How to choose an Executive Coach

Many people are turning to coaching for the difference it can make with leaders in their organizations. It’s a just in time activity that is tailored to individual and organizational needs that can result in having more impact than a traditional training program. In most cases, coaching is offered to high potential individuals who are already doing quite well in the organization. The metaphor that I use to explain leadership coaching is that it’s ‘polishing the diamond’.

Coaching may be used to help someone transition to a new role or responsibilities, develop more leadership presence, manage interpersonal dynamics and anything that will enhance leadership effectiveness and satisfaction.
The International Coach Federation conducted a study in 2012 and found that there are over 47,500 members worldwide. In that case, how do you select executive coaches to work in your organization.

Choosing a coach
In most cases the longer the coach has been in the field – for example over 10 years, that coach is more likely to work with the more senior levels in the organization. The coaching study also determined that as the coaching field is growing in maturity, 60% of coaches are highly educated with one in five coaches having more than 10 years of experience.

As of 2012 one-third of coaches are male with two-thirds being female with an average age of 45.

Most organizations also have an expectation that the coaches that they hire will be credentialed.

Here are some criteria to consider when selecting coaches:

Experience – Find out how long the coach has been working in the field and the level of client that they have coached to. What other relevant experience do they have? Do they have experience in your industry? Or have they been in a leadership role themselves?

Results – Ask for examples of the results that they have achieved when working with clients. What outcomes have resulted from their work and how has the client achieved their goals.

Coach Training – What kind of coach training does the coach have? Ideally the coach has attended a training program from an accredited school with at least 100 hours of coach training. How long was the training program and when did the coach graduate from the program? What other development have they pursued since completing the initial coach training?

Philosophy and Approach
What is the coach philosophy to coaching? What is their coaching process? A solid coach process includes some form of assessment (either confidential interviews of peers and manager or formal assessment), providing feedback, development of goals, designing activities and practices to support the achievement of the goals. These goals may be documented on an individual development plan, that may be submitted to Human Resources.

Qualification/Certification – What qualifications do they have as a coach?. Credentials from the International Coach Federation range from an ACC – Associate Certified Coach with minimum of 100 coaching hours, PCC – Professional Certified Coach – 750 hours of coaching and an MCC – Master Certified Coach with 2500 hours of coaching. It’s possible for coaches to get certification from the coaching school they attended as well.

Fit with Client
Ideally it’s great to have a coaching cadre that you can select from. If you are able to present the coaching client with names and bios of at least three coaches, then the client can determine which coach is best for them. Most coaches are open to being interviewed for upcoming assignments. Coaching works best when there is a good fit between client and coach.

Jennifer Whitcomb, Master Certified Coach is an executive and leadership coach with The Trillium Group. She is also a faculty member of Georgetown’s Leadership Coaching Certificate Program and teaches Executive Coaching for NovaTerra in Brussels.

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