So many individuals call themselves a coach today that anyone interested
in hiring a coach must be cautious. The fact that trainers, spiritual advisors,
consultants, bar tenders and television personalities often refer to themselves
as "coach" makes it difficult to distinguish a true resource from all the
hype. This coaching hype is compounded by the number of organizations jumping
on the bandwagon professing coaching expertise. Even many call centers and
retail stores freely inter change the term "manager" with "coach" without
providing in depth "coach" specific skill training. Coaching is an emerging
new profession and currently there are no legal restrictions. Therefore, anyone
or any business can legally market coaching skill services. The tips that
follow will help in selecting a business resource.
What is Executive Coaching?
Coaching is a custom-designed, one-on-one developmental experience for the
mid- to senior-level executive who wishes to improve performance on the job,
or prepare for career moves, by working with another professional. The coach
should be able to relate to the coachee's business environment, provide assessments,
feed back and guiding the executive toward changing or developing identified
behaviors and stretch goals within a specified time frame. People used to
think that leadership development could be learned in a single training event.
However, just as one does not learn to be a great parent after one training
session or a terrific CPA upon college completion, leadership development
is viewed today as an ongoing and highly personal process. This includes ongoing
coaching by one who has actually played in the game, stays aware and involved
with best industry practices, and has experienced the similar stresses of
the person coached.
What Would One Expect to Pay For Coaching?
Business coaches usually quote a per-project fee. However, rates can run
from $100.00 per hour up to 20-30% of an executive's annual salary. A business
coach should be hired only after a review of the coach's credentials, confirmation
of the coach's industry experience, recommendations of other executives, an
interview with the coach and consideration on the projected return on this
Some individuals selling executive coaching services are typically under
considerable pressure to make a sale. The reputable coach, however, will welcome
the opportunity to explain the benefits of their services while individuals
with minimum qualifications will be hesitant at providing information. Use
the following 7 tips as guidance when interviewing a prospective executive
or business coach.
7 Ways to Identify a Quality Business/Executive Coach
Understand there are different coaching niches: business coaching,
personal coaching and psychological counseling needs. Invest your money
properly and be honest about what type of coaching will best benefit the
needs of the organization. Psychological counseling places an emphasis
on diagnosis, healing, might include prescribed drugs, and involve family
members. Unlike the psychological counselor, an executive coach can be helpful in leadership development, succession planning, or in identifying
a habit or behavior preventing the executive from performing at full capacity
in the executive suite.
CB "Cork" Motsett, President of Business Development Specialists, Inc.
and a highly experienced Executive Coach, identifies the difference between
a psychologist and a coach by noting that "the psychologist primarily focuses
on what is broken, not working, while a coach works on building strengths".
Some examples where a business coach might be of value is helping the
coachee become self-aware of career stalling behaviors, how to develop
others, develop skills to overcome perfectionism, procrastination, poor
time management skills, inadequate communication skills, lack of team building
skills, conflict management, or anger/frustration outbursts, etc. Still
different, a personal coach typically has great listening skills
when one needs to think aloud about issues.
What educational level, industry
experience, certification, and references does the coach possess to be effective
in your business environment? Red flags of an inexperienced coach might
include that coaching is not their full time avocation, coaching is not
part of their business name or they are hesitant to provide references.
Some managers, consultants, free-lance individuals and even organizations
are now calling themselves "coach" because it is a hot term and a way to
increase revenue. Investigate what skills the coach possesses to solve your
problems or to provide developmental directions. Does the coach belong to
a professional organization that gathers and shares best coaching practices?
Has the coach actually worked at the same experience level of the individual
they are coaching (i.e., if they were a VP, then they should understand
the stresses of the VP and below level). If they have had full P&L responsibility,
they might be suited to coach at the President and CEO level. Note that
certification, as a "personal coach" does not necessarily qualify someone
to be the best selection as a business/executive coach.
Confirm level of industry experience the "specific" coach has served. Ideally, the coach should have experience at or above the level of the
coachee. One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make is selecting
a coach who does not understand business politics and corporate environment
at the appropriate level.
In the book, Executive Coaching, author Richard Kilberg states, "There
is only one credible source for executives who seek coaching: other men
and women who have also served in similar executive roles." Hiring a coach
with no industry experience would be like expecting a veterinarian to be
successful in caring for a human. The vet might have moderate success.
Kraft Foods, Inc., is an organization that promotes the use of "industry-experienced"
business coaches. Each executive develops an action plan with his/her coach
to ensure a developmental focus is established. This idea of a coaching
program took place while Kraft was examining their annual succession plans.
They began to question the leadership skills of their middle managers.
James Kinney who is a senior vice president and CIO for Kraft Foods Inc.
says " We have found that coaches familiar with our industry help our managers
craft an action plan that literally encourages growth and progress professionally,
socially and technically. We also found the industry-experienced coaches
continue to read our professional journals, challenge our managers with
"real time" strategies and know our competitive strengths/weaknesses."
Spherion Corporation, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale and owner of the
famous Saratoga Institute, also subscribes that "one coach does not fit
all needs." Spherion provides coaching services and their specialty teams
coach fellow professionals in technology, finance, legal, accounting, insurance,
energy, telecommunications, and government.
Verify that meaningful diagnostic instruments will be used. Just
as a physician orders diagnostic tests to validate his/her medical suspicions,
the use of diagnostic instruments add increased accuracy and confidence
to ensure developmental areas are correctly identified.
Jacksonville coach Cork Mossett, states, "Proficient coaches use validated
assessment instruments like DISC Behavioral and Communication, Personal
Interests, Attitudes and Values (PIA&V), Soft Skill Competency assessments
and 360 feedback systems to allow the coachee to better understand their
own behaviors, motivators / competencies. The 360 multi-rater feedback
helps individuals see how others view their proficiencies and provides
a fuller portrait than just self-disclosure. Data from the 360 feedback
becomes a starting point for development or growth initiatives."
