Choosing the Right Leadership Coach

Finding the right fit is as important as credentials and experience

As a leadership coach, who is sharing a blog on how to choose a leadership coach, you might assume I am just going to fill this post with a subtle description of me, but that’s not the case. I believe whole-heartedly that I am not the best coach for everyone.

Choosing the right coach has so much to do with chemistry between the coach and the person being coached. Sometimes, through no fault of either person, the relationship just doesn’t work. So, with that, I offer you my first and most important piece of advice …

Make sure it feels right

You will be able to tell pretty quickly, maybe even after the first session, if the two of you click and if your personalities match. While you shouldn’t always judge a person based on first impressions, you must like the person’s energy and demeanor. If the coach rubs you the wrong way, you will find it challenging to build the comfort level and trust required to form a meaningful relationship, which is critical if you want to benefit from the coaching.

A coach isn’t going to be your BFF, but he or she should make you feel comfortable enough to let your guard down, open up, and be honest and even vulnerable. If after the initial consultation or coaching session, it doesn’t feel like a good fit, don’t force yourself to stick around. Move on and find another coach.

Pick a professional coach

It’s important to understand the difference between a mentor, a trainer and a coach. A mentor is someone you trust to offer advice, who can be anyone with the right mix of knowledge, skill and experience. A trainer teaches you specific skills, usually in a one-time setting, that can help you navigate the workplace.

Professional coaches are trained in the art of coaching. They have studied how to help you evolve as a leader. It’s not just about telling you what worked for them or teaching you a new skill. Leadership coaches help you build on your strengths and improve your weaknesses so you can reach your full potential. As you look for coaches, find someone with the certifications, qualifications and competencies of a professional coach — and as important, ensure the person has a deep background solving your specific challenges.

The International Coach Federation (ICF) encourages you to ask potential coaches these questions before you begin working with one:

  • What is your coaching experience?
  • What is your coach-specific training?
  • What is your specialty?
  • What types of businesses do you work with most often? At what levels?
  • What is your coaching philosophy?
  • What types of assessments are you certified to deliver?
  • What are some of your coaching success stories (i.e., specific examples/case studies)?

Confirm the coach conducts assessments

Assessments are a big part of what I do in my practice because I believe you need to understand who you are as a leader or employee, your personality, how you like to communicate and more very early in the process. That’s how we identify your strengths and isolate your weaknesses. It’s how we build a development program that is unique to you.

Go with a coach who is going to spend plenty of time upfront learning about you and how you work, which is best accomplished by conducting a variety of assessments.

Ensure you are OK with the process

Every coach has a different approach to working with clients, so have any coaches you are considering walk you through how they work. What are sessions like? What assessments or tools do they use and why? What activities do they use? How do they measure your progress? Additionally, it’s important that the coach has a willingness to outline and set initial goals for you. That’s the only way you will be able to recognize if the time, money and effort you are spending is worth the investment.

Some people are looking for a coach who tells them how to improve; others want a more collaborative process. Some prefer structure; others need more flexibility. Ultimately, it comes down to what works for you. So, be honest about what you are looking for. If the coach can’t meet those needs, it’s most likely not a good fit.

In my last post, I announced that I had just received my ICF Credential, and ICF guidelines mandate that we, as coaches, don’t tell clients what to do because we believe that the people we coach are capable of finding solutions on their own. Instead, we consult and support them, and use discovery-based approaches to help them work through challenges.

Finally, and without a doubt most important …

Gauge their listening skills 

The No. 1 skill every great coach possesses is the ability to listen. If during an initial consultation with a coach, he or she talks over you, interrupts, asks you to repeat yourself or offers canned answers that don’t quite match your challenges or concerns, it’s a major red flag.

Choose someone who focuses on what you’re saying and works to truly understand your situation and where you want to go from here. If you are interested in leadership coaching, I’d love an opportunity to see if we’re a good fit. Schedule a consultation today.