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5 Tips for Selecting an Executive Coach
By Scott Morrell

If you know you want an executive/leadership coach, how do you go about finding the right one? Here are some tips to help you engage the coach that is right for you:

  • Look for good fit. One of the key ingredients to a successful coaching relationship is the chemistry/fit between the coach and the client. One way to help establish "fit" is to ask your potential coach for a "complimentary" session to help determine style and further explore the relationship. You need to feel comfortable with your coach. You will be working with this individual for several weeks if not months. This hour will tell you a lot about fit, style, insight, relationship, etc.

    • Ask about methodology. Will they interview others (e.g., collect 360 degree feedback)? What other instruments will they use? What kinds of questions do they ask? Do they do most of the talking or are they doing more listening? (Beware of the coach who talks more than listens.)  A good coach should be exploring your motivation, asking about your reasons and interests in coaching, your expectations, your outcome goals, etc. They know that along with chemistry and fit, a highly motivated executive will make the coaching relationship successful. The coach can't learn this by talking...only through listening.

        • Discuss expectations, roles, responsibilities, accountabilities, etc. The coach should be able to discuss action planning, respective roles in the process, confidentiality, overall expectations, ways to monitor progress, establishing rapport, build trust, partner with a Board Chair, HR and/or others in the organization (while respecting the confidentiality of the relationship) in detail.

        • Ask probing questions of your prospective coach during the interview/selection process. Some examples include:

          1. Describe your coaching methodology (e.g., look for process, tools, philosophy, time commitment, resources, availability and accessibility beyond the actual meetings, etc.).
          2. How would your client’s describe your coaching style?
          3. Tell me about a coaching success story. What made it a success?
          4. Tell me about a coaching situation that wasn't as successful? Why wasn’t it successful?
          5. Describe how you go about defining your clients' needs?
          6. Describe how you measure success? (Look for a results-focused, disciplined approach. You want to be able to identify and measure coaching goals.)

            • Ask for testimonials and/or references from existing and past clients. Look for tangible and intangible benefits and rewards. A results-driven coach will provide you with proven success stories as an indicator of your future success.Organization and individual use of executive coaching has matured over the last 25 years.  Prior to the 1990s, executive coaching was used primarily for the problem employee or to correct a valued employee who displayed derailing behaviors. If maladaptive behaviors were not corrected through executive coaching, termination generally followed.  This punitive paradigm of executive coaching is not as prevalent today.  Where once coaching was a negative stereotype, today coaching is considered “a badge of honor.”   Some suggest having an executive coach is a “status symbol” within Corporate America.