Dear Fellow Executive Coaches,

Today, I would like to discuss what should one do when a coach refers a client to you.

Before we dive into that, however, let me give you my backstory. I spent over three decades as a CEO for nonprofit organizations. Because of my extensive experience as a CEO, I often function as a “coaching consultant,” primarily coaching for professional development. However, when specific issues come up where my client asks for advice, I switch hats and offer the benefit of my training, knowledge, and experience. I serve in a variety of roles including thought partner, sounding board, feedback provider, supporter, and (most of all) a listener.While my approach is unusual

Female hand signing contract

, it provides a compelling opportunity for clients to improve as a leader.

It’s crucial to evaluate progress in the coaching process, to adjust when you need to, and to determine whether coaching is still needed. Sometimes the client (or the coach) needs a change. When it is time, I look to a small list of fellow coaches that I know and trust.

There are some duties involved when taking on a new client. You need to follow ICF best practices, e.g., advising the individual about the ethics in coaching; the role of the coach as different from a mentor, counselor or therapist; clarifying goals, etc. I have several additional requirements for this short list of fellow coaches:

  • They must be trained and certified by accredited institutions approved by the ICF (International Coach Federation.)
  • If they have strong religious beliefs, they never inject them into the coaching sessions unless they identify themselves as religion-based coaches.
  • They must have a stellar reputation for confidentiality.
  • They must also prove trustworthy and respectful.

Most of us also begin a coaching relationship by explaining the process includes some personality assessment, a priceless tool to aid the coaching process. Which brings me to my point, the core of this letter:

Any coach that I refer one of my clients to must be willing to use the assessments he or she has already participated in without insisting that they start from scratch with a whole new battery.

I use the Workplace Big 5 Profile 4.0. Out of the assessments that exist, the Big 5 was the only one that “spoke” to me. That is, it made sense; it didn’t use weird terms; it was non-threatening, non-labeling, and highly researched.

My clients experience the Big 5. Their involvement with it has been extensive. The assessment has become a significant tool in their ongoing journey towards better self- awareness and self-management. Many have told me how helpful it has been. They don’t want to start over with a new tool! What they want is help in how to use the information they’ve learned about themselves.

Many of us are on assessment overdose. That includes me. During my exceptional coaching training from the College of Executive Coaching, I took almost every major assessment out there. However, I would rebel at ever taking another assessment! I’ve been assessed to death.

So, fellow coaches, my message is this: Please ask the new client what assessments they’ve taken and whether they want to build on those or take a new battery to learn more.

Thank you for reading this #OpenLetter. I would love to hear your thoughts.


Judy Nelson, JD, MSW

Executive Leadership Coach