Executive Coaching Survey Summary 2020This document is an Executive Summary of the 15th Annual Sherpa Executive CoachingSurvey report. It is offered as a service to the coaching industry and to assist coachesand clients understand our business.The complete research report is available in hard copy only, from the ‘Books’ sectionat the Sherpa Coaching online store ( year’s report serves two purposes, both highlighted in this free public reportsummary. It delivers not only the most current survey data (INFO 2020), but we alsobring you an exclusive, detailed look at over a decade of trends and constants withinthe industry (HINDSIGHT 2020). You will find extensive detailed analyses and data inthe full 84-page report.1

Statement of Intellectual Property Rights 2020 by Sasha Corporation inCincinnati, Ohio, USA, the holdingcompany for Sherpa Coaching, LLC.proprietary research, a body of workthat is to be considered a tradesecret.Produced and printed in the UnitedStates of America.The full survey report is onlyauthorized as a hard-copy version,available for purchase on line andmade available to attendees atEXCO, the Executive CoachingConference, held June 7-9, 2020 atthe Westin Hotel, Fountain Squarein Cincinnati, Ohio USA.This research is offered by SherpaCoaching LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio USA,as a service to executives and theircoaches.This report is a distinct work fromthe full survey report, an 84-pagehard copy document available forsale the Books section.For academic purpose, please usethe following format for citations:Sasha Corporation. (2020). The2020 Sherpa Executive CoachingSurvey. Cincinnati, OH: SashaCorporation.This document contains informationavailable exclusively from Sherpa’s2ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.No part of this work covered by thecopyrightthereonmaybereproduced or used in any form orby any means: graphic, electronic,ormechanical,includingphotocopying, recording, taping,Web distribution, or informationstorage and retrieval systems, or inany other manner, without thewritten permission of the publisher.Please do not quote or otherwiseuse any part of this survey withouteditorial permission from SherpaCoaching, obtainable by sk,[email protected]

Hindsight 2020Looking Back Looking ForwardThese days, people toss out various clichés and figures of speech all the time. Theysay buzz words and catch phrases without even realizing it. A phrase like “Hindsightis 20/20” can mean several things. We use it as a phrase of reassurance when unfortunate circumstances occur:Hindsight is 20/20, as if to say: You couldn’t have predicted this would happen. We also use it in a more sarcastic way when we say: Well, hindsight is 20/20,as if to say: I told you so! We use it with an instructive tone: Hindsight is always 20/20, implying thatlessons are being learned, and things can be different going forward.For Sherpa’s Executive Coaching Survey report, the phrase Hindsight is 2020 is aperfect theme. This year marks an opportunity to look back over 15 years of data andalmost 400,000 data points, specific answers to specific questions. This unique datacollection strikes us in the same three ways described above:ReassuranceA Critical PerspectiveValuable LessonsWith annual information collected from around the world, we have the ability tomonitor trends as they evolve. We can see how the coaching industry has maturedover time. We have tracked earnings and marketing information, techniques andmethods used, the effect of technology on coaching, demographics, relationshipsbetween coaches and clients, and more.Collecting data over many years also shows us things that have remained constant,topics within the industry that have standardized and do not seem to change at all.We find these observations just as valuable as the changing trends.3

The Executive Coaching SurveyWelcome to the 2020 Executive Coaching Survey.This market research is a service of Sherpa Coaching, a team ofcoaches, authors, educators, and researchers working acrossthe world via video conference and based in Cincinnati, Ohio,USA. Your research team consists of Karl Corbett, ManagingPartner and Joseph Valeri, Research Executive at SherpaCoaching, along with Shawn Herbig and his IQS Researchorganization.This year’s research is sponsored by:University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education, Athens, GASherpa Coaching, Cincinnati, OHTraining Impact Leadership Expeditions, Lahore, PakistanEXCO, the 15th Annual Executive Coaching ConferenceThis year, as always, we polled executive coaches,business coaches, clients, HR and training professionals,and a wider group of professionals with an interest inleadership development. All data about coaching in thisreport comes from this data set and subsets, such as‘executive coaches only,’ as labelled.We have now reached critical mass in our research on corporate culture. The CorporateCulture Survey is now housed at its own website: www.corporateculture.ccOur research on women in leadership has also reached critical mass. A separate report isnow housed at www.women-in-leadership.cc4