Another Executive Coaching firm, The Curtis Group International, uses
The Lominger Leadership Architect Suite, an integrated 360 developmental
product. The following example of a senior executive helps illustrate the
value of this assessment.
Will, a senior national Account Executive, held high standards for himself,
his employees, and the company. Will taught the sales team how to negotiate
major contracts resulting in revenues above projections. Despite the huge
revenue surge, Will's employee turnover was high and the CEO was concerned
that while Will was bringing in big bucks through the front door, the cost
of replacing employees was draining revenue out the back door through lost
client relationships and the organization's reputation for being a revolving
door. The CEO hired an executive coach with a proven background in strategic
planning. The coach used a 360 PC-based feedback assessment that identified
Will's career stallers. The 360 instrument revealed that Will sometimes
had scathing outbursts of anger. Will's initial reaction was, "I was hired
to bring in revenue, and not for my people skills and I've increased revenue
by 30 percent above projections." However, the assessment did get Will's
attention and he agreed to move forward with the coach on ways to improve
his interpersonal skills.
Assessments must be part of a business coach's tool kit - do not hire
a coach that relies on a crystal ball or one that coaches from the heart.
Beware of Switch and Bait Coaching. Ensure the coaching contract identifies the specific coach that will provide
the service to ensure that a less-experienced person does not appear after
the contract has been signed. Some organizations are doing a bait and switch
technique where they bring in a "ringer" which is a skilled professional
coach from another location to help sell the coaching services and this
individual is never seen again. Ask the coach who will actually be delivering
the coaching services what percentage of their time was spent coaching last
year and, how long have they officially been working as an executive coach?
How many individuals - not who - have they coached in the past year? What
corporations hired them exclusively to coach executives? Where and how long
was the training they received to learn their coaching skills? Do they stay
involved in a continuing education coaching program?
Verify the effectiveness and
the ROI of your specific coach--- not the firm they represent. A skilled
coach will proudly market examples of his/her coaching effectiveness and
how clients have benefited using his/her services. Verify a coach's self-proclaimed
success record by asking for a listing of 6 or more references and then
conduct due diligence. Select from the provided reference listing 2 or 3
CEOs/HR professionals and call to inquire about how the coaching impacted
the desired goals. Coaching is expensive and due diligence is necessary.
Beware of the coach that cites confidentiality issues when asked for references.
While situations of confidentiality may exist, proficient coaches have corporate
HR clients who will gladly vouch for the coaching value and acknowledge
that the coaching relationship did exist. The best predictor of future success
is past success.
How will you measure success
and results of executive coaching? Before contracting for coaching,
ensure you have determined what results the organization seeks and that
all parties agree on what will determine if the coaching was a success before
the contract is signed. For example, if the outcome is to reduce a manager's
high employee turnover, determine what the industry or corporate average
is and agree on a reduction target for the manager to achieve within a specified
timeframe. If the coaching is designed to help executives in career development,
identify specific areas where growth is to be focused. Lee Hecht Harrison,
a global firm that provides executive coaching programs, recently published
research findings gathered from 450 HR professionals. Their research found
that organizations no longer views business coaches as individuals hired
to help managers who are in trouble but are being used to coach managers
and executives to the next professional level. The best coach is one who
has walked in the coachee's shoes and can understand what success might
look like in a specific industry.
Hiring the "right coach" is as important as having the "right" secretary
can add to one's productivity. A study featured in Public Personnel Management
Journal reported 31 managers that underwent a managerial training program.
The training increased productivity by 22.4%. However, a second group was
provided coaching following the training process and their productivity increased
by 88%. Research does demonstrate that one-on-one executive coaching is of
value. As with any profession, referral and testimonials from those who have
actually experienced concrete results from working with a proficient coach
still carries the most weight.
Top athletes have known for years that to be at their best, they need to
work with a coach who knows the game. Tiger Woods now has a coach to help
him identify his blind sides of golf strategies. George W. Bush has a coach
that provides political guidance. More and more executives are now seeking
help with the myriad challenges found in today's frenzied, stock-price driven
marketplace, but credentials among coaches vary so the caution is: buyer beware.
The tips provided here will help in identifying an experienced business coach
or organization that professes coaching skills from a "rent-a-friend" type
In today's "e-conomy" it is hard to maintain a competitive advantage. Just
as athletes preparing for the Olympics hire coaches that know their game,
business executives can also benefit from coaching if working with an industry-experienced
coach. Summarized are some guidelines to assist in getting past the shamans
and "rent a friend" coaches.
Understand there are differences
in specialty niches of coaches: business development, executive, spiritual,
career counselor, therapeutic, personal, sports, etc. Each possesses different
||Verify the specific coach delivering
the coaching has the education, industry knowledge, and business savvy to
best coach to your needs.
||Ensure the coach has served at
the appropriate corporate level to understand the development, political
and environmental needs of the coachee.
||Use of diagnostic instruments help
identify blind spots for the coachee and should be part of the business
coach's tool kit.
||Beware of organizations that "switch
& bait" introducing a skilled coach then replacing with one of less experience
||Contract how the coaching success
will be measured and evaluated. What one measures is what one gets.
||Ensure coaching delivers the needed
value and is worth the return on your investment.
A resource guide has been prepared by the National Association of Business
Coaches (NABC) entitled "How to Find a Qualified Business or Executive Coach"
providing guidance on how to interview, select and hire a skilled coach.
Until coaching credentials are standardized, due diligence is necessary
to find the best business/executive resource.