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How to choose the right executive coach

Professor teaches a student

Professor teaches a student

In 2011, Forbes reported that the commitment of corporate giants such as GE, Goldman Sachs and Google were investing more than $1 billion per year on executive coaching in the US alone. While this is a significant amount of money to spend on executive coaching, when you consider the average ROI for an organisation spans between 340%-700% the investment becomes an easy decision to make.

Unfortunately, many people that call themselves executive coaches lack professional training and certification. Although there may be some great coaches that have gained all of their knowledge through experience, the field is diverse and largely unregulated. It’s important to find a reputable and reliable coach that will not only enhance an individual coachee but benefit their organisation’s goals.

Here are some tips to help your organisation find the best executive coach for your purpose:

  1. Define your coaching goals prior to coaching: When you are able to define why you want an executive coach and what you want to get out of it, you can start searching for an expert in one of the many niche sectors of the executive coaching industry. By knowing these details, you can narrow down your search to coaches who actually bring focus to what you need. There is a key difference between coaching and mentoring. In the early years of my own career I was in roles with significant responsibility and found myself often in unknown territory. I sought a mentor to play the role of a sounding board. He had led consulting firms and intimately understood what I was trying to create. He worked with me on my leadership style but also helped me build confidence and minimise unnecessary mistakes.
  2. Find a coach willing to have real discussions: Coaches must have the ability and preparedness to challenge their client’s thinking and methodology and speak with honesty and integrity, even in the most difficult of times. Prepare yourself for these types of real discussions. The purpose of hiring a coach is to create challenging and meaningful conversations to promote coachee growth. Sometimes these discussions aren’t the most pleasant. Knowing this beforehand helps you to mentally prepare.
  3. Consider a coach with experience and track record in a similar setting: A survey from the Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of executive coaches think organisations will get the best coaching results if they engage a coach who has experience in a similar setting. This won out over factors such as a clear coaching methodology, quality of client lists and the ability to measure ROI. A coach from a similar setting or industry will have already experienced many of the conversations and/or industry challenges offering better advice than if they were to experience the situation for the first time.
  4. Find a coach who has proven performance measurement methodology: Harvard Business Review reports that fewer than one-fourth of executive coaches said they provide any kind of quantitative data on business outcomes of their coaching. The challenge with this trend is that we should be looking at the sustainable, longer-term impacts of coaching on style, capabilities and business results. While it can be challenging to draw direct links between coaching sessions and executive performance, this can easily be done by looking at KPI performance and observing behaviours. Choose a coach that can provide examples of proven performance measurement methodology and prioritises ROI.
  5. Find the right fit: Choosing a coach based on reputation alone is a mistake. Coaching is a two-way street that requires a cohesive and trustworthy relationship between two people. If you find you cannot build trust with your coach, get a new one. No matter how amazing their previous testimonials may be or how noteworthy their client list is, we all have different personalities.

To gain the most from coaching sessions, employees should want to improve. If there is conviction, willingness and readiness for coaching, you can expect results that are genuine. Even the best coaches struggle to make headway when their subjects are not ready or willing to commit. Make sure prospective coaching candidates know what to expect and are ready to fully engage for both themselves and their organisation.

About the author:

Vanessa GavanVanessa Gavan, Founder and Managing Director of Maximus International, is an insightful and experienced organisational development consultant with a passion for developing and transforming organisations through their people. For over 15 years, Vanessa has consulted to an impressive range of leading Australian and international organisations to enhance business strategies, improve executive and leadership capability, redesign organisation structures, and deliver business-wide performance solutions.

  • Steven A. Rosen

    Vanessa I really like your article. Would you consider doing a guest post on my blog?