Posted: Wed 9th Nov 2022
An executive coach can provide a wide range of benefits for you and your business, but what questions should you ask before deciding on one?
Expert Enterprise Nation adviser Sarah Jenkins reveals all...
1) What qualifications do they have?
Have they had specific executive coach training through a ‘reputable’ coaching organisation?
Professional coaching associations will list those training organisations that they approve. You can search for these via one of the large bodies for coaching professionals, such as the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the European Mentoring Coaching Council (EMCC) or the Association for Coaching (AC).
Make sure that you look for executive coach training, rather than other types (for example, those who have done life coaching qualifications, without any specific executive coach training).
An example of a specialist executive coach training organisation would be the Academy for Executive Coaching (AoEC) or those provided by reputable business schools.
2) Are they a member of a coaching body and what is the Code of Ethics that they subscribe to?
They should be able to tell you immediately and be able to show you the text of their Code of Ethics, so that you are clear on the rules that the executive coach should conduct themselves through and some of their commitments to you.
Some examples are listed here:
EMCC UK: Global Code of Ethics
3) What CPD have they done in the last 12 months?
Is this an executive coach who is committed to perfecting their practice, and is willing to keep learning to ensure that ‘coachees’ get the best support possible through a variety of tools, techniques and styles?
Does their CPD seem interesting and relevant to what you might expect from an executive coach?
4) Do they offer any other services, such as consultancy, mentoring or counselling?
Why is this important to know? If they do, are they committed to keeping the boundaries very separate between these services (and have they made it clear to you what executive coaching is…and what it is not?)?
A good executive coach will make it clear that coaching, consulting, mentoring, counselling or therapy cannot happen in the same sessions or meetings.
5) Do they have a supervisor?
Are they committed to reflecting on their practice and making sure they are doing the very best they can for their coachee or clients by spending regular time with a coaching supervisor, with whom to discuss their own development, learning and coaching performance?
Are they meeting with them regularly? Having a supervisor demonstrates their commitment to best practice and their desire to be a great executive coach practitioner.
6) What kinds of clients do they work with?
It’s useful for you to know if an executive coach that you’re considering working with has (or is) working with others on themes that are related to the working environment, and has some understanding of your sector or level.
For instance, if you’re considering someone who advertises themselves as an executive coach, might you have less confidence in working with them if they have a life coaching qualification and haven’t had any clients with work-based challenges in the past?
7) Where and how do they work?
Is it important to you to work with someone face-to-face or is it more convenient for you to only have online sessions at certain times?
Are you flexible about having some sessions online and some face-to-face in your coaching schedule? Might you be open to experimenting to see what format works best for you?
Some coaches offer the experience of ‘walking’ or ‘nature’ coaching. Might you like to try that out, if you enjoy the experience of being outdoors and like to ‘get your steps in’, away from the office?
Do you have good ‘times of day’ for thinking that the executive coach might be able to fit around?
8) Are they able to provide references?
Can a prospective coach provide testimonials, either anonymous or not? It’s important to note that some ‘coachees’ might not want their workplace to know that they have been having executive coaching. Can the executive coach supply referees, if not testimonials?
9) Will they offer you a free ‘discovery’ or ‘chemistry’ session?
It can be a big decision as to whether or not to work with a particular executive coach.
Like any business partnership, you need to know that you can build trust and work together well. Do take advantage of the opportunity to get to know each other’s personality in a short introduction session to understand how well you might progress together. This can really help you to make a decision.
10) Can they give you a copy of their contracts?
This is probably one of the last things you should ask for, before committing to a particular executive coach.
Undoubtedly, they should be able to provide a draft contract easily and be willing to talk you through any of the components that you’re not familiar with.
Inevitably, there will be terms that ensure that you’re both protected and a suggestion that your coaching relationship should last a certain number of sessions and/or hours. Importantly, there should also be mention of a ‘review’ of progress so that you can both ensure that you are on track.
Make sure that you have the opportunity during the schedule to feed back your views on how things might have progressed (or not). Importantly, in the contract (as well as in any discovery session) you should now be very clear – it should be explicit – that all sessions are confidential excepting a few exceptional circumstances (detailed in the contract and conversations).