Choosing an Executive Coach for yourself can be a little confusing, to say the least. Your Executive Coach is going to be your confidant and you will need to open up to get the best from the relationship. So whether you are spending your own money or your organization is providing you with a coach, it’s helpful to have more than just a ‘gut feel’ to go on.
Most coaches will give you a no-obligation, 30 to 60-minute ‘chemistry’ meeting to assess if there is a fit for both parties. That’s right, an experienced coach may spot you are not committed to the process, or the organization has misaligned expectations and so excuse themselves from the assignment.
I recommend that you meet with at least two coaches but no more than four. Meetings can be face-to-face, by video conference, or by phone. Try and ask each coach the same questions, and take note of the questions they ask you. A good coach is going to get you to step back and think. You will find yourself saying, “That’s a good question.”
You want to know the coach's background and experience to build your level of trust. Your Executive Coach does not need to have worked for your organization before or be from the same background – in fact sometimes, for perspective, it’s better if they haven’t, but it is important that he or she has an understanding of the type of work you do and challenges and opportunities you are facing.
You may not have all your objectives clarified at the time of the chemistry meeting, but it is important that you and your prospective coach talk about what a successful outcome would look like. This gives you a chance to discuss whether these objectives will be achievable in the agreed time frame (typically 6 months).
Coaching objectives are usually feeling and behavior-based rather than measured in financial numbers. Some examples are:
When executive coaching is paid for by the company, there is usually a sponsor in the form of a line manager or sometimes HR. Whilst coaching conversations are confidential, it's usual for the sponsor to ask the coach to report progress towards the stated objectives. You should clarify with your prospective Executive Coach, how they will handle confidentiality in these situations.
Gender should not really be an issue in selecting a coach. You might think you would prefer a same-gender coach, but an experienced coach will make their gender irrelevant to the process. That said, it’s your right to choose what you feel comfortable with, up to a point. And that point is, that too much comfort may not get you the results you are looking for.
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