6 Factors to Consider When Vetting and Hiring an Executive Coach
Finding the right executive coach requires you to know yourself and do some due diligence.
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Executive coaching is a tool to support your professional growth. For some, executive coaching can help determine how to get to the next level in their careers. For others, it supports them in being more effective or productive in their roles. Executive coaching can also help people identify and move beyond the cognitive roadblocks holding them back in their careers. This might be particularly valuable in times of transition: after being laid off or resigning from a job, re-entering the workforce or transitioning to a new role within an organization.
The challenge with executive coaching is knowing whom to work with. Since professional coaches aren't regulated like therapists and attorneys, anyone can call himself or herself a coach. You want to be sure that your time and financial investment in coaching is with someone qualified to support you who can help you reach your goals. Once you've decided to hire an executive coach, use the following six variables to evaluate each candidate so you can hire the one who is best suited to your needs and personality.
Consider coaches trained through programs accredited by the International Coaching Federation. These programs teach the most effective coaching methods and strategies and provide ongoing professional development for coaches. Many people enter into coaching using their own experiences as the background for their work instead of going through a specific coach-training program. Do you use the same approach with other professionals you hire? Is the person who does your taxes good at doing his or her own taxes, or did you hire a certified public accountant? When you had to go to court, did you hire someone who dealt with his or her own civil-court case, or did you hire an attorney? When you were dealing with mental-health issues, did you hire someone who went through his or her own mental-health issues or a licensed therapist?
For the best results, find a coach who has training in cognitive behavioral strategies. You want to work with a coach who understands the connection between thoughts, emotions and behaviors. When vetting prospective coaches, ask them how long and what type of training they went through, and ask them specifically about their training in cognitive behavioral strategies. Some coaches learn about cognitive behavioral approaches over a 2- to 4-year graduate program, with supervised experiences; others learn these strategies in a weekend course.
What are you looking to achieve in your work with an executive coach? This question is important because many people confuse an executive coach with a business advisor. A coach will help you develop skills and mindsets necessary to achieve your goals. An advisor will help you solve a specific problem in your business by relying on his or her own expertise. An advisor will help you analyze specific business decisions and scenarios, offering insights from his or her professional experiences. An executive coach will help you change your thoughts and behaviors in order to accomplish specific professional goals.
All coaches are not the same. Coaches use different tools and strategies to support a client's goals, so finding a coach whose approach works with how you receive guidance and process information is important. Some coaches rely on a Socratic method of working with their clients, asking questions to achieve the client's goals. Others integrate mindfulness and appreciation into their approach or blend direct questioning with some guidance. You are in the best position to know which coaching methodologies align with your developmental approach.
To establish a confidential, safe space with your coach, where you can be vulnerable and discuss personal topics, it is important to have a fit between his or her personality and yours. For example, if you tend to like a direct approach with little sugar coating, you might not work well with a coach who has a gentler approach. A client of mine described the first coach she attempted to work with: "She was so nice and I really liked talking to her, but it always seemed like she was being careful about what she said to me. I needed someone to call me out on my assumptions and we never seemed to get there." Sometimes choosing which executive coach is best for you is simply about who you are comfortable opening up to.
You want your coach available to you according to your schedule. Some clients want to meet weekly. Some want monthly sessions. Others want access to quick check-ins with their coach. Think about your style and how often you want to meet with your coach, and find an executive coach who will work with you in the way that works best for you.
When hiring a professional such as an executive coach, do your research. Ask questions, get referrals from people you trust and talk to your prospective executive coach to understand how he or she approaches his or her work. By clearly articulating the criteria you are looking for in your work with an executive coach, you increase the likelihood of a successful engagement that helps you achieve your goals.