Vibe High

Vibe High with the Experts: Massimo Backus, MA, CPCC, ACC

As a facilitator, speaker, and leadership coach, Massimo Backus helps leaders uncover who they are, who they want to be, and how to transform old habits and patterns that hold them back. They learn to lead with self-awareness and self-management that drives discovery, growth, and success. Massimo has built leadership capability at mid-size and Fortune 500 companies by applying the science of leadership, behaviour change and mindfulness practices. He’s guided, challenged, and supported over three thousand leaders to increase their clarity of purpose, the impact of performance, profitability, and market share.


Massimo holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Organizational Behavioral Psychology from Claremont Graduate University. His professional coaching education is through The Co-Active Training Institute. In addition to coaching, Massimo facilitates leadership team retreats that get to the root cause of dysfunction and empower teams to chart their own path to success. He’s a sought-after speaker for high-growth organizations to ignite culture and drive sustainable behaviour change. 


Vibe High with the Experts features visionary coaches who are committed to results. In this edition, we speak with Massimo Backus. Read on to learn about Massimo’s top tips when it comes to starting and running a coaching business, plus what he finds to be the most rewarding and the most challenging parts of being a coach.

June 22, 2023

What’s your area of expertise and who do you help? 

I am a leadership and executive coach and I work in leadership development for organizations that recognize that organic leadership development lacks the strategy, vision, and alignment necessary for fostering and maintaining a culture of high performance and belonging. 

I work with executives and executive teams. My favourite type of clients are the smart jerks. Those who are unquestionably gifted and experts in their field but struggle with the interpersonal and emotional dynamics of working with others.


Tell us about yourself 

I love tattoos and pasta. But more seriously, I’ve been married to my wife, who is beautiful both inside and out, for thirteen years. We live in Seattle and have a nine-year-old son named Luca who is my greatest joy. In my free time outside of work, I love to play pickleball, cook, exercise, be on the water, and I love being with other people laughing.  


What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a coach? 

Well, I could frame it in a number of different ways, but the most rewarding thing about being a coach is when you help someone have the lightbulb go off in the way they’ve been seeing the world, or when they see the way that they’ve been leading in the world isn’t their only option. And when they see what else is possible, what other options there are, what other perspectives there are – then it becomes the art of the possible. 

I think about my work as holding up a mirror for people and then asking them enough questions that they go from seeing who they think they are to seeing who they truly are. And that includes all of their greatness, all of their shadows, all of their fears and concerns, triggers and patterns, hopes, dreams, and needs. 

I love being a source for someone to feel seen, heard, appreciated, and even loved so that they can then go and appreciate and love themselves. That’s the greatest. That’s the most fulfilling part of the work for me. Watching people learn to have better relationships with those around them, including with themselves. 


What is the most challenging thing about being a coach? 

Social media. I didn’t get into this line of work because I wanted to be marketing myself. I got into this line of work because it’s what I love most. It’s what gives me the most sense of joy, fulfillment, and purpose. And I’m fortunate enough to make a living doing what I love and what I can’t stop doing. People ask the question “What would you do for free?” and I would do this for free. 

The same thing goes for public speaking. I don’t like public speaking because there are eyeballs on me and there is praise. I love public speaking because it’s a way of being in a community and connecting with people and sharing experiences. You know, there’s connecting with somebody one-to-one as I do with coaching, and then there’s public speaking where I get to connect one-to-many. I get to see many light bulbs go off through laughter and silence and body language. I get to witness the growth of other people. There’s nothing cooler than watching someone grow, that’s why it’s so cool to be a parent as well. 

The next most challenging part about being a coach is that it can be lonely. I talk to people all day long but in every one of those conversations, I am in service of that person. As it should be, but I’m no different than those people. I am human too. It’s different than when you’re on a team and you all gather around trying to solve a problem together as peers and colleagues. There is objectivity that you have to have as a coach, and so yeah, it can be lonely. 


What are your top tips when it comes to starting, running, and growing a coaching business? 

My first tip would be to coach. To get out there and actually do it, get feedback on it, and recognize that there is no finish line. You’re never done getting better at being a coach which, is a lot different than learning say, a technical skill. With coaching, you’re dealing with the vast and endless complexity of the human experience. So you have to not just coach, but never stop learning. 

As for building a coaching business, I would say that coaching is 100% based on relationships. Whether it’s a meaningful relationship you have with a past client that’s going to speak highly of you to other people, or relationships with people you meet anywhere in the world. I’ll have people reach out to me from years ago that I don’t even remember meeting because it was at some big event. But they remember meeting me because of the quality of my presence, the quality of my questions, because I wasn’t coaching them but I was showing up with the qualities of great coaching. So, when they were looking for a coach, they thought of me because of how they felt seen and appreciated in that initial conversation. 

I guess my third tip would be to know your worth. You should know the comparables and the different rates of coaching that are going on in the industry. You should know that based on the clients you’re working with, what the comparables are. And then know your worth within that domain. I think about the executive coaches and executive clients they have and put my rates into the context of what they are responsible for, a billion-dollar business. It then becomes a small fraction, and you think of the difference between this person being able to excel as a leader because they’re getting coaching versus what might be manifesting because they’re not working on those troubled areas, it can end up being costly to the employee experience. So you know, I like to take those people that are in the ninetieth percentile and above and make sure that we need we get them to the very top.

Lastly, I think you have to make sure that you’re doing this for the right reasons. I’ve worked with a lot of leaders that I have coached and they decide right there that they want to coach. And they may make great coaches but they also may think that they want to do that because they benefited from it and it felt so good for them. That they just want to pay it forward. And I think people can pay it forward without committing to a career as a coach because it’s not easy. And the world doesn’t need more. It doesn’t need more executive coaches, it needs more leaders and managers who know how to coach. 


Where can people find you and your business? 

Information about me and my business can be found on my website

I’m on Linkedin and YouTube. And I have a podcast called The Leadership Mind. 

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