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How to select an executive coach

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Insight Green Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.One-on-one coaching helps leaders set clearer goals, take action toward the realization of their vision, make better decisions, and expand the use of their natural strengths. Effective coaching entails a collaborative process of equipping leaders with the tools, knowledge and opportunities they need to self-manage, develop change resiliency and become more effective.

The Role of the Coach

The coach’s job is to motivate and help enhance the leader’s competencies, resources, and creativity. While the coach provides feedback and an independent perspective, the leader is responsible for taking specific action steps to produce the results he or she desires. It is a means for achieving sustained, far-reaching change and for developing new solutions to leadership problems.  This approach brings insight and understanding to bear on the factors that guide and shape behavior.

Coaching is a partnership between the leader and the coach.  The relationship is built on the premise that the leader is the expert and that he or she is seeking to enhance his or her effectiveness and career. The coach and the leader together formulate an action plan, looking at where the leader is today and where he or she wants to be tomorrow.  The action plan becomes the roadmap for achieving the desired goals and outcomes.

While the coach provides feedback and an independent perspective, the leader is responsible for taking specific action steps to produce the results he or she desires.

Coach Selection

Once the decision to move forward with an executive coach is made, the coachee should have an opportunity to interview potential coaches. We suggest you focus on the following for the best fit:

  • Chemistry: speaking with 2 – 3 coaches increases the likelihood of a good match. Look for an initial comfort level with the coach while also considering the recommendations below.
  • Style: similar to chemistry, every coach has a unique style; some coaches see themselves as cheerleaders while others see themselves as realists. While each style is effective in its own right, assess which style will work best with you while challenging you to achieve your goals. Work to avoid biases around age, gender and ethnicity.
  • Business Background: understanding the business challenges of today is critical in working with leaders and organizations. Review the coach’s background, education and ask questions that will provide you with information that will assist you in your assessment and decision.
  • Niche Expertise: many coaches are proficient in a particular functional area (Informational Technology, Finance). Some leaders find this appealing while others take a more holistic approach, seeking a coach that has been successful in working across many functions and industries.
  • Coaching Model: effective coaches typically follow a coaching model/process and are proficient around Assessment Tools (360, Personality, Myers Briggs). Be sure your coach describes the process you will follow in your program.

Possible Questions to the Coach

  • How will you work with me around my present challenges?
  • What will our time together look like?
  • Can you share an example of your approach in a similar coaching situation?
  • Will our conversations be confidential?

Possible Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Am I selecting a coach that I’m comfortable with but will also listen to me, challenge me, encourage me and support me in achieving my goals?
  • Did I have a positive or negative reaction during our meeting?

Taking the time to evaluate and make the best selection will yield the best possible outcome for you as a leader.  Coaches come to the table with a set of experiences, skills, and tools.  You need to feel comfortable with your coach’s style and approach so that you can open up and reveal more of yourself and are able to work together to maximize the impact of the engagement.


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