I work with senior managers and leaders to help them enhance their contribution or ‘value’ to their organisations. This is usually on a 1-to-1 basis over a number of months. It represents a reasonable financial investment on the company’s part for one individual. Most of my work (perhaps 80%) is repeat business or on the basis of referral or recommendation. But what about the other 20%? How are organisations selecting their executive coaches and what should they look for?
There are a number of key points I advise organisations to check for when selecting an executive coach. Indeed these are the same points I look for in new associates applying to work as coaches for Managing Change. In no particular order, these include:
- Psychological mindedness – a good coach will be insightful and profoundly interested in human behaviour – in what makes us tick. Along with this should be a genuine commitment to support the development of another person. They should be highly self-aware and thoughtful about why they are doing this work.
- Qualified – it shouldn’t need to be said that a coach should have received appropriate training! I like to see coaching qualifications coupled with a credible psychology qualification too, to ensure that the coach is suitably knowledgeable about human behaviour, theories of learning and motivation, and so on.
- Professional affiliations - a professional coach is like any other professional and ideally will subscribe to one or more professional coaching bodies (eg., Association for Coaching, International Coach Federation, European Mentoring and Coaching Council). Note, that for a fee, membership is often easy – check the level of membership they have and what it means with the body in question. Probe their involvement in this body – what do they learn from and contribute to it?
- Code of Ethics - all coaches should adhere to a rigorous code of professional ethics and should be able to describe what these are. Again, all professional coaching bodies provide these and expect their members to adhere to them. For example, check –
- how will the coach secure confidential notes and data?
- what steps will they take if they establish that a client is experiencing psychological distress or illness?
- what they will do if they discover that the client has problems with addiction or abuse?
- A Guide from the Side or Sage on the Stage? - A good professional coach is an expert – they have skills to contribute in the process of personal development and growth. The client however is the expert in him or herself and should at all times remain responsible for the content and goals of a coaching programme. Be wary of coaches who promote expertise which translates into them directing the client into a particular course of action or direction.
- CPD - all good professional coaches will practice what they preach. In other words they will take their own continuing professional development (CPD) very seriously. They will be able to demonstrate their CPD log of training, events, courses, reading, etc which they regularly undertake in order to hone their skills and experience.
- Supervision - all good professional coaches will receive regular qualified supervision – on a group and/or individual basis. This is another essential part of good coaching practice – I recommend that you rule out coaches who are not receiving regular supervision, particularly those who say they don’t need it
- Good references - I have encountered the work of coaches who on paper have qualifications in abundance but who in practice have not been effective. A coaching qualification alone does not make for a good coach. As with all other disciplines a good effective coach will have both the theoretical and the practical knowledge and capability to do a good job. Be sure to ask for references or recommendations of previous coaching assignments and be sure to follow them up.