5 things to look for before you decide to hire an “Executive Coach”

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George C. Mazzella
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, The Suite
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Over the past month, several of our members have asked about the benefits of working with executive coaches (and it’s come up with a  few of our enterprise partners as well). Do business leaders actually want coaching? Well, we surveyed over 600 CEOs and found out for ourselves. The reader’s digest version: most CEOs are NOT being coached, and that the majority of them would like to be.  

Recently, there has been a major shift in the way that “executive coaching” is perceived and soon, coaching may even be seen as a norm.

For those of you who have not followed the journey of executive coaching over the years, here is a snapshot:

·      Late 1980s: “What’s an executive coach? Is that from a sport?”

·      Early 1990s: “A coach? You mean, like when you’re under-performing?”

·      Mid-to-late 1990s: “A coach? I’m getting fired aren’t I?”

·      Early 2000s: “A coach? Should I take that as a compliment?”

·      Mid-to-late 2000s: “A coach? Can’t wait to start!”

·      Now: “A coach? How long can I work with them – and do I get to choose my coach?”

In other words, the good news is that most corporate executives now see coaching as an investment their own growth and therefore the growth of their businesses as well. Let’s call it a “win-win”. The bad news is that with this popularity, countless people have jumped on the bandwagon to collect those pricey hourly rates.

In a way,you can say that the current landscape is more like that of the wild wild West,where anyone can claim to be a coach after having a few years of professional experience or even a handful of experience in HR. Do these people have what it takes to be an executive coach? We think not. So, until there becomes a universally agreed-upon system for assessing coaches, how do you separate the “good coaches” from the “bad coaches’? That’s where we come in. Here are the top 5 qualities to look for when you are debating whether or not an executive coach will be a great investment, or a huge waste of your time and money.

A clear view of the process: 

Really skilled coaches will be able to walk you through their process from start to finish and you will have no trouble following along.  Their process should help you define your core challenges, see where you’re starting your journey, and map out where you want to go and how to get there.  It’s also essential that they describe how you’ll learn new skills and behaviors from your sessions, and how they’ll arm, you with tools you can take back to work. If the coach shares fluff, telling you that it’s “hard to say” or “that depends on you,” or if he or she is all enthusiasm and no substance (“read my reviews!”  “I will help you level up!”), it’s a good bet they are not the right coach for you (or anyone).

They include others in your circle: 

A good coach will tell you that his or her approach includes gathering feedback on you from those who work around you most. This includes those who work for you, with you, and who you work for (real 360-degree feedback). Then they will pattern that feedback to show you a clear picture of how you’re seen by the people you work with. Once you have a clear picture, they will help you decide where to focus your time and where the two of you are likely to have the most success. If the coach doesn’t include feedback from those around you, that’s a problem; we all have blind spots, and it’s crucial for you, and the coach to get a sense of how others actually see you based on your interactions.

They have real skills beyond good listening:

If a coach tells you that they are “your sounding board” or “always on your side” then you can expect to experience little to no growth while using their services. Sure, you may have a good conversation and they may stroke your ego a bit, but that is not what you want a coach to do. You want an executive coach to guide you down the right path and help you course-correct when you are off. Ask for examples and see if they can give specific examples of how they helped others to improve and grow in better leaders, managers, and business operators.

They keep things private: 

This is probably the most important thing of all. We’ve all heard horror stories of someone’s company providing an executive coach only to have that coach report back everything they were told to HR. A good coach with make very clear agreements and talk you through their views on confidentiality and what you can expect. If they try to dodge your questions about this, run the other way. You will never be able to experience true growth by seeing a coach you do not trust, and you cannot trust a coach unless you know that everything you tell them is strictly confidential.

 They will have a track record of wins: 

Simply put, a good coach will have clients who perform better at their jobs and achieve the goals they set out to. A good coach will be able to help you understand how to contribute to an organization’s success, and achieve better results. The outcome… a more successful you. If your coach can’t point to actual people they have helped, then terminate the engagement immediately. Life is short, you don’t have time to waste on pretenders. Thinking of giving them a shot anyway? Sure, everyone needs their first win at some point. Make sure you trust them and they have the background and expertise needed to help you. Proceed with caution if they have been a “coach” for a while and still don’t have wins.

Having a strong executive coach can be game-changing. A good coach will help you see yourself more clearly and get a better understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, passions, and even purpose (which is something we all crave to feel at work) In conclusion, having a good executive coach to support you through your career journey will help you stretch beyond your current limits and push past the boundaries of your career ladder.

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George Mazzella Headshot
George C. Mazzella
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, The Suite

George is the CEO & Co-Founder of The Suite. He founded The Suite in order to fundamentally change the way executives manage their careers.  Prior to founding The Suite in 2019, George spent several years in the executive recruiting space where he was fortunate enough to advise some of the world's leading VC & PE backed businesses on talent.

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