How to Choose the Right Executive Coach
You took the first big step by considering that an executive coach might be useful to you. That’s tremendous.
Sometimes, people think that getting an executive coach indicates a lack, a weakness or deficiency.
You might think that you don’t have what it takes to succeed if you cannot rise on your own. The disempowering thought that “leaders don’t need coaches” can wreak havoc in your mind and stop you cold.
On the contrary, working with a coach shows strength, stature, and commitment: you are willing and perhaps eager to learn, to admit you don’t have all the answers—you’re willing to say “I don’t know…but let me find out!”
You have something you want to accomplish or strengthen that will require you to grow and develop yourself. When you seek a partner to achieve this, it shows you have a hunger for making something big happen. Bigger perhaps than anything you’ve achieved to date. It takes a big person who is up to something big to seek executive coaching. You are special and should know it.
The second step is the search to find the right coach for you.
This can be daunting, confusing, frustrating. Where do you begin? What process should you use? How will you know if the people you find will provide what you need?
You might begin by asking yourself, “who in my life could recommend an executive coach to me?”
Perhaps you couldn’t think of anyone you know who could recommend someone. You may know someone who has a life coach or mentor for personal life situations, and that’s not what you want or need.
If they said they have a business or executive coach, you did not get enthused about what they shared about their coach. Or you worry they wouldn’t have the expertise that’s a good fit for your company or industry.
Personal referrals are great; however you might not have a big enough pool to choose from.
If you do business networking, you may meet executive coaches at such events, yet as much as you might click with them personally, keep reading for how to best determine if they are the right coaching fit for you.
So you took the next logical step three, and you went online. There you discovered an endless number of individuals and companies offering executive coaching. How do you choose? How many people should you speak with? What criteria can you use?
I just googled “executive coach” and got 246,000,000 results. On their various websites, exec coaches sound similar. Here is a sampling of the same words that appear on many of their websites:
Dynamic, authentic, communication, productivity, achieve, compassion, awareness, elevate, engaged, skills, resolving problems, make better decisions, soft skills, transformation, breakthroughs, teamwork, ask tough questions, experienced, leverage, gaps, blind spots, winning, transform behaviors, have presence, purpose, actively listen, authentic communication, results, clarity…
How do you wade through this sea of executive coaches and select the one that’s right for you?
Since I provide this service, I decided to ask my clients about their search. What was their experience? How did they choose?
These were great conversations. I realized that some went through all of the often frustrating steps described above. Others had a sketchy picture of what they wanted the outcome of coaching to be. What they said to a person, was that executive coaching was far more empowering and eye-opening than they had imagined.
Working from this result, I knew what had made the difference.
What follows are the stages, questions, and what to notice, which my clients always find useful. It’s a practice that is effective in choosing an executive coach, as well as supporting executive decisions they face in other professional matters.
• • • Following these Five Stages supports you in choosing an executive coach that is the right fit for you.
Your Preparation. Before you look or talk to prospective coaches, start with yourself.
Ask yourself a few of the Seven Questions for Coaching Clarity and write down your answers.
1. What do I want to accomplish?
2. What issues/problems do I wish to resolve?
3. How do I want to grow as a leader, as an executive?
4. Are their qualities I see in others that I’d like to develop in myself?
5. Do I see certain aspects of myself, perhaps certain behaviors, that I’d like to change?
6. If I really let myself dream big, what would thrill me to make happen in my life and work?
7. What would make whatever challenges or discomfort I’d need to go through, worth it?
You would be wise to interview several coaches before you make a choice.
I suggest selecting four executive coaches/executive coaching firms.
Consider each individual’s/firm’s public presentation of themselves:
Does their website appear professional and current?
Does what is described and pictured speak to you?
If no, move on.
If you are not sure, bookmark it for a second look later.
If yes, call or opt-in to and request an appointment for an interview with a coach.
Prepare for each interview appointment by asking some or all of the following questions/notice the following points during the interview.
Ask them these four questions:
Will this interview, and all coaching meetings, be completely confidential?
What is their experience?
What coaching model and tools do they use?
What is their track record of success?
A good coach will ask you some questions, and not simply tell you about themselves.
If you have answered the Seven Questions for Coaching Clarity, you’ll ready for their questions.
How did the interview go?
As soon as each interview is over, review how it went for you in these ways:
Does it match what you’re looking for?
Does it inspire you?
Did the coach ask you what you want to accomplish as well as what you see is in your way?
Did they listen to you? Do you feel you’ve been fully heard? Fully gotten?
Could you tell this person anything without holding back?
Did they offer to give you answers and advice? If yes, you may want to move on.
Do they offer to guide you to discover for yourself the answers you seek? This is much more useful. If yes, keep going.
Do you like them?
Did you have a sense they liked you?
Will the work with them be enjoyable?
In the interview, did you discuss what’s really important to you?
Are you open to being coached by this person? Can you trust them?
Will they give you references? Others they have coached who’d be willing to talk with you?
And lastly, and importantly, what does the coach promise? What are they going to be accountable for?
Do the above review for each interview.
Let the answers and the experience of the conversations sit with you for a day or two.
Now you are ready to make your choice!
You have built a strong foundation for a good fit and effective partnership with the executive coach of your choice.
Pick someone who resonates with you, who inspires you, and with whom you feel you can partner to accomplish what you care about.
• • •
If you’d like to interview me as one of your four, it would be my honor. And… remember to ask me abut my model which is “Transformational Coaching. ” It may surprise you what this makes possible for you.