What Is Executive Coaching?With thanks to our sponsors and supporters, the Executive Coaching Survey is a marketresearch project now in its fifteenth year. Through this market research, you will discoverhow to make the most of coaching as a service for your organization – or as a career foryourself.What exactly is Executive Coaching? Let’s draw some distinctions between two general areasof discipline: ‘executive coaching’ and ‘business coaching’. What are some of the differencesin emphasis, focus, and training between these two types of coaching?Business coaching is an alternative term for consulting, as research shows:“Many business coaches refer to themselves as consultants, a broader businessrelationship than one which exclusively involves coaching.”Lorber, Laura (10 April 2008). "Executive Coaching – Worth the Money?" The Wall Street Journal.We ask respondents to identify themselves, with two of the choices being: business coach (working to develop client’s knowledge and skills) or executive coach (working to permanently enhance business behavior)5

Defining the IndustryTo gather insightful and useful data, we need to distinguish between a variety of professionalroles, such as coaching, training, consulting, and mentoring. This allows us to separate andanalyze answers that come specifically and exclusively from executive coaches. We can makedirect, factual comparisons between different types of professionals.Let’s focus specifically on what executive coachingmeans. An accurate and viable definition of executivecoaching offers specific information that distinguishesit from other coaching – such as life, sports, fitness orbusiness coaching.The most widely accepted definition of executivecoaching is this: "regular meetings between a leaderand a trained facilitator, designed to produce positivechanges in business behavior in a limited timeframe.” ** Definition from 'The Sherpa Guide: Process-Driven Executive Coaching’ (Thomson 2005)6

Hot Topics 20207

Hot TopicsDelivery and Technology – The way in which services are provided will remain a hot topicfor one simple reason: technology is always changing. Ten years ago, nearly half of allcoaching was done in person. Now a majority of coaching is conducted by phone or video.With video conferencing surpassing face-to-face coaching, it is vitally important to staycurrent. Coaches, clients, and business professionals look to utilize all forms of servicedelivery, especially video, to best accommodate everyone’s needs. We will provide the latestmarket trends and a look back over the years, so you can stay current.The Purpose of Coaching – Who needs an executive coach most? Is it up-and-comingleaders seeking development? Individuals working on a specific challenge? Or those goingthrough job transition? This is an area that we have seen significantly affected by changes inthe world economy over the year s, but it has leveled out recently. This valuable indicatortells us why purchasers of coaching services are seeking them. Over the years, coaches havebeen used increasingly for leadership development and less often to address specificproblems.The Coaching Confidence Index: The Coaching Confidence Index is another unique andproprietary Sherpa research ranking system. With 15 years of earnings changes, supply anddemand data, and more, we can provide an all-encompassing “state of the industry” indexfor coaching. How do things look compared to last year’s Coaching Confidence Index? Howhave things changed over the last decade, as this crucial tool has evolved?Who Gets a Coach – Coaching can be an extremely valuable resource. Organizations thatuse executive coaches would love to have one-on-one coaching throughout theorganization, but that is seldom feasible. Instead, valuable coaching resources – whether inhouse coaching staff or hired externals – must be allocated as best as they possibly can. From2008-2011, coaching was more likely to be spread across all levels, rather than limited toexecutives. In 2020, interestingly, senior managers are most likely to receive coaching.A professional from the UK made a commentthat we’ve heard in recent years: “Increasedturbulence and change puts increasingpressure on leaders and managers, who willseek development to improve theircompetence and confidence.” UK8

