Executive coaching is widely used as a tool for the growth and development of senior executives and high-potential leaders. But as with most things in life, not all executive coaches are made equal. Some have better credentials, experience, and qualifications than others. In this guide on how to select an executive coach, you will learn about what you need to find the right coach for you.
How to Select an Executive Coach
While most people choose coaches using two determining factors – references and accreditation, these cannot be the end-all-be-all for a coach’s competency.
Unlike in many professions like psychology, psychotherapy, or medicine, the coaching profession doesn’t have a single governing body. Glowing references from former clients can be hard to evaluate and verify. Plus, accreditation from professional bodies doesn’t always tell you everything you need to know about the coach’s coaching style. Not to mention, many of these professional bodies fail to account for the complexity involved in the profession.
Understand what you really need
What do you really need? Which area of leadership, management, and being an executive do you need to work on? Do you need coaching to improve your leadership? Or do you want a coach to help you better manage the business?
There’s a huge difference between leadership and business coaching. For one, leadership coaching leverages training in behavioral science and real-world experience when running the business to foster growth and development of high-potential and senior executives. Business coaching on the other hand is usually when experienced and successful leaders in a particular industry can provide lessons, insights, and support to help you in your specific content areas.
If you are looking to help hone a high-potential leader, improve workplace relationships, self-awareness, and boost leadership skills, then you need leadership coaching.
If you want to train someone new to a senior leadership role, and you want that person to be the best that he/she can be in that position, then business coaching is the best option. This type of coaching can help anyone navigate the challenges of the new role effectively, avoid mistakes and pitfalls, and get off to a good start.
Get someone who actually listens
While you may want a coach to give you solid advice and guidance, that’s not always the case for most people. Most people respond better to coaching when they know their coach is actually listening to what they have to say. Thus, you want to work with a coach who listens and emphasizes more than they advise.
A good coach is an expert at getting information out of people. This helps them understand the whole situation and see the bigger picture. They provide professional advice when appropriate. More importantly, they help their clients develop the confidence and skills needed to be fully prepared to face the challenges in the future. If a coach talks more than he listens and gives advice all the time, then he is not teaching his client to be independent.
Find someone who can help you get through tough situations
Look for a coach who is skilled and experienced with challenging situations and improves your self-awareness. It is common for people to not want to deal with some of the most pressing issues with regard to their people skills and leadership skills. Many times, they become emotional, argumentative, and refuse to listen. You want a coach who can handle people like this.
Look for a coach who sets goals
A good executive coach sets a development plan for his clients. This involves goals that must be met within a certain time period, such as after sessions, after a month, two months, six, etc. The HR department can get involved in this process to ensure the goals in the coaching sessions coincide with the company’s goals.
Measure the coach’s progress
To determine the efficacy of the coaching, you need to have a clear understanding of your starting point and where you are heading. Also, progress can be measured by the goals set.
What questions should you ask potential executive coaches?
Many clients don’t have the first idea of what questions to ask their executive coaches when they first meet. Many opt for coaches they feel comfortable working with. While connection and chemistry are important, they are not enough to ensure you have the right coach. Here are some important questions you need to ask when evaluating coaches.
What are your credentials?
Obviously, you want yourself, your executives, and high-potential managers to be coached by someone qualified for the job. You can start by asking for International Coaches Federation (ICF) certification. Aside from that, you should also ask for their coaching experience in the context of your industry, hierarchy, function, position, and needs.
What’s your coaching experience?
Obviously, you want to know their experience in coaching and their track record. It is important to ask about their success rate with leaders like you, your company’s executives, and high-potential staff that you want to be coached.
Also, understand that no coach can always guarantee perfect results 100% of the time. At the end of the day, the success of their coaching depends on the commitment of their clients to become leaders.
What type of clients are you most successful with?
As said earlier, not all coaches are made equal. Some are better at helping people with new assignments (transition coaching), while others focus on improving certain skill sets and levels.
How are you with confidentiality?
Trust is the pillar of good coaching. Executive coaching sessions are one-on-one, and at times, coaches may share sensitive information about the organization, the business, and other personal information. Thus, it is important to work with a coach who has high regard for the code of ethics in their profession.
Ask about how the coach will handle confidentiality. This is extremely important if working with senior executives and stakeholders of your organization.
How much will your services cost? How much time do you need your clients to commit to the whole process? How often should you meet or talk with the coaches? What happens when the coaching doesn’t work? A good executive coach will be able to answer these questions truthfully and educate you through their experience in this matter. More importantly, he will customize coaching that best fits the goals of each individual or organization.