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How to Choose the Right Executive Coach

Choosing the right executive coach can be an incredibly difficult task for many HR professionals, as it can result in the make or break of the successful development of leaders within an organisation. In turn, this can have a huge effect on the overall success of the company.

Executive development programmes are usually aimed towards the leadership team of an organisation and use various exercises and activities to strengthen the foundational principles of the company, as well as aiding leaders to evaluate potential executive colleagues in the future.

Once a company has decided that their leadership team may be strengthened through executive development, the next stage is to seek out the right executive coach or organisation to help achieve these goals.

Unlike many other professions, the coaching profession doesn’t have a single governing body. Furthermore, growing numbers of coaches continue to enter the industry, resulting in a vast range of experience and qualifications. All these factors can make it challenging to recognise ‘effective coaching’ and to pick the right executive coach for your business.

What is an Executive Coach?

Executive coaching is tailored to the individual, as it involves a close relationship between the coach and the person being coached. The coach meets with the senior leaders within a company, providing a safe environment to offer support and help the leaders understand their abilities, how others perceive them, how to identify current goals, and then finally teaching them how to meet these targets.

An effective executive coach needs to have mastered a number of skills, such as providing solid judgments, making smart decisions, and taking action when required. Executive coaches work with a variety of different people, with a range of leadership styles, so they will need to be able to adapt to these numerous situations. Finally, they must also be able to align themselves and their team with the company culture and goals.

Experienced executive coaches can carefully recognise a leader’s strengths and weaknesses and then provide a plan to develop their leadership style. They should act as an unbiased party and provide an alternate, outside perspective. Ultimately, their clients should experience improved productivity and enhanced strategic thinking.

Choosing the wrong coach will waste time and money, as well as potentially leading to poor operational results.

What Should You Look For in an Executive Coach?

So, finding an executive coach is no easy task, but there are a number of qualities to look out for to ensure you work with the right person for your organisation.

Change is at the core of all coaching, as the person being coached will change their behaviour or mindset, or even both. Therefore, it’s worthwhile understanding how your coach believes change will happen, as this will be highly influential in their sessions. Look out for the main assumptions, that underpin their coaching style and if they fit with your organisation’s values.

Secondly, a coach needs to be clear on what they are trying to achieve. If they aren’t then it could be a sign, they are unable to critique their own performance and may be unable to develop themselves.

Third of all, it’s also important to look at their coaching process and what they actually do in their sessions. There are many different tools and techniques, which can be used, so you need to find someone who uses the right techniques for your company.

Finally, a key part of successful coaching is ensuring that you have ‘chemistry’ with your coach. This is something, which only you as an individual can decide. Chemistry is what helps you to connect, trust, and have confidence in the coaching programme.

Five Questions to Ask Your Potential Executive Coach

You want to get results from your executive training programmes and ensure they are beneficial for your organisation. A major part of this is choosing the right coach.

Considering that, these would be our five recommended questions to ask a potential executive coach:

  1. Tell me about your professional experience?

  2. How would you describe your coaching style?

  3. What is your approach to confidentiality and ethics?

  4. How do you measure the impact of your coaching?

  5. What kind of clients do you have the most success with?

These questions are intended to help you assess how much a coach has reflected on their coaching model, as the key to coaching expertise is the ability to critique one’s own approach and then adapt accordingly.

Top Mistake to Avoid When Choosing an Executive Coach

We would say that the top mistake companies make when choosing an executive coach is confusing industry experience with business usefulness.

Often, companies will look for an executive coach, who has direct experience within their industry. Although this may be useful, there are two factors that need to be considered, that may outweigh this advantage.

First of all, an executive coach is helping someone with their leadership competencies, rather than strategy development. Aiding an executive to think more strategically is very different to developing a strategy for them. When it comes to transforming a client into a more effective leader, industry experience is not necessary.

Secondly, the best ideas and insights often come from an outside perspective of the industry. A long-time in an industry may result in a certain way of thinking. Fresh ideas from outside can often lead to innovative and significant change.

Varied industry experience can play a vital role in the effectiveness and usefulness of a coach; therefore, it is a great idea to pick an experienced coach, who has a varied business background.

How Can Zest Help?

At Zest, we are passionate about executive coaching and pride ourselves on asking straightforward and at times challenging questions to unlock the true potential in individuals and remove any blockers to success. Our approach helps us align individuals with the best coach possible and our code of ethics around confidentiality is something we are very proud of.

We provide effective coaching sessions where the individuals’ values, beliefs and needs are always at the heart of the conversation.

Find out how we can help with any level of change and training in your business by dropping an email through to

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