How to Choose an Executive Coach
Increasing numbers of executives and organizations are hiring coaches to help them work through the many strategic issues they face. But finding a qualified coach isn't easy. There are no standards required for coaches as there are for other professionals such as lawyers, public accountants, financial advisors and therapists. So how do you choose a coach?
Look for certification. A coach should be have the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) or Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential bestowed by the International Coach Federation. This means the coach has passed a rigorous course of study, testing and evaluation. Anyone can call himself a coach. Out of work sales manager? In 20 minutes you can print business cards and voila, you're a sales coach. Used to be a human resources manager? Now you're a career coach. Went to college? Now you're a coach for recent college grads looking for their first jobs. Laid off from a job of any kind but have some cash? You can buy a coaching franchise.
Understand what coaching is -- and isn't. Because someone calls herself a coach does not mean she knows the difference between coaching, consulting and mentoring. It doesn't mean she knows when someone is coachable or when he needs to be referred to another type of professional. It doesn't mean she knows that her job is not to tell people what to do based on her own experience, but rather to draw out of the client what he wants to do and help him get unstuck.
Educate yourself about standards. Coaching is an industry without regulation, but that doesn't mean there are no standards. There are -- lots of them -- and as a consumer you should know what they are and make sure your coach is trained by an institution recognized by the ICF, and has the certification the ICF awards. This is your consumer protection.
Look for testimonials. Because of privacy, many coaches can't share their coaching client list with you. But many do have testimonials on their LinkedIn profiles or websites that will give you a strong indication of how effective the coach has been.
Do a phone consultation. Most coaches will do a phone call of 20 minutes or so without charge so you can understand the coaching process. If the coach doesn't offer a free consultation on his website, ask if he'll do one for you, anyway. If you like the introductory call, commit yourself for at least three to six months to a coaching conversation once a week, and to the homework necessary to see real results.
Understand the fee structure. Coaching fees can range from $50 an hour to $500 an hour or more. A coach’s fees depend on his experience and area of specialization. How do you gauge the value of coaching? You could compare it to the price you pay for another professional – say a dentist or a car mechanic. I think that’s the wrong way to evaluate it. Think of it in terms of the value of creating a significant change in how you go about your job and managing your business. If you could remove the major obstacles to your complete success, what’s that worth? What you pay your coach will turn out to be a tiny fraction of that amount.