, John gives too many orders. He needs to relax, tune into the needs of his staff, communicative better, and sell more.

What do these 3 people have in common? They’re all successful individuals with some obstacles. All 3 are striving for a balance between their work and personal lives, and want to be even more successful and happy. They want to create robust businesses.

Also they’re coaching clients.

Perhaps you’ve heard about life and executive coaching. While a relatively new professional service, coaching has grown by “leaps and bounds” in the last 30 years.

A financial planner, Thomas Leonard, created life or personal coaching in the early 1980s. He found his clients wanting more than financial advice. They were asking questions about how to lead their lives in better ways and Leonard wanted to help them. He would later (in 1992) form Coach University, the first and today the largest coach-training program in the world.

Fortune 500 businesses brought coaches into the corporate world during the 1990s. These executive coaches work with chief executive officers, top managers, and salespeople, helping them improve their leadership skills, build more productive work teams and sell more products and services.

Today, there are literally thousands of executive, business, and personal coaches throughout the world working with clients in hundreds of niche markets. The International Coach Federation alone (, a non-profit standards and credentialing body for coaches, has thousands of members with 177 chapters in 31 countries. Hundreds of articles and television segments have featured coaches and the work they do.

In terms of clients, business or executive coaches focus on working with small business owners, corporate executives, and in specific industries such as real estate or manufacturing. These coaches work with individuals or entire teams of people. The number of niche markets for personal or life coaches is even larger. There are coaches for parents, for individuals with attention deficit disorder, for people making career transitions, and the list goes on.


So what’s coaching anyway? The best place to start is with the International Coach Federation or ICF definition. Coaching is…

“…An ongoing relationship or partnership between you and a coach that focuses on your taking action toward the realization of your visions, goals and/or desires. Coaching uses a process of questioning and personal discovery to build your level of awareness and responsibility. It provides you with structure, support, feedback, and accountability. The coaching process helps define and achieve (business), professional, and personal goals faster and with more ease than would be possible otherwise.”

Note the words in the ICF definition. Coaching is a partnership or trusting relationship between equals, an individual (or work team or business) and a coach. There is no stigma attached to coaching. Clients are seen as wanting to achieve, grow, develop, and change and not as having “problems.” Some see this as a critical distinction between coaching and psychotherapy.

Coaching is an action-oriented process that empowers you to do several things:

  • Generate a vision of success as you define it,
  • Clarify your work and personal needs,
  • Set goals, and
  • Develop unique, out-of-the-box strategies yielding measurable results that guarantee a concrete return on the time and money you invest in them.

Business and executive coaches see your company’s success rising or falling based on how you manage the motivation, performance, and productivity of your greatest resource, your people. The Hudson Institute’s Workforce 2000 report rings true for coaches when it states:

“The foundation of national wealth is really people – human capital – represented by its knowledge skills, attitudes, and motivations. The primary assets of a modern corporation leave the workplace each night to go home to dinner.”


Initially, an executive or business coach will assist you and/or your business in completing a self-assessment. As an individual, you might discuss the challenges you face, goals you want to reach as well as ways to track your progress in working towards them. Most will work holistically with you, urging you to examine your level of satisfaction in all areas of your life and make changes you believe important.

If you ask a coach to work with you and your business associates, she may ask you to convene a meeting of your management team in order to assess their barriers to performance and the causes of these. Then she’ll help you develop collectively a plan of action to improve your team and your company’s performance. It’s common for a coach to work in parallel fashion both with a group of businesspeople and individually with an owner or executive.

After one or more assessment sessions, many coaches work with you on the telephone or via video conferencing. Some prefer face-to-face meetings at your site or their offices. Often a combination of telephone, video, and in-person meetings is used.

Coaching can last from about one month to one or 2 years or longer. This depends on several factors, including the complexity of the challenges you and your company face as well as your own pace of change. It’s wise to make at least a three-month commitment to coaching. This will allow you to develop a good “feel” for the process, and determine if coaching is a valuable experience.


Coaches help you develop a vision and reach goals in 4 main ways. They ask powerful questions that encourage introspection. They make compelling observations about what they see and hear, observations that should cause you to think about your life and business in new ways.

Coaches will ask you to complete “homework” tasks between coaching sessions. These may be challenging and “stretch” you, but should help you learn and change more quickly and effectively. And finally, coaches will support your changing and gently confront you and hold you accountable when needed.

For your part, take control of your coaching sessions. Prepare for them by being clear about your agenda. Be honest with your coach. Tell him how he can best assist you. Confront her if she makes a mistake. Do your “homework” if you begin with a coach. If you’re not making at least some progress in 3 months, consider changing coaches.


To find an executive, business, or life coach, ask around. Talk to business associates and friends. You can search two web sites.  The first is a local coach association, ICF Philadelphia (, click on “Find a Coach”). The second is the International Coach Federation (, click on “Find a Coach”).

Most coaches offer a complementary coaching session on the telephone or face-to-face. Take advantage of these. Ask the coach about herself, her style of coaching, her training. Talk to a couple of coaches and choose the person with whom you are most comfortable.

Be assertive in your questioning about credentials. There is concern the field of coaching is an unlicensed and unregulated service. There are voluntary certification programs such as the one run by the International Coaching Federation, with in excess of a dozen coach training schools. You may want to consider hiring a therapist or counselor, a person with at least a master’s degree in psychology or social work, as your coach. Many mental health professionals are developing coaching practices and bring excellent helping skills to the table.

Coaching fees range from $600 to over $800 per month for individuals, or from $13,000-$20,000 for a 6-month engagement in an organization. Typically, on-site coaching or consulting services range from $2000 to $3500 per day. While not inexpensive, consider them an investment in you and your company.

Happy coaching!

Robert A. Isaacson, M.A., M.S.S., is a business and executive coach. He helps leaders and executives connect to others emotionally and communicate powerfully to get business results like better performance, profitability and promotions. Bob is the co-founder of Full Circle Solutions, a Philadelphia-area executive coaching and counseling company. He can be reached here and at (610) 446-4981.