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4 May 2020


How to achieve
a successful relationship

If you have never engaged the services of a business or executive coach before, it can be a little bewildering knowing what to look for or to ask of potential coaches. 

As part of my mission to demystify coaching, I would like to share my thoughts and experience about what to look out for when choosing the right coach for your needs.

A good place to start in this is to think about what you want to achieve in your coaching sessions. This may be work in progress and as something that develops as the coaching relationship builds, but it also helps in shaping your thinking as to what you are looking for from your coach in supporting you. 

Executive coaching has developed and matured over recent years and, as a result, there are today some key prerequisites that I advise people to check potential coaching candidates, before spending too much time with them. 

These include:

- A recognised coaching qualification, including evidence that the coach in question has studied coaching theory and practice.

- A commitment to ongoing professional development showing that the coach is keen to develop as much as you are and can bring new thinking/approaches to your sessions.

- Regular supervision, as this helps a coach develop and creates a space in which he or she can get a supervisor’s perspective on any challenges, as well as ensuring that they are operating safely.

- Evidence of the number of coaching hours that the coach has delivered to get a feel for how experienced the candidate is as a coach. 

- Accreditation by a recognised body. Again this is a good check as to the credibility of the coach in question, as accreditation is only given if the coach can evidence all the above to the accrediting body.

- Credible work experience before becoming a coach. Whilst your coach doesn’t need to have come from your industry or specialism, it is good to know that they have experienced challenges similar to yourself.

- How much they charge! Coaches have different price models/bundles etc., but most will give you a price/session that you can use as a comparator.

These all demonstrate that the coach is credible and that he or she is operating safely.

Once you have identified a coach or coaches that meet these pre-requisites, the coach should suggest a chemistry session to meet, so as get to know each other. 

For myself, I prefer face to face, but video conferencing also works for this and in the current situation is the obvious choice in this instance. At the chemistry session, you can both introduce yourselves; the coach should explain the process and what you can expect, and allow you to talk through what you want to achieve from the coaching. 

If you employer is paying for your coaching, your coach should also suggest a three-way objective setting session with your sponsor (line manager/HR) to get their input as to your objectives, as well as how to agree the review process to confirm how the coaching delivers against them. 

After the chemistry session, you can reflect on whether you think the coach is the right person for you. The coaching relationship is dependent on trust and respect, so you need to ask yourself if this is someone that you feel comfortable with and are happy to talk openly with about what you want to achieve, what you need to do, what’s holding me back etc. 

If the answer is yes, that’s great. If it is no, or you are not certain, perhaps the best option is to have another chemistry session with a different coach to see if that feels a better match. 

A good coach should put you at ease from the outset. However, remember that you also want a coach who will challenge you to get the most from your coaching. So expect the coach to ask what you want to achieve and how you will know when you have done so. 

This is why I suggested earlier to start with a 'thinking through' stage to consider what you want to achieve from your coaching.

As part of the chemistry session and the three-way objective setting session with a sponsor (if required), the coach should also give an estimate as to how many sessions will be required to work on your objectives. I always capture the objectives that have been agreed between myself, the client and the sponsor, and share these back with all parties so that we have a record of the focus of the sessions and can review back against this reference mark at a mid-point and endpoint review.

You are now ready to book your first session and decide which of your objectives you would like to work on first!

I hope the above has been helpful and demystifies the process of finding a coach. As always, if you have any comments or questions concerning this topic, or relating to it, please feel free to get in touch.

From the author:

As coaching is not an advice-giving service, these blogs are not written with the intention of proposing solutions to common leadership challenges. Instead, they are thought pieces with the aim of prompting the reader to think more deeply about the topic and reflect on whether it warrants further exploration, with or without a coach.

If you would like to hear more about coaching and how to make it work for you, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter and to share this blog with anyone that might be interested in learning about executive coaching, how it works and whether it could be of benefit to them.