How To Select Your Leadership Coach

April 9, 2014

How To Pick A Coach

Like buying a house, selecting the right leadership coach is an important decision with both a rational and an emotional component. It can be challenging and sometimes intimidating. How do you select among all the different options?

When selecting a coach there are a number of criteria to keep in mind, the most important of which is fit. 

It is essential that you feel a deep level of connection and trust with your coach so you can delve deep and have the conversations necessary that provide new insights. At the same time, you need confidence that the coach will be able to help you with your role and current business challenges. Remember, your organization is investing in you and they will want to see that there is some return on investment. 

I have the privilege of working with some of the best coaches in the business to help our clients find the right coach pairing. Here's some "insider information" around fit that may help you as you venture out to select your leadership coach.

  • Training – Look for a coach who has been trained as a corporate coach by an accredited school or institution. Ideally they would also be certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF). This way you know their coaching skills are of a certain caliber. 
  • Experience – You'll want a coach who has either direct experience working as a leader at a level similar to yours, or a wealth of experience coaching leaders at your level. They need to be able to draw deep into their previous experiences so they can relate to your challenges and provide the appropriate level of support.
  • Push and Pull – Will the coach push you outside your comfort zone where necessary and pull out information from you at key moments? A good coach always listens, but shares key insights at the right time. It is critical that your coach not only be a great listener, but also able to motivate and hold you accountable toward your goals. Some people will select a coach based on similarities to themselves, while others may choose a coach who is the polar opposite of themselves and will push them to think in entirely new ways. You need to be clear what you are looking for from your coach so that you can find someone who meets your needs.
  • Trust – Do you feel that this person is a trusted advisor with whom you can share confidential details? It is important that you feel comfortable confiding in your coach so that you can get the most out of your coaching relationship. You should know this within the first 15 or 20 minutes of your first meeting. Do you feel a personal connection? Do you feel as though you are compatible in terms of ages/stages of life? For example, if you are a working mom who is a high potential in your organization, it may be helpful for you to partner with a coach who is also a successful working mom.

The coaching relationship is meant to provide insight, be a platform for working on and achieving your key goals and a place for you to learn new skills and take your game to the next level. Picking the right coach is a critical part of the equation. Take the time to be clear on what you are looking for. Meet a number of coaches to be confident you have found the one who will help you get where you want to go.

Perhaps most important: before meeting any coaches, take the time to reflect on what you want to get out of the coaching and those characteristics that are most important for you in a coach. If you know where you want to go, you will be much better able to find a coach who can help you get there.


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