How to Find the Best Executive Coach?

Ever wonder how to find the best executive coach?  What makes a great coach anyway?

Albus Dumbledore, former Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, said “You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”

Growth is an important aspect of these wise words.  The best executive coaches recognize that we each have enormous potential to be extraordinary and do extraordinary things.

The significance of choice is also embedded in Dumbledore’s wisdom. We can choose. We have the choice to grow into something great…or like Tom Riddle, something evil.  And we can choose to focus on helping others grow and unleash their greatness, or choose to write them off.

When you are searching for a great executive coach, make sure to explore his or her philosophy on growth.  Do they focus on growth?   Will s/he show you how to bring out the best in people?   Will s/he show you how to be truly authentic?

There’s irony here too.  The best leaders feel enriched when coaching others, because they do it with the right frame of mind.  The best executive coaches are the same.  They, like great “leader coaches” see coaching and feedback moments as gifts.  It’s a two for the price of one experience.

When looking for great executive coaches to work with, here are three tips:

  • Make sure the coach develops honest relationships.  Just about anyone can develop some sort of relationship with someone, but not everyone is gifted at creating honest relationships.  Candor is truly hard. It takes guts, and requires effort.  It can feel like you’re being mean or hurtful, while others get defensive or feel beat up. Yet, an honest relationship is focused on being kind and candid, where perceptions and truth can be discussed in a future-focused way.  Coaches who are “too nice” and “put lipstick on a pig” won’t help you grow.
  • Make sure the coach asks critical questions.  Honest relationship or not, coaching requires insightful questions and patience.  Most coaching conversations become emotional, whether overtly or under the surface. When critical or negative feedback is given, emotions get involved, and one’s self-concept gets involved. (“Do you not like me? Am I being ignored?  Do other people hate me?  Why isn’t anyone listening to me?”).  Asking questions provides the opportunity to slow the pace, deepen the conversation and develop an understanding around the facts and background.

Some of my favorite coaching questions (inspired by Kelley O’Hara):

  • When you say that, what does that mean?  What might it mean to others?
  • Can you give an example?
  • How did you come to that conclusion?
  • What did you do next?  What do you want to do now?
  • How can I help you?

When you’re trying to find a coach, ask him or her what are some of their best questions.  Make sure they have questions serve to clarify the challenges and they prevent more potential for miscommunication.  The questions create the chance to understand the individual’s thinking and help them clarify their own perspective.  This gets you both to focus on actions and moving forward in partnership.  Coaches are necessarily the ones who “fix” the situation, but they are a part of it and accelerate the journey toward greater effectiveness and purpose.

  • Listen!  No really. Just listen.  When you’re looking to find a great coach, you have to listen to what he or she says, to make sure that they are also a good listener.  (More irony.) Listening seems as if it would be easy, but it is usually quite tough, even for some coaches!  Why?   There are many reasons.  Some poor coaches are used to solving problems quickly and efficiently, and not helping their executive clients solve the challenges.  They want to cut to the chase.  True listening requires being completely present, suspending some judgment, and not thinking much about what you are going to say next.

So as you search for a great executive coach, consider the above.

Make sure you’re hiring an executive coach who is a bit like Dumbledore.  She or he should see the potential in people, listen, and help them develop into amazing human beings.

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