By Sarah Jenkins - September 14th, 2022 | Posted in Article, Coaching ,

Are you thinking of working with an Executive Coach? To help you make a decision about who you work with, here are some useful questions to consider before selecting your coach.

1. What qualifications do they have?

Have they had specific Executive Coach training through a ‘reputable’ coaching organisation? Professional coaching associations will list those training organisations that they approve. You can search for these via one of the large bodies for coaching professionals, such as the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the European Mentoring Coaching Council (EMCC) or the Association for Coaching (AC). Make sure that you look for Executive Coach training, rather than other types (eg, those who have done life coaching qualifications, without any specific Executive Coach Training. An example of a specialist Executive Coach training organisation would be the Academy for Executive Coaching (AoEC) or those provided by reputable business schools.

  2. Are they a member of a Coaching Body and what is the associated Code of Ethics that they subscribe to?

They should be able to tell you immediately and be able to show you the text of their Code of Ethics, so that you are clear on the rules that the Executive Coach should conduct themselves by and some of their commitments to you. Some examples are listed here: ICF Code of Ethics – International Coaching Federation; Global Code of Ethics – Association for Coaching; EMCC UK: Global Code of Ethics; and Code of Practice – AoEC.

3. What Continuing Professional Development (CPD) have they done in the last 12 months?

Is this an Executive Coach who is committed to perfecting their practice, and is willing to keep learning to ensure that clients get the best support possible through a variety of tools, techniques and styles? Does their CPD seem interesting and relevant to what you might expect from an Executive Coach?

4. Do they offer any other services? Consultancy, mentoring or counselling for example?

A good Executive Coach will make it clear to you exactly what Executive Coaching is…and what it is not. Why is this important to know? Because if they offer additional services they must be committed to keeping the boundaries strictly separate between these different services. A good Executive Coach will make it clear that coaching/consulting/mentoring/counselling/therapy cannot happen in the same sessions/meetings.

5. Do they have a supervisor?

Are they committed to reflecting on their practice and ensuring that they are doing the very best they can for their clients by spending regular time with a coaching supervisor, with whom they discuss their own development, learning and coaching performance? Are they meeting with them regularly? Having a supervisor demonstrates their commitment to best practice and their desire to be a great Executive Coach practitioner.

6. What kinds of clients do they work with?

It’s useful for you to know if an Executive Coach that you are considering working with has (or is) working with others on themes that are related to the working environment,and has some understanding of your sector or level. For example, if you are considering someone who advertises themself as an Executive Coach, might you have less confidence in working with them if they have a life coaching qualification and haven’t had any clients with work-based challenges in the past?

7. Where and how do they work?

Is it important to you to work with someone face-to-face or is it more convenient to you to only have online sessions at certain times? Are you flexible about having some sessions online and some face-to-face in your coaching schedule? Might you be open to experimenting to see what format works best for you? Some coaches offer the experience of ‘walking’ or ‘nature’ coaching. Might you like to try that out, if you enjoy the experience of being outdoors and like to ‘get your ‘steps in’, away from the office? Do you have good ‘times of day’ for thinking that the Executive Coach might be able to fit around? These are all questions to think about and to discuss with your prospective Executive Coach.

8. Do they have good references?

Can a prospective coach provide testimonials, either anonymous or not? It’s important to note that some ‘coachees’ might not want their workplace to know that they have been having executive coaching. Can the Executive Coach supply referees, if not testimonials?

9. Will they offer you a free ‘discovery’ or ‘chemistry’ session?

It can be a big decision as to whether or not to work with a particular Executive Coach. Like any business partnership, you need to know that you can build trust and work together well. A good Executive Coach will offer an introductory chat, so that you can both test the chemistry or rapport between you. Do take advantage of the opportunity to get to know each other’s personality in a short introduction session to understand how well you might progress together. This can really help you to make a decision.

10. Have you seen a draft of the contract?

This is probably one of the last things you should ask for before committing to a particular Executive Coach. Of course they should be able to provide a draft contract easily, and be willing to talk you through any of the components that you are not familiar with. Inevitably, there will be terms to ensure that you are both protected and a suggestion that your coaching relationship should last a certain number of sessions and/or hours. Importantly, there should also be mention of ‘review’ of progress so that you can both ensure that you are on track. Make sure that you have the opportunity during the schedule to feedback your view on how things might have progressed (or not). Importantly, in the contract (as well as in any discovery session) you should now be very clear – it should be explicit – that all sessions are confidential notwithstanding a few exceptional circumstances (which should be detailed in the contract and conversations).

Five things to ask yourself

1. What are my reasons for working with a coach?

You might not have a specific reason. Some ‘coachees’ approach an Executive Coach as they think it might be a ‘good thing to do’, without knowing what they want to achieve or because someone else has been ‘raving’ about their own coaching sessions, or they’ve been told to get an Executive Coach by a colleague. Alternatively, some organisations want to get an Executive Coach for their leaders as they (also) think that it would be a good thing to do to improve company performance. Getting an Executive Coach for an organisation will undoubtedly improve performance – but there needs to be a detailed discussion between the Executive Coach and the organisation’s ‘sponsor’ about what the objectives are. Having that initial chat will help understand some of these issues. A good Executive Coach will also ask (either directly or via the course of the coaching) ‘what does the outcome look like?’. This can be a good question to have in mind if you don’t know what your main purpose for seeing a coach is.

2. How committed am I?

An Executive Coach wants to work to support you in achieving your aims, overcoming challenges and obstacles and to reach some great goals. A good Executive Coach agrees to give you their complete commitment. However, this is a partnership. The Coach needs you to be committed too. Your Coach should be able to tell if you’re not putting the effort in to get the best outcomes. If there are reasons that may be stopping you from achieving your aims, your Coach should be able to help you identify them, whether they are real or perceived. A good Coach will support you in surfacing any ‘limiting beliefs’ or, for example, real reasons for lack of motivation. At the same time, be honest with your coach if something isn’t working for you. They expect your honesty and shouldn’t judge you. They will work to find out a better way of supporting you in sessions if a particular tool or technique isn’t right for you.

3. How well do I think I will be able to work with this person?

Following on from the need to be honest with your coach, you should (hopefully) get a feel for how comfortable you might be with them. You really need to be able to develop a good rapport so that you can work well with them. Will you be able to be honest and confide in them? Will you work well with them to co-operate in creating the environment that allows you to think, consider, work creatively and make decisions and plans that enhance your performance and reach your objectives?

4. How much time will I commit?

Think about making sure you clear your diary for the necessary sessions. Coaching sessions shouldn’t be an afterthought, which you make time for after everything else in your schedule. Your sessions shouldn’t be the calendar item that gets moved to make way for everything else. Your sessions with an Executive Coach might support you in optimising your performance in all of your other calendar items. You will inevitably discover, if working with the right coach for you (and you commit yourself) that your coaching sessions should be the item that does not get moved (excepting emergencies).

5. How far am I willing to be taken out of my ‘comfort zone’?

You should allow your Coach to ‘challenge’ you where you might need a bit of pushing out of your comfort zone when they deem the situation is necessary. How do you feel about this and are you willing to let them take you to the ‘Zone of uncomfortable debate’ (ZOUD), if the situation calls for it? I think the ‘ZOUD’ is a situation that every Executive Coach should be able to recreate, if the circumstance calls for. I can say this as a practitioner who has seen the fantastic outcomes that can be achieved when it is employed.

I hope that these questions help you in your journey to finding the right Executive Coach for you. If you would like to know more about Content Change Coaching, or would like a free (no obligation) ‘Discovery’ chat then do get in touch to book a session here.

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