Bill Gates once said that every business leader should have a coach. Also former Google CEO Eric Schmidt insists that the best advice he ever got was to work with a coach. How come some of the most successful business leaders of our times, recommend coaching so emphatically? Because an executive coach provides focus, pushes the envelope, serves as a sounding board and facilitates a guided journey. Simply put: A good executive coach inspires an already good leader to become even better.
Sometimes in business, executive coaching has the flavor of: “Why me? Is there anything wrong?” whereas in sports the opposite logic applies: the higher the potential, the more likely and regularly an athlete will work with a coach. So, if top capabilities, high potential and high aspirations make working with a coach seem like a natural next best step, the question is how to find the right coach for you.
Finding the right business coach - often easier said than done
In sports, the coach/athlete relationship often develops over time. In business this is not always the case and an explosion of the coaching profession can make the search for the right coach difficult and overwhelming. Here are some tips that can help you find the best business coach for you.
9 tips for finding the right executive coach for you:
- Clarify your goals. What exactly would you like to achieve by working with an business coach? Are you looking for a short term program that will help you work on a specific task or are you looking for a long-term coaching relationship and sounding-board partnership? What are your specific goals and how would you like to see them addressed in your coaching?
- Prioritize your needs. What kind of executive coach are you looking for? Are you looking for an all-round coach who can increase awareness around general areas of your business life or are you looking for a business coach who specializes in a particular area that you are interested in? Before you go out there to look for the right coach for you, it is important that you understand to what degree you will need expert knowledge, hands-on business expertise, industry-affiliation, or a generalized all-round approach.
- Identify areas of expertise that truly matter to you. In your current level of leadership, which topics matter most? Change Leadership? Business Transformation? Team Leadership? Project Management? Leader as Coach? Conflict Management? Search for an executive coach who truly personifies these skills. Now look ahead; In your next phase of leadership, which skills do you think will matter most? Just as you need to be able to grow with your coach, your coach should be able to grow with you. Your future coach needs to know the topics that matter to you and be able to offer an entirely new perspective and direction when it is needed.
- Familiarize yourself with some coaching methodologies and techniques. A general understanding of the most relevant coaching techniques, may help you make the right selection for your situation.
- Ask your HR department, colleagues and friends for recommendations. While it’s understandable that you may want to keep your coaching relationship confidential and may even be opposed to asking for some help, you may be surprised at the particular input your peers, friends, superiors and partners give you. Once you have the recommendations, you may try to distance yourself from the input again so you can walk out of the experience with a balanced view.
- Do not only go by certifications. Certifications are important, but absolutely no guarantee.
- Ask for a free and non-committal preliminary consultation. A good coaching session is a powerful conversation that drives breakthroughs in your thoughts and actions. In a coaching session or preliminary consultation, expect to talk a topic through in a targeted way, gain true acknowledgement of your needs, and experience a knowledgeable facilitation of your progress. In the best of all worlds, you should walk away from your free preliminary conversation inspired, motivated and with a sense of clarity.
- Go by your intuition. Coaching is a matter of trust and it is fair to say that you can trust your instincts. If it is not right for you, it simply isn’t. Coaching is a process and oftentimes the old saying, “If the student is ready, the teacher will emerge,” turns out to be particularly true for this special form of collaboration. Of course a business coach is not a teacher, much more a partner. However, the essence of this saying still hits home: If you trust your intuition, you will attract the right coach and simply find the right fit for you.
- Make the final decision alone. What is most important is simply how you feel. If you feel you are being pressured into the coaching relationship from whichever side, you will most likely not have a good experience during the process. The coach you choose should feel like a good fit. And only you can be the judge on that.