Business, performance, or executive coaching (it goes by many names) is an unregulated industry. While you know that your doctor or dentist must have the correct qualifications and adhere to specific guidelines, anyone can call themselves an executive coach.
The world recession has left many managers and professionals without a job, and many want to share their knowledge and experience by offering an executive coaching service.
Of course, simply having great knowledge and experience doesn’t necessarily make you a great coach, but you can’t blame people for moving into this field. The industry is worth an estimated $1.5 billion, and there are about 30,000 coaches worldwide.
So how can you select the best executive coach for you or your organisation? Try these seven steps.
1. Find out how an executive coach justifies having this title. Does he have a bone fide qualification in this field and, if so, how was it obtained? If he is a member of a professional body, what criteria was there to join? If it’s just a question of paying, it is meaningless.
2. Talk to current clients. Speak with people who have been coached by the person you are thinking about hiring. Ask probing questions to make sure they are not just giving a good, generic reference out of loyalty. Does the coach set regular action plans? Can the client give an example of where the coaching has helped them? On what basis are they rating their coach highly? If a client has no prior experience of a coach, they might not know what good coaching is.
3. Ask the coach for documentation such as confidentiality agreements, action plans and booking systems. See if they can send them to you instantly or if they need to rush off and produce something for you. A professional coach will have developed templates for the various stages of coaching and will readily show examples of the tools they use.
4. What support tools can the coach use? Does she use personality profiling or 360-degree questionnaires, for example? A reputable coach will either have the certification and systems to do this herself or will have an agreement with a suitably qualified occupational psychologist. While tools such as 360-degree questionnaires are not the be all and end all, a coach should have access to a tool kit in order to be able to flex to the needs of the individual.
5. Meet the coach. If you are a corporate client, during the first meeting you should ensure the coach meets the criteria listed above, he is a professional you feel you could do business with and that his terms are acceptable. Then get him together with the potential coachee. The success of a coaching relationship with a capable executive coach completely depends on the coachee’s attitude to the coaching and the rapport between the two.
6. Try before you buy. Assuming that both parties want to proceed, run an initial executive coaching session and have a de-brief with the coachee. The meeting should have included elements such as setting the ground rules, probing questions to understand the issues that will most add value to the coachee and some agreement on initial actions.
7. Agree and monitor some form of metric for the coaching. The confidential nature of executive coaching often means that the client who pays the bill (the employer) is in the dark about how effective the process is. A great executive coach should be able to agree some meaningful metrics in advance.