February 3, 2017

How do I choose the best executive coach for me?

How could an executive coach help you?

Could you benefit from a guide as you build your leadership skills, explore the next phase of your career or improve your ability to get things done? You’re not alone, and you might benefit from an executive coach. Yet, finding the right person can be daunting. The key to finding the right coach is understanding what you want out of the relationship and taking steps to ensure you will get it.

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 professionals who aspire to those roles. Executive coaches tend to work with clients to develop specific leadership skills such as time management, communication skills, strategic thinking and institutional awareness. They may also specialize in helping people strategically manage their careers and professional transitions, or build resilience and improve work-life integration.

Articulate why you want an executive coach

The first step in choosing an executive coach is to know which skills you want to work on. It is helpful to write down two to three sentences or bullet points about what you want help with from an executive coach. These thoughts will become your coaching goals.

Determine what success would look like

Once you know what your goals are, spend some time thinking about your desired outcomes after, say, six months of  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 integration, or your awareness of the political realities of your institution? What would successful management of a career transition look like to you? Again, take a few minutes to write down two to three sentences to summarize your success story from executive coaching.

Understand the coaching relationship

Leaders often wonder exactly what an executive coach is and what these coaches 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, consider your own goals for the coaching relationship, and seek coaches who align with those goals.

Use trusted sources

So, how do you actually find a qualified coach? The first step for many leaders is to talk with others. Colleagues who have worked with a coach can articulate what worked and what didn’t, and those whose experience was positive may be able to refer you to a coach who will work for you.

There are many formal training programs and coach certification organizations that can provide reassurance that a given coach is well trained and qualified. Among these, the International Coach Federation and the Center for Credentialing and Education are two of the most widely respected. The ICF maintains a searchable registry of its credentialed coaches.

Interview some coaches

Once you are able to articulate your goals, describe what success would look like and identify potential coaches, it’s time to do some interviews. Don’t be bashful. You are hiring someone to provide a service. 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 advantage of this opportunity. I suggest interviewing at least three people, more if you don’t find a fit. Take good notes during the interviews and trust your intuition.

Choose YOUR executive coach!

After completing interviews, take time to integrate what you have learned before making your final selection. Keep in mind that if the relationship with your new coach doesn’t work out, you will need a mechanism for ending the relationship professionally. Look for this in the formal coaching agreement.

Have you worked with an executive coach?

How did you select your coach? Are there tips or strategies that you would add to this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Last updated May 3, 2018