Last updated: April 21

How to choose an onboarding coach for your new CEO 

Trigger events that cause panic inside organizations

Perhaps there is a new board member who doesn’t align with the CEO.

Maybe the CEO has left the company abruptly and your interim CEO is daunted by the challenges of taking over with no succession plan.

Or the newly appointed CEO must contend with an internal incumbent who is now a direct report.

Whatever the trigger, there is a lot at stake, and you must be informed on the right professional coaching resources to pursue.

A female career coach is having a positive conversation with their client

Buyer beware – protect your investment

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) recently published a documentary on its award-winning and investigative consumer watchdog show, Marketplace, in which journalists work to uncover the truth about popular products and services. Recently Marketplace covered a feature on “Testing life coaches” in which several life coaches were secretly vetted by journalists posing as prospective clients. What they unearthed is shocking because of their claims to be able to effectively treat mental illnesses—none is qualified.

Protect your company’s investment, brand, and your credibility by choosing the most appropriate resource for your CEO. Doing so will save your organization time and money while optimizing the performance of your chief executive.

What is executive coaching?

Coaching is a fairly new discipline in the business context and is used by organizations to help their leaders optimize their performance. Action-based and future-focused, coaching helps leaders be their best at establishing and achieving business-related goals.

Guided by the International Coach Federation competency framework, executive coaches help their clients forge their own path using the client’s natural problem-solving abilities thereby helping the leader become self-sufficient.

According to a 2019 International Coach Federation study (Building Strong Coaching Cultures for the Future, ICF, 2019).

  • 78% of employees strongly/somewhat agree that employees value coaching and 75% of senior executives strongly/somewhat value coaching.
  • 25% of respondents said coaching is an allocated budget line. The same study found that a strong coaching culture is correlated with some of the indicators of a high-performing organization, including employer brand attraction, high-performer retention and senior leadership bench strength.
  • 60% of organizations hire external coach practitioners, 57% internal, and 82% of organizations have managers and leaders who use coaching skills to manage their teams.

In a 2009 Harvard Business Review Research Report What Can Coaches Do For You? (Diane Coutu and Carol Kauffman), 48% of respondents acknowledged that coaching helps develop high potential leaders or to facilitate transition with a typical program duration of 7 to 12 months (p. 1).

In addition, coaching helps the executive:

  • Focus on the future
  • Foster individual performance in a business context
  • Help executives discover their own path

Finally, “There are two basic rules for hiring a coach. First, make sure that the executive is ready and willing to be coached. Second, allow the executive to choose whom he or she wants to work with, regardless of who in the organization initiated the engagement” (p.9).

Westgate graphic demonstrating the different CEO onboarding resources

What is business consulting?

Often confused by many as coaching, consulting services leverage the expertise of the consultant to solve a specific business problem. It is not coaching, because coaching by its definition is a co-active process involving the client and the coach together. Lawyers, accountants, and other service providers are considered consultants. Coaches and consultants are mutually exclusive and while many consultants are qualified to serve as a coach, they are not interchangeable terms. 

What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a way to help people with a broad variety of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties. Psychotherapy can help eliminate or control troubling symptoms so a person can function better and can increase well-being and healing.

Problems helped by psychotherapy include difficulties in coping with daily life, the impact of trauma, medical illness or loss, like the death of a loved one, and mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety. There are several different types of psychotherapy, and some types may work better with certain problems or issues. Psychotherapy may be used in combination with medication or other therapies.

It is not likely your new CEO will require the services of a psychotherapist. They will likely need the services of a coach or consultant. Therapy is not coaching. They are uniquely different.

What is Counseling?

Counseling is the skilled and principled use of relationship to facilitate self- knowledge, emotional acceptance and growth and the optimal development of personal resources. The overall aim is to provide an opportunity to work toward living more satisfyingly and resourcefully.

Counseling relationships will vary according to need but may be concerned with developmental issues, addressing and resolving specific problems, making decisions, coping with crisis, developing personal insights and knowledge, working through feelings of inner conflict or improving relationships with others. The counsellor’s role is to facilitate the clients work in ways that respect the client’s values, personal resources and capacity for self-determination.

Counseling is not coaching. Personal counseling, grief counseling, and career counseling services are offered by a licensed professional. Coaching is not a licensed profession, counseling is a licensed profession. It is possible the CEO may benefit from a counselor, but this is not a typical resource deployed by a corporation unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as mental illness.

What is life coaching?

According to Wikipedia, Life coaching is the process of helping people identify and achieve personal goals through developing skills and attitudes that lead to self-empowerment. Life coaching generally deals with issues such as procrastination, fear of failure, relationship issues, lack of confidence, work–life balance and career changes, and often occurs outside the workplace setting. Systematic academic psychological engagement with life coaching dates from the 1980s. Skeptics have criticized life coaching's focus on self-improvement for its potential for commercializing friendships and other human relationships.

