Maybe you’ve heard about coaching and are curious about what it is and if it’s right for you. If you type “coaching” into Google search you’ll find definitions, links to learn coaching as a skill, and common coaching questions. Type in executive coaching and it’s a mix of coaching agencies and universities marketing their Executive Coaching Programs.
For many of my clients, working with me is their first time working with a coach. To support them and you here’s some important information on coaching and find the right one for you.
To start with, what is coaching?
Coaching is defined by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) as “an ongoing partnership that helps clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life.” “Coaching is an interactive process that helps individuals and organizations to develop more rapidly and produce more satisfying results. As a result of coaching, clients set better goals, take more action, make better decisions, and more fully use their natural strengths.”
“Professional coaches are trained to listen and observe, to customize their approach to the individual client’s needs, and to elicit solutions and strategies from the client. They believe that the coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has. While the coach provides an objective perspective, the client is responsible for taking the steps to produce the results he or she desires.”
ICF goes on to describe the coaching sessions, “In each meeting, the client chooses the focus of conversation, while the coach listens and contributes observations and questions. This interaction creates clarity and moves the client into action. Coaching accelerates the client’s progress by providing greater focus and awareness of choice. Coaching concentrates on where clients are today and what they are willing to do to get where they want to be tomorrow.”
How does coaching differ from mentorship or therapy?
Like counseling and therapy, it is client-centered and individual. Like consulting, it is outcome-oriented, dealing in vision and action. Here are some distinctions that can be made between training, therapy, consulting or mentoring and coaching.
- A Consultant provides specific expertise and solves problems.
- A Friend shares your life with you.
- A Leader inspires and moves you to action.
- A Manager assures that goals are achieved in the time allotted and with the resources provided.
- A Mentor sponsors you and offers professional experience and/or privileged information and/or referrals and introductions to helpful individuals.
- A Teacher educates by sharing knowledge and theory.
- A Therapist helps you explore your past and current stumbling blocks.
What are the benefits of working with a coach?
Here are a few:
- Gain a neutral thought partner to share frustrations, brainstorm big ideas and discuss core challenges. Your manager, friends, peers, and partners often have their own opinions and influence.
- Set goals and finally accomplish them.
- Get to know yourself better. Your strengths, weaknesses, and desires.
- Stop holding yourself back. Build confidence and courage to take risks.
- Get confidential help to work through challenges.
- Prepare for leadership at the next level.
- Become a more effective leader. Learn new skills, approaches, and strategies.
- Change beliefs and habits that no longer serve you.
- Navigate major work and life transitions.
What else should I know about coaching?
- The coach doesn’t have the answers.
- A coach operates from the belief that you are the expert on your life and have all the resources you need, including the ability to discover and utilize those resources.
- A coach partners with the client to create clear goals and then support them to remove roadblocks, develop new skills, and ways of being.
- A coach encourages you to develop behavioral flexibility, to try the unfamiliar, and to venture into new territory.
- While breakthroughs often happen during coaching sessions, progress and long term change are accomplished in-between sessions.
Who hires an Executive Coach?
Executive Coaches were traditionally hired by companies as an investment in their Executive leaders, top talent and high-potential leaders. Today, Executive and Leadership coaches are hired by companies and by leaders for career development, skills development and more.
Leaders find the support of a coach helpful when they are starting new roles or newly promoted, facing the toughest management challenges, wanting to move forward in their career and feel stuck, they’ve received feedback and need support in gaining insights to their leadership style, or want to be more conscious as a leader. An Executive Coach can support a leader in accomplishing any goal in their career and life.
How do you find an Executive Coach?
Start by asking other leaders that you trust and respect if they’ve worked with a coach or know coaches they recommend. Next, you could visit the website of established coaching programs like the Hudson Institute of Coaching or New Ventures West, both in California or the International Coaching Federation. A third possibility is to look at LinkedIn. If you live in an area where coaching is popular it won’t take you long.
I’d recommend starting with at least 3 coaches. This will give you a sense of style and approach. From there you’ll know more about coaching to decide if you’ve met the right person or want to keep asking.
How do you choose an Executive Coach?
A good Executive Coach is one that will help you accomplish your goals. They don’t need to have experience in your industry or field to support you. They necessarily don’t need to be certified; however, working with a certified coach means they attended a program whose curriculum, approach and methodology subscribe to the ethics and approach of the ICF.
Start with gaining clarity on what’s important to you. If you have leaders that you can ask for recommendations, consider asking them what was important in their coaching process. After reading this article, write down important points and questions you’d want to use when interviewing coaches. Consider using LinkedIn, websites and social media as a way to get to gauge your initial list of coaches.
Once you have a list of coaches, contact each coach directly. Most will offer a 15 to 60-minute complimentary session for you to meet. During the call, the coach will want to learn more about your goals and challenges to assess if they are a fit for you. They should also leave time for you to interview them and learn about their background.
Ultimately the most important factor will be your intuition. The right Executive Coach for you is someone whom you trust can help you accomplish your goals (based on your list of requirements) and your own judgment. If it doesn’t feel right for you, it isn’t right. You need to feel comfortable with and trust your coach.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a coach.
- Can you trust them and be vulnerable with them?
- Will they challenge you and give you hard feedback? Will they encourage and validate your progress?
- Have they worked with clients in accomplishing similar goals or do they have related experience?
- Do they have the time to coach you (day, evening, or weekends) the way that works for you (in-person, phone, or Zoom)?
- Coach’s background, areas of interest, and training. Coaches often specialize in different assessments or modalities that informs how they coach.
- Coaching approach. Learn more about their training and how they structure a coaching program. If important, have they attended an ICF accredited program and are they ICF accredited.
- Cost. Rates and the way they bill varies. Some will charge by a session, a month, or for a program/package; asking for payment upfront while others may provide payment plans.
What makes coaching successful?
Coaching Relies on:
- a partnership of equals
- unconditional regard, trust, and candor
- an approach of curiosity
- vulnerability and a willingness for self-reflection and taking risks
- a future focus, working toward goals and a vision for you want
- taking a whole-person perspective, and looking at the whole of your life
- a commitment to change, and the reflection, practice and action involved
What can you expect from an Executive Coach?
A coach will:
- serve as a trusted partner and champion for your success
- guide the process
- ask direct questions
- help synthesize feedback from assessments and/or key stakeholders
- provide direct observations
- invite you to take action
- create a safe and confidential coaching environment
- hold you accountable for the actions you commit to
How to get the most from coaching?
- Identify the goals you want to accomplish
- Be willing to change
- Embrace reflection and experimentation
- Be open to receiving constructive feedback from your coach and provide the same to your coach
- Take accountability for accomplishing your goals and to follow through on commitments made
- Plan for the time ahead. Make time in your schedule and life for coaching, homework and your own reflection and exploration.
- To build and maintain resilience in times of change and learning, find the time and ways to nurture yourself with regular self-care, reflection, and any other practices that nourish you.
- Be present for your coaching sessions in a quiet space where you will not be interrupted. Block time before and after your coaching session to have time to prepare and take notes after.
- Have fun!
About the Author
Kim-Elisha Proctor is an Executive Coach, teacher, and writer. For over 15 years, she has worked with companies at all stages of growth and understands the complexity of organizations and leadership that is needed for success. Whether one-on-one coaching, with groups or delivering leadership development programs, her passion is the same: to support leaders to enhance their performance, impact, purpose & well-being to create communities they long to belong to.