Delivery and TechnologyIn 2020, video conferencing tools now account for morecoaching sessions than face-to-face meetings.We first reported the use of webcams and applications such as Skype in 2007, when coacheswere first starting to use this medium. Between 2011 and 2012, use of these methodsexploded. Now, most coaches and clients use webcam coaching to some extent and a thirdof all coaching services are delivered that way.In 2012, we separated“high-definitionvideoconferencing (HD)”from Skype and other“low-definition” webcamvideo tools. Back then,about 4% of coaching wasdelivered in HD. Now thatnumber has more thandoubled. Large screen,high definition systemsdeliver consistently highimagequality,synchronized audio andvideo, and real-timedelivery, without lags or dropouts. High definition studios are becoming more widelyavailable to coaches and clients at larger firms and shared office centers.At the same time, low-def video capability improves constantly. Connection speeds getfaster, video quality increases, clients and coaches gain familiarity. This type of videomeeting has increased even more significantly since 2010: from 5% to 25%.Older technologies, like telephone and email, are still being used as well. In fact, thosenumbers are not decreasing. Telephone has stayed around 25% and email has leveled offbetween 5 – 10%. Video and other technology account for two-thirds of coaching services.9

The Purpose of CoachingThere are three main reasons coaches are hired. Coaching is used toaddress specific problems, to assist in transition and to develop ‘up-and-coming’ leaders.In the first Executive Coaching Survey, published in 2006, behavioral problems were a bigpart of the rationale for executive coaching. Now, the emphasis has clearly moved tosomething different: leadership development.Over the years, the figures have moved constantly in one direction. In 2016, for the first timeever, ‘a specific problem or challenge’ became the least likely reason that someone wouldbe paired with an executive coach, a flip from the early days. Coaching to help individuals intransition (not pictured here) has remained level, while leadership development has soaredas the predominant reason for coaching.Leadership Development UPAddressing Problems DOWNHelping in Transition (not pictured) STEADY10

Who Gets a Coach?Here is the global breakdown from2008 to date, in which a trend hasleveled off and become a constant.Executive coaching, in its early days, was being democratized, spreading across all levels inthe organization. Then, several years ago, it became more exclusive. Coaching became theprovince of senior leaders and top executives. The number of organizations that reservedcoaching for leadership development grew. This aspect of executive coaching was trendingfor a while, and now has become a constant, as shown in the chart above.o Why do “up-and-coming” leaders get coached more than top executives?o Do top executives not need coaching? Or. do they think they do not need it?o Is talent retention more crucial these days?11

The Landscape of Coaching12

The Landscape of CoachingWhen Sherpa’s research started in 2005, the field of executive coaching was still in itsformative years. Hundreds of coaching schools opened and closed. Trade organizationscame and went. The role and definition of coaching remained poorly defined. Coachesthemselves were confused about what they did – and what exactly to call it. Since then, theindustry has matured, developing some standards and constants along the way.Age and Tenure – These demographics have settled into some constants as the industryhas matured. Coaches tend to be older: for the past 3 years, at least 60% of coaches are over55 years old. And coaches tend to be sticking around: a majority of all coaches have beencoaching for over 10 years. What does this mean for new coaches breaking into the game?We will look closer at this data to provide relevant analysis for all business professionals,whether they are internal coaches, external, HR staff or senior executives.Strengths vs. Weakness – While it is not an either-or situation, some coaches prefer tofocus on strengths while others look more at weaknesses. While seven in ten coaches overalltend to work on strengths (appreciative inquiry), HR and training professionals, more often,favor a deficits approach. Older coaches – those in the business the longest, also tendtowards correcting weaknesses, as do process-based coaches. We will investigate thenuances of this unique data and see what has changed over the years.Women in Leadership – A couple of years ago we compiled an industry standard look at animportant topic, women in leadership. We took a look aimed at the topic of gender diversityin leadership and provided a separate stand-alone report investigating a specific set ofquestions introduced to the annual survey in 2017. How do perceptions differ by gender,age and type of professional? A majority of executive coaches are women and the dataprovides valuable insight.13