Many of the topics covered in executive coaching transcend into the life arena due to coaching’s holistic approach as we practice at Westgate. We are members of the International Coach Federation and follow the principles of Co-Active Coaching which emphasizes the partnership between the coach and the client designed to build strong, lasting, and collaborative relationships (based on the work of Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, and Laura Whitworth.

What is career coaching?

Similar to executive coaching, career coaching helps individuals identify interests, goals, and set plans to manage their career. Career coaches work inside organizations to help leaders identify a new career path or to position themselves for the next opportunity or internal promotion. They may also help leaders prepare for an independent board of directors opportunity for a privately or publicly held organization. Executive, career, and life coaching are inter-related disciplines and our holistic approach to the practice respects this reality.

A woman coaching another executive in an office setting

Coaching is not a licensed profession and is therefore not regulated.

What is personal branding?

According to William Arruda, the father of personal branding and CEO of Reach Personal Branding, your brand is your highest-level description—it is your core, your nucleus. When you are clear about your brand, and live it, authenticity radiates from you and marketing becomes easier—even to those who don’t enjoy it, or don't want to do it.

Your brand is your unique promise of value. It transcends companies, industries, and teams. It’s your permanent boarding pass to first-class seating.

Personal branding helps the leader stand out by clarifying and communicating what makes them different, special, and valuable. Executive or personal branding is the process of uncovering a leader’s signature message based on their strengths and achievements. The brand is designed to help the leader communicate their message to their targeted audience, such as public or private markets, industry regulators, the media, employees, suppliers, and the entire business ecosystem.

What is performance optimization coaching?

Performance optimization coaching is used when a new leader is required to make major changes in an organization, such as post-merger integration (for example). The integration of multiple brands post-merger can be a daunting task for the most powerful leader. It is a subset of executive coaching that is project-specific. It helps the leader perform optimally and effectively saving valuable time in the process especially when each member of the team is aligned with the CEO. Effective team dynamics is a predictor of success and goes without saying.

A male coach is observing his client as they run through exercises

What is executive recruiting?

Although not technically related to the professions of counseling, psychotherapy, or executive coaching, executive recruiters serve the corporation to identify the best human capital to support the corporation’s goals. The executive recruiter does NOT serve the job candidate. The executive recruiter works on behalf of the company and is paid by the corporation to identify, introduce, and select the candidate that best fits the corporation’s objectives. The marketplace is riddled with confusion about recruiters. Executive recruiters often advise job candidates during the search process, but recruiters serve the corporation.

The role of the CEO is a lonely one because by default the CEO has no peer inside the organization. The CEO reports to the entire board and supports their direct reports. Early decision-making as the CEO is critical to their brand and relationships.

Questions to ask when choosing an executive coach

Organizations are as unique as their leaders, so the vetting process for each will vary depending on their specific needs.

  • How do you help organizations achieve peak performance?
  • Do you have professional endorsements you can share?
  • What is your process?
  • What will be different after coaching?
  • How is success measured?
A woman is gently speaking to a male executive

How to choose the right resource for your new CEO

Each professional services organization has its own suite of proprietary services and Westgate is no different. It can feel overwhelming to discern what resource or tool should be used for a specific scenario. Sometimes we deploy a multi-model approach, that we refer to as consultative coaching, which is part consulting (problem-solving) and part coaching (which is client-led and future-focused).

We offer a needs assessment for each project we undertake, which reduces your risk. Once the needs assessment is complete, we will determine if (1) we are the best resource for your organization and if not (2) who we can recommend as the best resource for your needs. Quality is a core value at Westgate and we ensure your organization gets the best resources to achieve your goals.

A compass pointing towards the word career

Get in touch

If Westgate can serve as a resource to your board, we’d be happy to explore with you. Drawing on 25 years’ corporate experience and serving organizations in the United States and Canada, Westgate Executive Branding is a 100% independent firm with no affiliations with recruitment or outplacement firms. Schedule a confidential conversation with our Client Success Strategist, Maddison Shears at

ICF table of competencies

3 steps to a LinkedIn profile headline that will jazz recruiters

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We look forward to welcoming you into the Westgate Family of success stories.

About executive resume writing author 

Westgate - Maureen Farmer

Maureen Farmer is the Founder & CEO of Westgate Executive Branding & Career Consulting Inc., an international personal branding and career consulting firm delivering premier executive branding and career consulting services for high-profile leaders. Author of The CEO Script Vault: Job Search Scripts for Busy Executives, Maureen believes that when we’re doing work aligned with our values, everyone wins. Using the law of attraction to identify quality employers utilizing the hidden job market is a cornerstone of her career management strategy.

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