7 tips to choose the perfect Executive Coach for you

Feb 03, 2021
For many of us, having a coach is a new experience. When I went coach-shopping, I had no framework to guide me. I went with the pot-luck approach. That is I spoke to one person who I liked so I signed up! Fortunately it turned out well and the coach was an important support in a time of major transition for me.
But I'm here to help you learn from my naivety. You can apply a little more structure and intent to the selection process to ensure you get the right coach for you. I have trained as a coach and worked with several of my own coaches (different coaches for different times). So I offer up a few pointers on how to find the right coach for you.
Does this coach understand your world?
We all want to be understood and you may decide you need your coach to know your world.
Is it important that they understand your specific challenges? Is it important that the understand the innovation process in your area of Biotech? I work with many engineers and for them, it's super important that I don’t get fazed by things like agile, critical paths, and PMO. It’s never the topic of the coaching but it’s often the important context for the goal they are working on.
Most coaches will let you know their niches — these are the folk they love to work with. I know that coaches can coach anyone — but I also know as a client the importance of the coach to know my world.
Is the coach certified?
Certification is a proxy for the coach’s commitment to their field. Coaching requires specialist skills around creating safe spaces, listening, and understanding human psychology. Skilled coaches know their limits. Many people call themselves coaches without having formally training as a coach.
Why does that matter? My own view that without some training, people can do damage. As a coach supervisor, I have supervised a range of coaches with different backgrounds. All have some level of competence but not all have the same level of mastery. Ask the coach if their coach training is accredited with either the ICF or the EMMC. These are two major coaching bodies whose role is to ensure quality coaching).
Change requires challenge and support – is this coach able to offer you the perfect balance?
If you are looking for a coach, you are looking for a change. The change process calls us into areas of discomfort and we have to go over an edge to see the change through. Consider coaching a journey into the unknown with a fellow traveler in your coach.
Will this coach get you through the tough spots when you want to throw it all in? Will the coach nudge you over the edge when you need it?. Too supportive and you will never leave base camp. Too much challenge and you will be base jumping without the right gear. Think Goldilocks and the bears! The ‘right’ amount of challenge and support is not an exact science so use your intuition here
Do you understand the process of coaching with this coach?
Ask the coach how they work. Ask them to unpack what a coaching session looks like. Ask them any question that comes to mind — there are no dumb questions here. Each coach will work a little differently. And there is a lot of common ground around how we work with assumptions, behaviours, values, and beliefs. It’s empowering and comforting to know more about what you are signing up for.
Does the interview session work for you?
Consider this a test drive. You’d drive a car before buying it. You’d have a good look at the cupboards in the house before making an offer. Approach coaching the same way. Present an area where you feel challenged and ask your coach how would they approach that. Coaching should take place to some extent right there and then, and it will give you a good feel for whether this relationship will work for you.
Are you clear on the logistics of working with this coach?
Coaches work in different ways. Some work in two to three-hour sessions every 2–3 weeks. Others do shorter sessions. Some only work in person and others will meet over Zoom. Some insist on committing to a certain chunk of sessions and others are happy to take each session as it comes. It’s about what rhythm works for you and can the coach meet you there. If you are unsure of what will work for you, take the lead from the coach.
Is there a connection?
You know that feeling of being on the same wavelength as someone. That is a powerful feeling. The conversation flows and it’s easy to move forward together. That rapport also allows for brave conversations when you get stuck. It’s important you feel a connection with the coach as it forms the foundation of what will be possible in your relationship. I suggest you don’t overthink what this looks like — go with your instinct!
Most coaches will offer a sample session or an introductory call. In addition to what you can pick up from their website (I always think a website is so telling), make this call work for you in finding the right coach for you. Make sure you speak to as many coaches as you need to feel you’ve made the right choice for you.
Feeling understood and seen is such a meaningful experience. And it’s from this place that we are able to make big changes in our lives. Choose the coach that will work with you to meet those all-important goals. Coaching is a deeply personal process and you need to trust the person who is about to embark on that journey with you.
Good luck!