Landscape of CoachingCoaching Constants – Some areas of coaching have become established and constant. Inthe early days of coaching, neither its value nor credibility was particularly high. It took timefor it to catch on. But once it did, we have not looked back. Over the years, nearly 100% ofall survey respondents indicated that the value of coaching was perceived as somewhat orvery high. In fact, we stopped asking this question all together!Standards of Practice – Do different kinds of coachesmodel their practice on published processes? What kind ofstandards have emerged as the coaching industry hasmatured? Some aspects of coaching seem to have reacheda point of standardization – such as whether or notcoaches use assessments and which ones they use – whileothers have not.In this section, we look for long standing trends over time that level off and define areas ofthe coaching industry as standard.Coaching is the most effectiveway of addressing the gapbetween the demands placed onleaders and their capacity tolead. USA14

Age and TenureA Remarkable Story of the Coaching IndustryThe annual data showing the age and tenure of executive coaches reflects the overall storyof the industry. The average age of executive coaches has not changed much over the years.New coaches enter the market, but they do not encounter a barrier to entry becausedemand has increased. There is turnover but the average age of coaches does not change.This data show shows the coaching industry maturing over the years, as coaches entering aburgeoning field in the 1990’s and early 2000’s moved “up the ranks.”Here is the cycle we now see in place:Demand increases slowly as coaching produces benefits.A small number of new coaches enter the field.Veterans continue to have success, but eventually retire.The pattern continues.15

Strengths Versus WeaknessesThere are two basic schools of thought in coaching. One approach involves identifying andworking with strengths. The other focuses on identifying and correcting weaknesses ordeficits. Let us look at the differences between strengths/weaknesses coaching.StrengthsAdvocates of strengths-based coaching, drawing from positive psychology, will say: Knowyour strengths, craft your life around them and you will be happier, more productive andreach your goals. Positive psychology supports change by focusing on positive emotion andcore strengths -- rather than facing challenges and improving upon weaknesses.WeaknessesThe weakness-based approach says: Your strengths have gotten you where you are. Dealingwith weaknesses in behavior is the only way to get to the next level. Advocates of theweakness approach include Marshall Goldsmith and ‘Sherpa Guide’ author Brenda Corbett,who writes: "Often, a client has reached a nice plateau with [their] strengths, but is held backby weaknesses.”Although it isnot aneither/orsituation, whichapproach didthe 2020ExecutiveCoaching Surveyfind is favored?16

Strengths Versus WeaknessesFast Facts Strengths/Weaknesses 2020A weakness-based (also called ‘deficits’) approach is more likely to be favored by internalcoaches.Coaches focused on correcting weaknesses are more likely to base their coaching on apublished process.Strengths-based coaches are more likely to develop their own process or simply apply aunique approach to each client.Deficits coaches, perhaps because they tend to follow a process, are more likely to offeronline learning programs and licensed content.Women are more likely than men to favor a strengths approach – 77% to 63%.Coaches from Canada and the UK tend more towards strengths than other coaches.More weakness-based coaches can be found among newer coaches (active less than 2years).Coaches under 45 are nearly split down the middle.Coaches addressing weaknessesearn more per hour, but workwith fewer clients, than coacheswho work with strengths.17

Women in LeadershipIn 2018, for the first time, we asked questions about women in leadership. Our interest inthis topic was encouraged by two female leaders in our organization. Brenda Corbett andJudith Colemon-Kinebrew are the authors of The Sherpa Guide: Process-Driven ExecutiveCoaching (Thomson, 2005).We ask organizational and cultural questions about opportunity, perceptions and othertopics relevant to Women in Leadership.Fast Facts Women in Leadership 2020We reveal wide gaps in perceptions between men and women in the business world:WomenMenAre women given equal consideration for advancement when opportunities arise? 29% of women say always 54% of men say always 39% say sometimes or rarely 13% of men say sometimes or rarelyDo men and women have equal chance to hold positions of power? 66% say yes, always or usually 89% of men say yes 34% report negatively 11% of men answer negativelyDoes your organization value women as leaders? 58% of women say alwaysIs your organization open to change? Over 80% of men and women both said yes.Earnings among coaches also show a genderdifference, as seen in in the pie chart:Organizations who want research conducted insidetheir organizations often contact Sherpa Coaching.Only Sherpa can compare results against globalbenchmarks and long-term trends.18 70%

