Executive coaching “in vogue”

Recently, Vogue India’s Gouri Shah discussed executive coaching but called it life coaching in an online story, asking whether coaching is “New-age gobbledygook or an effective way to reboot your life?” IECL’s General Manager, Education Mandy Geddes gives her take and sets the record straight on what authentic executive coaching is, as opposed to the “new age” reputation of life coaching popular in the 1990s.


Gouri almost accurately describes the coaching relationship between Ajay Srinivasan, a Chief Executive at Prudential Corporation in Hong Kong, and his “life” coach, IECL’s Director of Training and Master Coach, Chip McFarlane MCC. However, Ajay says it best, telling Vogue “A good coach will ask and trigger the right questions that open new doors in your head. Rather than solving your problems for you, they will help you arrive at your own solution.”  This is an excellent (and accurate) description of coaching, whether it’s executive or life coaching.  And as you can probably tell, it’s far from “new-age Gobbledygook”!

Vogue describes Chip as “Australia’s leading life coach” which is both flattering and partially inaccurate (regarding the latter part), so I thought I would add a bit more detail and some clarification.

Chip is an excellent coach and as a Master Certified Coach (MCC) with the International Coach Federation, he’s certainly one of the very best in Australia. Through his work with Ajay, Chip helped him to discover what he really wanted out of life, which was to move back to India. He then helped him to deal with that major life transition. Chip was Ajay’s executive/organisational coach and was hired by the organisation to empower Ajay and bring out his full potential.   

Life coaching vs. Executive/Organisational coaching

If this was life coaching, Ajay would have picked up the bill himself and there would be just the two of them in the coaching relationship.  Also, it’s more likely that the goals chosen to work through would be “life” related, like health and well-being goals.

With executive coaching, however, usually the company pays the bill and often the company sponsor has an involvement in the coaching relationship, even if only at a high level. They may even help to drive the coaching agenda and may influence the goals to be discussed, whether in overt or subtle ways.

Additionally, the organisational coach focuses on coaching the person within their organisational context, understanding that the individual exists within a complex system made up of other people, company systems, processes, culture, behaviours, beliefs and values. 

The life coach’s job is to simply coach the individual as they appear in front of them, while the organisational coach needs to coach the whole system. 

Life coaching is still very valid and useful as an individual intervention, and it may indeed “turn your life around” if the coach has been well trained and is good at what they do.

So why the “gobbledygook” reputation?

In our almost 20 years of training coaches we have come across some untrained “coaches” that have been “coaching” for some time and “don’t really need training”, they just “need the certificate”. Some of these coaches are truly great, having picked up enough from their reading and experience to really understand and practice coaching. And some of them are really not coaches, often practicing something more like mentoring, or even something akin to “gobbledygook”. Sadly, it’s coaches like this that can give coaching a bad name.

So, when looking for an executive/organisational coach, make sure they are trained by a reputable coach training organisation, ideally one that is accredited by the International Coach Federation as an Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP).  And then ask them about their approach to coaching.  It should involve empowering and bringing out the full potential in their clients through challenging, holding them accountable and providing a sounding board (with  little to no “advising” or “subject matter expertise”).

Then you know you’ve a got a real coach, whether they’re “in Vogue” or not.

Mandy Geddes is IECL’s General Manager, Education and has been a key member of our team since 2002. She manages IECL coach trainings and our Alumni program of continuous professional development throughout the APAC region. She has been instrumental in developing (and now maintaining) our ICF accredited status.