Coaching Foundations: Selecting the Right Executive Coach (Part 2)

This is the second of a three-part blog series, focusing on selecting the right coaches that fit for your organization and for the leader being coached. The first post in this series focuses on getting started with executive coaches. My third and final blog on this topic will discuss how to be a good client while working with an executive coaching firm.

Finding the right fit between a leader and coach at the start of a coaching engagement typically includes weighing several factors. As with other areas of the executive coaching process, there are best practices in coach selection, too. This piece will discuss the process of sourcing coaches for coaching engagements as well as the steps taken for the leader to decide on a coach for their engagement.

My focus is at two levels: How a coach is selected to work with a specific leader; and how to incorporate the notion of cultural fit into the organization’s coach selection process.

Let’s take a look at the criteria and considerations for cultivating a successful coach selection.

Defining the Pool

Choosing the right coaches requires an effort to learn as much as you can about them as coaches and as business professionals. The breadth of a coach’s experience is very often as important as their coach training and credentials. Therefore, when sourcing coaches—finding and reviewing those who could be a match to coach a specific leader—it is important to review candidates based on an effective and succinct checklist.

There are several coach attributes to consider when selecting coaches, including:

Professional background
Coaching style and strengths
Types of coaching experience
Geographic location

Location is usually a popular factor in choosing a coach, as there is preference for the coach to be based near the leader for in-person capability. However, due to today’s public health climate, coaching takes place virtually which widens the pool of potential candidates.

The other criteria are preferences usually first defined by the HR leader, based on the details of the situation that has brought about the coaching need and what they expect will be important to the leader choosing the coach. The business context of the coaching engagement often drives what is needed in a coach. It helps to form a profile of the ideal coach for the engagement, such as the coach having a professional background similar to the leader’s role.

About Organizational Fit

What eventually is determined as the necessary attributes of a coach for a specific leader is often a reflection of the organization’s culture—what type of coach its leaders’ need and preferences across coaching engagements.

Whether for a single coaching engagement or a more strategic coaching effort involving multiple engagements, HR leaders should look to answer some questions when specifying the requirements for an organization’s coaches. These include:

Should the coaches have industry experience or previous leadership roles similar to our leaders?
What would be the preferred education level of the coaches?
Is there a specific type of coach training or credential required?
What are the coaches’ specialties (e.g., succession, transition/onboarding, derailing behaviors, etc.)?
What should their coaching style be (e.g., directive, supportive, holistic)?

These questions help narrow the field when reviewing coach candidates and they provide efficiency to an organization’s coach selection process – especially when several coaching engagements are expected.

Making the Final Selection

When it comes to selecting a coach, the desired coach attributes should be compared to the needs of a specific coaching engagement.

A first step is to see which coaches match the criteria well on paper. It’s also the time to get the leader’s input on what they are seeking in a coach and whether it aligns with fit. The details of what the leader requires, such as preferences for gender or race, can come into play. The pool of candidates now becomes a shortlist, as the leader reviews coach bios and profiles.

Chemistry is the ultimate factor in selecting a coach, best determined by a conversation between the leader and each shortlisted coach. This is an opportunity not only for the coaches to sell themselves but, more importantly, for the leader to decide which coach they feel most comfortable with and feel able to trust.

Key Takeaways

Having a coach-selection strategy is a best practice for long-term executive coaching success and sustainability. Selecting coaches requires a review of leader preferences and input as well as consideration of what is compatible with the organization’s requirements and culture.

Defining the coach selection process and requirements, however, needn’t always fall solely on the shoulders of an HR leader. Rather, consider collaborating with a coaching vendor to provide support in navigating this elaborate process. We at Cambra have best practices for working in partnership with our corporate clients to streamline the introduction of executive coaching into an organization and source the best coaches for selection. This will be the focus of the final blog post in this series.

Photo by Jenna Anderson on Unsplash

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