Coaching ConstantsProcesses and BackgroundSo far, we've seen a few Coaching Constants: from the value and credibility of coaching tothe ways in which coaches are found. Let us look at a few survey questions about coaches’processes and backgrounds.Do coaches base their coaching on a published process?The answer to this question has remained remarkably consistent over the years. Only 30%follow a published process while 30% develop their own. The remainder changes theirapproach for each client.CONSTANT:Only 30% of Coaches Use a Published Process19

Standards of PracticeEven if ‘following a published process’ does become universal, that does not mean that therewill only be one process. As we have reported over the years, a variety of processes havegained and lost traction.Coaches and clients will always prefer one or another for various reasons, the same waystrengths- or weakness- based coaches differ.For coaches who do, which processes do they report using most?20


What Clients WantWhere Coaching Produces Value – Although people may want different things fromcoaching, they generally all want a positive impact on business. Clients want to see lastingresults and permanent change. What does this really mean? How can executive coachingbest be applied to different types of professionals in different situations? Where do peoplethink coaching can produce the most results? Is it effective for change management? Whatabout succession planning?Demand for Coaching – A majority of business professionals expect the demand forcoaching to increase. This has been true for a while. But this high level of expected demandhas slowed in recent years. Will the market for coaching level off or even decline in thecoming years?How Buyers Find a Coach – Although this area of the industry has almost become aCoaching Constant, it stills remains valuable to discuss. As we have seen in other areas ofcoaching, technology can swoop in and change things quickly. Clients, executives, HR staff,etc. can all find coaches in different ways, from web searches and personal networks tosocial media and referrals. This section of the report will keep you informed on all thedifferent ways coaches are found by clients.Measuring the Benefits – It became clear early in the coaching industry that no one couldreally evaluate the value of coaching without attempting to measure the benefits. Nearly allcoaches and clients want to know the results of their coaching engagements and there arenumerous ways business people are doing this. From performance reviews to MarshallGoldsmith’s 360 Feedback method, from traditional ROI formulas to the more contemporaryImpact on Business formula – how are people measuring the benefits ofcoaching?22

How Buyers Find a CoachExecutive coaches, like any other serviceprofessionals, must connect with their clients. Thereare time-honored traditions and brand new ways tocommunicate a message and build a network. Someways of ‘spreading the word’ are free. Others come ata cost.In recent years, we have asked whether web search, LinkedIn and other online networkswould chip away at the 80% held by Personal Referral. That has not turned out to happen –at least not yet.How do people find coaches? The market tells us that people find coaches through ‘personalreferences’ a vast majority of the time. They occasionally use web searches, tradeassociations, service brokers and LinkedIn. Personal references, however, are used ten timesmore often than any other method. We have seen very little change in this area in recentyears. Currently, 2020 is no different, although it is worth taking a closer look.23

Measuring the BenefitsThe only way to gauge whether results are improving is to measure them. How do businessleaders measure the benefits of coaching?Results this year are just about the same as last year’s. Perhaps, in the near future,we can move this topic to the ‘Coaching Constants’ section of our report.‘360 Assessments,’ a before-and-after method pioneered many years ago by MarshallGoldsmith, is used most, 29% of the time.Other common methods include ‘Well-being and Engagement,’ ‘Performance Reviews’ and‘Impact on Business’ which are used 15-20% of the time. Fewer organizations use ‘Return onInvestment’ formulas and the ‘Effectiveness of Learning’ method.24

