Indiana’s Kelley School Gets Into The Executive Coaching Biz

Ray Luther (right) is executive director of the Kelley’s new Center for Coaching Excellence and Personal Leadership

Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business is taking an unusual step of going into the executive coaching business. The school says that with the creation of a new leadership center, it will now offer personalized coaching to business professionals looking to meet personal and business goals.

While many business schools now provide coaching to students in both graduate and undergraduate degree programs, it’s unheard of that a business school would enter the commercial coaching business. A Kelley spokesperson told Poets&Quants that there is no public pricing list for the service because the coaching will be priced “on a contractual level with each client based on their needs and the specific contract. “The minimum contract is for six months and includes up to two coaching sessions per month,” the spokesperson added. “That said, we are priced competitively with other professional executive coaching services targeted at director level and above clients.”

The school views the new service as a natural follow-on to the coaching  it already provides students.  “This is an extension of our DNA,” explains Ray Luther, former director of the school’s MBA program and now executive director of the new Center for Coaching Excellence and Personal Leadership. “Kelley as a culture and as a community is a big coaching community. We’ve done a very good job of making this the heart of what we do, as demonstrated by our investments in coaching for our students. We look forward to building on that legacy and expanding on it to serve the needs of top professionals,” said Luther, who also co-directs the Kelley Full-Time MBA Program’s Leadership Academy (listen to Luther on P&Q Live’s new Essentials of Coaching series).


The center will  draw upon established resources from across the school, including a dozen professional staff and faculty members at Kelley who have completed the most rigorous coach training and certification program in the industry, offered by the Coaches Training Institute. They also will be certified by the International Coaching Federation.

The school said that center clients will work directly on professional development goals closely aligned with their career objectives. Ultimately, the center will provide “concierge coaching,” a premium service that may include systemic elements from Kelley, such as communications and technical business coaching by Kelley faculty. Clients are in positions as corporate directors and above in their organizations.

Luther, an IU Kelley MBA alumnus, returned to the school in 2009 after spending nearly 12 years as consumer products leader at Procter & Gamble and after serving as an officer in the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. He credits his military service for generating his passion for coaching and leadership growth. At Kelley, he has worked with hundreds of MBA students, focusing on their professional development throughout their experience in the program.


Services will be offered through Kelley Executive Partners, the school’s executive education arm. “The coaching industry has grown exponentially over the last decade,” said Ron Thomas, Kelley Executive Partners’ executive director. “With the need for high-quality executive coaching expressed by our clients, coupled with the coaching expertise and culture here at Kelley, it made perfect sense to add this to our product and service offerings at Kelley Executive Partners.”

This new initiative is a continuation of efforts by the Kelley School to improve individualized professional development at every level of instruction. The Kelley Compass program at the undergraduate level, Me Inc. in the residential MBA program and Propel in the online Kelley Direct MBA program each combine individualized academic and career advising that helps students develop a career and life plan.

Luther, who received his certification at the Hudson Institute of Coaching, said many people erroneously equate executive coaching with the approach used to direct athletes. In sports, it’s about the coach’s agenda. In executive coaching, the coach has a process, but the client owns the agenda.


Instead of telling people what they should do, it’s much more about “leading from behind,” using meaningful questions that help clients reflect and find answers that challenge assumptions. Citing an example of a current client, Luther said, “I’m working with a V-level executive who wants to become a C-level executive in IT, and part of what we’re working on is how do they start showing up as the C-level executive, so the board and others start to see them perform in that capacity.

“Most managers give advice and think they’re coaching people,” Luther said. “Coaching is working off the client’s agenda and is about forming a partnership with the person and helping them to achieve the goals that they see as important.

“A lot of managers focus on the quality equation — ‘let me tell you what’s right or wrong,'” he added. “While we work through that, for me it’s more about how do I coach a person’s commitment to their own quality of an idea. We help our clients to appreciate how they can see that idea through a different perspective and understanding the importance of their own level of commitment to their idea.”


Luther, Thomas and others involved in executive coaching at Kelley actively work with alumni. They hope they can leverage that service as part of a greater plan to create a mechanism for working with alumni at their firms and where they are today in their post-MBA careers, as well as other corporate clients.

“We coach alumni informally through a great number of phone calls — what I would call spot coaching — and maintain a deep relationship with a lot of key players,” Luther said. “That’s continuous. If you’re a Kelley, then you’re always a Kelley, and the family takes care of each other. As we expand outward, we’d like to work more formally with these alumni at their firms.”