How to tell if you have a good coach or a great coach

Many people these days call themselves coaches. Really, all you need is a website and a business card that says executive coach on it. This low barrier to entry makes it difficult for businesses to distinguish between a good coach and the kind of coach and consultant who can become a long-term business partner and deliver true transformation to a leader, team or whole organization.

Here are some of the areas to consider when choosing a coach, and how to differentiate between someone who is just ‘good’ and someone who is great – and who will lead you on to greatness.


A good coach might have good intuition when dealing with others and may even have read some books or academic articles about psychology. However, a great coach will have completed many courses and qualifications related to psychology and cognitive behavioral sciences, particularly behavioral and organizational psychology, and be aware of all the most up-to-date research in their field. Look for a coach who is certified by a reputable organization like the ICF (International Coaching Federation) or MCF (Meta-Coach Foundation).


A good coach might get good results, however they may not be consistent, as they are typically performance coaches focused on behavioural feedback, like a sporting coach is. A great coach works with developmental and transformational coaching, and is trained to detect the root cause of a poor result or behavior. They then use proven tools to create permanent change in the programming of the mind.


Now, experience is never the defining factor of how capable someone is of performing a task – but it does help. A great coach will have a wealth of experience from a vast number of areas to draw on, and crucially, they will have achieved some kind of success – whether personal, professional or recreational – that gives them insight into the factors that create success. The experience that someone builds up over their lifetime, both professionally and privately, is a valuable resource for the coach to help clients achieve their goals.


While a good coach might have a set approach to solving the issues of an individual or organization, a great coach has a range of proven psychological techniques and practices they can draw on to diagnose the situation, taking a flexible and agile approach to offering solutions. Coaching is not consulting, training, therapy or mentoring. However, a great coach knows when to consult, train, mentor or be a therapist and has the ability to know when to be what for the client.


A good coach will often develop tools for their own use – and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, great coaches will invest in learning and deploying state-of-the-art tools that get results rapidly. Great coaches have an extensive toolkit at their side that support them to have the confidence to handle any situation or circumstance that is handed to them by their clients. Tools that create permanent results for their clients, including assessment tools that offer people analytics and other tools to assist in creating behavioral and organizational change.


A great coach will practise what they preach. Whether that’s a healthy lifestyle, mindfulness or a commitment to the environment, a great coach will be walking the walk and not just talking the talk. This is what I call an Evolutionary Leader. Someone who is committed to their own personal transformation and the transformation of their clients. “Applying to self first” is a principle that great coaches use to make sure they are their own best clients and an example of what is possible. This is the call of leadership: to be a role model and an example.  


Finally, when all the above is in place, the great coach will have a string of testimonials and praise both from past and present clients and also from fellow coaches and colleagues in the field. Even though they get great results and have the respect of their colleagues they are humble and genuine people that are focused on helping their clients achieve what they want in business and life.


Timothy is a consultant and executive coach to multi-national corporations, SMEs and startups. He has been working in the field for 20 years in over a dozen countries around the world. To help you accelerate success – either individually as a leader or for your team – get in touch on