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How to choose an executive coach

Gepost 08/01/2015

Choosing the right executive coach is critical. Carefulness at the outset will go a long way to ensure a successful experience.

Most corporate executives now see coaching as an investment their organization is making in their success, and are beginning to become informed consumers. This is the good news. The bad news is that, as with all the things that get popular, there are now many people jumping on the coaching bandwagon, offering themselves as executive coaches.

Here’s a simple process to look for that will help to assure it’s a great investment, rather than a waste of time and money:

  1. Before choosing, learn about coaching

Take charge of the process and become informed. Checkout the resources e.g. on the International Coaching Federation site. Get information from others who’ve used coaching. The more you know, the better your decision is likely to be. Being well informed is by itself a great first step.

  1. Check your readiness for coaching

Your coaching investment can only be effective when you have a real desire for change: you value collaboration and new perspectives, you’re excited to discover what makes you tick and finally you’re ready to try new things. When these conditions are met, coaching is likely to be a success.

  1. Reflect on your goals

What has to change in your life? Think about what you’d like to achieve before contacting coaches. It can be that these goals change as you move further into the process. Ask yourself the following questions:

What do I want to get out of coaching?

What competences do I want to build or acquire?

How would I experience myself differently?

What would be different at the end of this process? For me? For my organization? For my environment, my family?

  1. Contact several coaches

Get names of potential coaches from friends and colleagues who’ve had good results. Select at least three coaches who seem to fit your needs. (By all means, please invite me to be one of the three!)

Tell each prospective coach about your initial goals, and ask tough questions:

- What is your background and work experience?

- Why did you become a coach?

- What is your coaching experience?

- What is your coaching specialty or the areas with which you most often work?

- What is your approach or philosophy about coaching?

- What are some success stories?

- What are some examples of failure as a coach or a situation that you felt like you failed in?

- What is your philosophy and practical approach?

- How will we agree on outcomes and criteria for success?

- How will you tailor your approach to these outcomes?

Great coaches will let you know that they can offer you useful new skills, awareness and knowledge, and help you integrate what you’ve learned. They will be able to describe very specifically how they have worked with others to improve their leadership, management, and or business operating capabilities.

The connection and chemistry between you and a prospective coach should feel OK. It should feel clear and energized. After this initial conversation you should have learned something new about yourself. If however you feel disempowered or if you were not “heard,” look elsewhere! And remember, a good coach will be assessing you as well. A poor fit won’t work for either of you.

  1. The process must be clear!

Really skilled coaches will be able to walk you through their process. That process should include helping you define your core challenges, see where you’re starting from, and where you want to go. It’s also essential that they can describe how you’ll learn new skills and behaviors, and how they’ll support you to transfer those skills back to work. If the coach is evasive, telling you that it’s “hard to quantify” or “up to you,” you can almost be sure that the coaching won’t be a success.

  1. And finally, just do it!

After you have interviewed at least three coaches, make your decision and confirm your agreement with your selected choice. However before committing, clarify the following:

The overall timeline

How progress against the outcomes will be assessed

Involvement of any third parties (boss, board, staff, etc.)

Structure, venue, and frequency of meetings

Fees, contract, payments, and rescheduling policies

How will confidentiality be handled?


Having an executive coach can be enormously helpful. A good coach can help you see yourself more accurately, get clear about how to best play to your strengths and grow in the highest leverage and most feasible ways. Make the choice carefully and you’ll benefit for years to come.

Christiaan Janssens Executive Coach

CJ Coaching