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How Do I Choose the Best Executive Coach for Me?

Tips for how to find a great professional coach


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by Sharon Hull in Executive Coaching
February 3, 2017

Know why you want an executive coach

There are many types of coaches available today – career coaches, health and wellness coaches, life coaches, and many others. Executive coaches specialize in working with people in leadership roles or who are aspiring to be in those roles. Executive coaches tend to work with clients to develop specific leadership skills such as communication skills, time management, strategic thinking and institutional awareness. They may also specialize in helping people strategically manage their career and its transitions, or in time resilience and work-life balance.  The first step in choosing an executive coach is to know which of these skills you want to work on. It is helpful to write down 2-3 sentences or bullet points about what issues you want help with from an executive coach. These thoughts will become your coaching goals.

Be able to articulate what success would look like

Once you know what your coaching goals are, spend some time thinking about what your desired outcomes would be after, say, six months of executive coaching.  How will you know you have developed a specific new skill, or enhanced one you already have? How will you measure a change in your work-life balance, or your awareness of the political realities of your institution? What would successful management of a career transition look like to you?  Once again, take a few minutes to write down 2-3 sentences to summarize your “success story” from executive coaching.

Understand what the coaching relationship actually is

Leaders often wonder exactly what an executive coach is, and what they do. I believe that the coaching relationship is a partnership between coach and client.  The client sets the agenda and changes it as needed. The coach’s role is to help the client move forward on that agenda. The coach also helps to frame what success would look like in a realistic way.  As you think about choosing a coach, think about what your own goals for the coaching relationship are, and seek coaches who align with those goals.

Use trusted referral sources

So, how do you actually find a qualified coach? The first step for many leaders is to talk with others who have used a coach successfully, gathering “word-of-mouth” referrals. Sometimes you will find the “best fit” coach by talking with a colleague who had a good experience. Such a colleague can articulate what worked and what didn’t with his or her particular coach.

There are now many formal training programs and coach certification organizations. Among these, the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCD) are two of the most widely respected. The ICF maintains a registry of its credentialed coaches, which is searchable by the public.

Interview some coaches

Once you are able to articulate your goals, and what success would look like, and after you have gathered some potential coach candidates, it’s time to do some interviews. Don’t be bashful here. You are hiring someone to provide a service to you. Most coaches expect to be interviewed, and many will offer a free “discovery” session, usually 30 to 60 minutes in length, to assess the “fit” for both of you. Take them up on that offer. My suggestion is to interview at least 3 people, and more if you don’t find a fit. It’s important to trust your intuition during and after an interview, and to take good notes about what matters to you.

Choose YOUR Executive Coach!

Take your time, finish all your interviews, and then take the opportunity to integrate what you have learned before making your final selection. Remember that, if it doesn’t work out, you should, in the formal coaching agreement, have a mechanism for ending the relationship professionally.

Discussion Question:

Have you had experience using an executive coach?  How did you select them, and are there tips or strategies that you would add to this list?  Add your response in the comment section below.


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Sharon Hull, MD, ACC

President and CEO at Metta Solutions, LLC
Hi, and welcome to Metta Solutions.I am a physician and a professional executive coach .  I help people thrive by coaching them to manage change, grow their careers, develop as leaders and integrate personal and professional goals. My passion is working with self-reflective individuals and organizations to help them achieve their goals.  Subscribe to the Metta Solutions Community here.
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