We’ve all had coaches (mostly from childhood sports). Just because you “grow up” and enter the professional world doesn’t mean you should ever stop searching for the right coach, especially as an executive. But first, you’ve got to understand what coaching really is.
Coaching is a process. The client may choose to put a spotlight on specific aspects of life, leadership or (ideally) a blend of the two. The coaching model provides a safe place for the client to talk about their perceived shortcomings, opportunities for growth, their fears, aspirations and the relationship to self and others.
Coaches focus on your personal and professional growth. They help you identify your strengths and opportunities for development (usually via specialized tools, assessments and stakeholder interviews). You will work with your coach to co-create a development plan that will help you achieve targeted goals. And you get out of it what you put in.
A trained, certified coach helps you leverage your gifts, overcome internal “blocks” or limitations, and take action. The overarching goal is to maximize your potential and create lasting change.
People often confuse coaches with consultants. Consultants are paid to give you specific answers and will promise you targeted outcomes or deliverables. (Any coach who offers you those things is unlikely a trained coach and is certainly acting more as a consultant.)
But where do you start with even finding the right person to work with?
Coaching is currently an unregulated industry. This means anyone can refer to themselves as a coach. With that in mind, look for coaches who graduated from programs that are credentialed by the International Coach Federation (ICF). The ICF ensures that coaches complete a certain amount and specific quality of education, requires they pass exams and abide by a strict code of ethics. In order to maintain their credentials, the coach is required to continue their education and development. You can easily vet credentials by searching online to find out if the coach went to an ICF-accredited coaching school.
There are coaches out there who are super strong generalists. They really know how to dig in and help their clients excavate whatever is most important to them. In addition, there are a myriad of specialties out there! There are big buckets like life coaching and executive coaching. There are narrower specialties like divorce coaching, career coaching, LGBTQIA-focused coaching, leadership group coaching and team coaching. The list goes on. The best way to select a coach with a specialty that is right for you is to ask if your needs fall into their specialty. Most coaches have a cohort of trusted professionals they can refer you to if they aren’t the right one.
I’ve never met a coach who didn’t offer a complimentary coaching session or discovery session so that you can (mutually) assess fit. If you’re considering executive coaching, your learning and development or human resources department may have a vetting process they ascribe to. Here are a few things to look for in your first session:
Whatever your goal, you can benefit from a coach. By knowing what questions to ask when selecting a coach, you’ll be on your way to taking your individual professional game (and perhaps your organization’s growth) to the next level.