Executive Coaching as a Career25

Executive Coaching as a CareerCoaches’ Earnings: How often do various coaches work, how much do they get paid andhow much are clients willing to pay for coaching services? These basic numbers plus a fewothers combine to form our analysis of Coaches’ Earnings. This section can serve as a gaugefor both entry-level and tenured coaches to see where they fit in the grand scheme of things,financially. This year’s data indicates good news for most coaches.Executive Coach, Business Coach: We define executive coaches as those specificallyworking on business behavior. Business coaches (consultants) help clients with specificbusiness knowledge or skills. Of this year’s survey respondents, 73% identified themselvesas executive coaches, with 10% as business coaches. In this section we will look closer at thedemographics, earnings and various other differences between the two.Mentoring: Althoughsimilarities existbetween the role of an executive coach andthat of a mentor, there are some keydifferences. Mentoring helps orient newemployees or provide guidance throughvaluable workplace relationships. We firstinvestigated this new topic in our 2019report. We now can paint a picture of thelandscape of mentoring programs, and howthey compare to coaching.Internal and External Coaches: We can split executive coaches into two categories:internal and external coaches. Internal coaches work within their own organization withexecutives, team leaders, management and other fellow employees. Externals generallywork independently and often must work on promoting their own business and generatingtheir own client engagements. Their roles are similar in many ways, yet several differencesalso exist. We will explore all of this in the pages that follow.How Coaches Market Their Services: The landscape of marketing and self-promotion haschanged in recent years. Personal, professional and social networks allow for directconnections that were only recently made possible. Coaches can market their services in anynumber of ways and purchasers can find what they need through various channels. Personalreference still dominates them all. Let us figure out why.26

Coaches’ EarningsPutting in the Time Really Pays OffMore experience means more work and more money for executive coaches. Veterancoaches make far more than new entrants.Earnings for coaches in the 10-15-year bracket have increased to 122,000 per year dueto an increase in both hourly rate and number of clients.Those in business 15 years or longer are averaging close to 160,000 annually from theircoaching, up 10,000 from last year. They are charging over 450 per hour.Not everyone makes more money every year. For several years now, coaches’ earningsacross the globe have both risen and fallen at different times. Coaches see different numbersof clients as well, which affects their annual earnings but not hourly earnings. Although“rookie” coaches (new entrants) earn less overall, they have seen their hourly rate skyrocket.Coaches’ earnings in the 0-2-year range have increased from about 200 per hour, fiveyears ago, to nearly 300 the last two years. Veteran coaches see more level rates.Eight years ago, brand new coaches were seeing five clients a week. Now they only seetwo. Many of them are internal coaches, with other duties assigned.While rookies are seeing fewer clients, veteran coaches and those in the middle tenurerange have a steady number of clients in our survey each year.27

Executive Coach, Business CoachFast Facts Types of Coaching 2020Demographics Women are the majority in executivecoaching, which is consistent with dataover the years, 55% to 45% -- a slightadvantage. Males are more likely than females to bebusiness coaches but there are fewermen among the ranks of non-businesscoaches (life coaching, et al.). Both business coaches and executive coaches tend towards the older side, with amajority of both being over 55. There are far more veteran executive and business coaches than life coaches. Threequarters of executive coaches have been in the business greater than 10 years. The samecan be said of business coaches. Non-business coaches have a higher percentage ofnewer coaches, which indicates turnover, likely because of less success over time.Service Delivery In the past, our study showed that executive coaches worked with clients face-to-facemore often than consultants. In recent years we see very little difference.Number of ClientsWhich type of coach is busier? Who gets the most clients per week? Most life coaches andbusiness coaches have five clients or less, while executive coaches tend to fall higher onthe spectrum. Two-thirds of business coaches see five clients or less. One-fifth (18%) of executive coaches report seeing 10 or more clients per week. A majority of executive coaches serve from 3 – 10 clients.28

MentoringMentoring is a way for colleagues to help each other grow in a professional setting througha relationship that provides guidance.“Mentoring has become an effective method for businesses to help employees withorientation, career advancement, problem solving, coaching, and support. In addition,mentors can assist employees to deal with the challenges associated with successful,productive, meaningful work life.” – www.mentors.caOrganizations provide a variety oftypes of mentoring programs to helpemployees with career advancementand orientation, with veteranemployees “showing the ropes” tonew employees.This new section of the ExecutiveCoaching Survey now has two years ofdata.Let us differentiate some distinctionsbetween mentoring and coaching.Mentoring tends to be more situational and informal, though longer-lasting than acoaching engagement.Mentoring is skills-focused and involves organizational and culture knowledge – asopposed to executive coaching,

high-definition videoconferencing (HD) from Skype and other low-definition webcam video tools. Back then, about 4% of coaching was delivered in HD. Now that number has more than doubled. Large screen, high definition systems deliver consistently high image quality, syn