Considering Executive Coaching? What kind of coaching is right for you?
Get the facts – not the hype.

By Judith Dozier Hackman , Senior Partner at Ideas for Action, LLC

Coaching is an increasingly growing service not only for executives but also for a variety of people and purposes – both work and personal. Read this blog to learn about types of coaching and comparisons with other professional services – Therapy / Consulting / Mentoring / Training / Athletic Development – from Master Coaches and other experts.

The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. . . Individuals who engage in a coaching relationship can expect to experience fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhanced thinking and decision-making skills, enhanced interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in carrying out their chosen work and life roles.”

As part of becoming a coach through the Columbia Coaching Certification Program at Teachers College, I conducted a grounded theory research study to identify various coaching types. Information was collected from the literature plus 10 phone interviews and 26 online surveys with experienced coaches. The majority (19) had earned Master Coaching Certification (MCC) status through ICF while the remainder (9) were experienced coaches, most leading associations or teaching in coaching programs.

What are primary coaching types?

Seven primary coaching types were identified and grouped into Work and Personal categories. A review of other, less frequently named, kinds of coaching reveals that most could be incorporated into one or more of the top seven types.

Chart A. Coaching Types by Purpose: Top Seven Survey Responses

How does coaching differ from other professional services?

Peter Seidler describes how 5 other professional services compare to professional coaching. Differences among Coaching / Therapy / Consulting / Mentoring / Training / Athletic Development include:

  • Professional coaching: “focuses on setting goals, creating outcomes and managing personal change. Sometimes it’s helpful to understand coaching by distinguishing it from other personal or organizational support professions.”
  • Therapy “deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict within an individual or in relationships. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past that hamper an individual’s emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with the present in more emotionally healthy ways. Coaching, on the other hand, supports personal and professional growth based on self-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes. These outcomes are linked to personal or professional success. Coaching is future focused. While positive feelings/emotions may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one’s work or personal life. The emphases in a coaching relationship are on action, accountability, and follow through.”
  • Consulting “Individuals or organizations retain consultants for their expertise. While consulting approaches vary widely, the assumption is the consultant will diagnose problems and prescribe and, sometimes, implement solutions. With coaching, the assumption is that individuals or teams are capable of generating their own solutions, with the coach supplying supportive, discovery-based approaches and frameworks.”
  • Mentoring “A mentor is an expert who provides wisdom and guidance based on his or her own experience. Mentoring may include advising, counseling and coaching. The coaching process does not include advising or counseling, and focuses instead on individuals or groups setting and reaching their own objectives.”
  • Training “programs are based on objectives set out by the trainer or instructor. Though objectives are clarified in the coaching process, they are set by the individual or team being coached, with guidance provided by the coach. Training also assumes a linear learning path that coincides with an established curriculum. Coaching is less linear without a set curriculum.”
  • Athletic Development “Though sports metaphors are often used, professional coaching is different from sports coaching. The athletic coach is often seen as an expert who guides and directs the behavior of individuals or teams based on his or her greater experience and knowledge. Professional coaches possess these qualities, but their experience and knowledge of the individual or team determines the direction. Additionally, professional coaching, unlike athletic development, does not focus on behaviors that are being executed poorly or incorrectly. Instead, the focus is on identifying opportunity for development based on individual strengths and capabilities.”


This research begins to meet the original goal of clarifying coaching types for the coaching field, for those seeking coaching, and for individual practices. In addition, it is hoped that the findings can provide added structure for researchers examining coaching.  I expect to continue exploring coaching types and eventually to come up with a more robust coaching typology that can help inform the future of coaching.  Although sufficient data were collected to complete this particular research project, there is much more to be done.  


Berman, W. H., & Bradt, G. (2006). Executive coaching and consulting: “Different strokes for different folks.”  Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 35 (3), 244-253.

Bergquist, W., and Mura, A. (2016). Coachbook: A guide to organizational coaching strategies & practices. Middletown, DE:  William Bergquist & Agnes Mura.

Edelson, M., (2016 Draft). Values-based coaching: A guide for professionals. 2nd Edition, In preparation.

Glaser, B. G., & Anselm, L. S. (1967) The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research: Chicago, IL: Aldine.

Kimsey-House, H., Kimsey-House, K., & Sandahl, P. (2011). Co-active coaching. Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Lazar, J., & Bergquist, W. (2003). Alignment coaching: The missing element of business coaching, International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, 1 (1), 14-27.

Seidler, P. <>

Judith Dozier Hackman_007The author: Judith Dozier Hackman is a senior partner at Ideas for Action, LLC—a consulting practice driven by a passion to empower the potential of people and organizations. She is principal of Hackman & Associates, LLC. Her experience includes higher education and nonprofit leadership, governance, and management; educational research; and executive search and coaching. Judith would welcome an introductory conversation with you: email