5 Questions to Ask Your Executive Coach

Congratulations!  You've decided to retain an executive coach to help develop your or your team's competencies, improve or sustain business results and even improve your career. “Let the buyer beware" as with the purchase of any service. Truth is, anyone can call themselves a “coach”. Manicurists are better vetted and regulated. Assume the old 80/20 rule applies -- that only a fraction of the providers is worth their weight in gold.

Here are 5 key questions to ask your prospective coach:

  • What first-hand experience do you have in my role and industry? If the coach hasn't spent a significant time in your shoes she’s going to be hard pressed to understand the context that surrounds and influences your challenges and development. The insight that comes with having "been there" is invaluable. Retaining a coach that gets your world is preferable. At the very least, if you're in a corporate position contract with a coach that has direct work experience in business as well.

  • What are your coaching credentials? Education matters. Great coaches have undergone robust training in an International Coach Federation (ICF) sanctioned program and are credentialed per the number of paid coaching hours they've put in. The ICF supports coaching industry delivery standards as well as ethics compliance. Some notable universities are also offering certification programs in leadership coaching. Make sure your coach isn't simply an HR generalist or consultant doing double duty.

  • What's your coaching philosophy? Top notch coaches have a clear, disciplined approach rooted in their experiences and education. Make sure yours can describe what fundamentals are at the core of their coaching success. And ask them to share some of the success stories with you!

  • Let's do some laser coaching! Not so much a question but a request. Ask your prospective coach to spend 15 minutes coaching you on a current business challenge you have. You should come away with added clarity and at least a single action item to help move you in the right direction . . . As well as an excited feeling of wanting more.

  • How can I maximize my ROI? The very best coaches will assist you in evaluating a return for your investment. ROI is measured in money, time or qualitative terms depending on the unique, situational objectives you co-create. A professional coach will be able to help you assess and measure results against the stated objectives to determine the positive impact coaching has had on you and your organization.

If you've got a coach as one of my new clients had in the past that asked, "If you were an animal, what animal would you be?" -- Run. Coaching is an ideal catalyst for change to close performance gaps or sustain success. Unless tied to concrete results facilitated by real pro, however, you're likely wasting time on a feel-good exercise.

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