Your Rough Guide To Choosing A Coach

This rough guide has been developed to help leaders choosing a coach.

It aims to encourage them to take responsibility for their choice, to help get the very best from the coaching relationship.

There is little written to which leaders can turn that is specifically for them to make sense of, understand and be a collaborative partner in the coaching arrangement.

Hence why I’ve written this guide, specifically for leaders about to embark on coaching.

There are three reasons for preparing the leader ahead of an introductory session:

  • to empower the leader in the coaching relationship
  • to help the leader to be open and honest in what they bring to the introductory sessions – coaches can only work with what is brought to them
  • to actively involve the leader in all aspects of executive coaching to create a collaborative coaching relationship

Focus of Leadership Coaching

Leadership Coaching exists to support the personal and professional learning of leaders and thereby contribute to the goals of their organisation.

The leader is always at the centre of any coaching arrangement. With the focus on learning, the leader takes up a position of self-direction, where he or she can align the coaching programme to the working environment, business imperatives and personal learning challenges.

In essence, effective leadership coaches are facilitators, aiming to create the kind of collaborative relationship and the sort of learning environment that supports the leader’s agenda and sustains learning.

Choosing the Right Coach

Choosing the right coach is vital to the success of any executive coaching programme. The relationship is, after all, at the heart of the process.

The aim is to create an effective partnership, one that provides a forum to stretch, challenge, explore and try out. To make this work, it’s important to match up your needs with the skills, knowledge and experience of the coach, to help develop the quality of your thinking.

This may be determined by having an introductory conversation with potential coaches about:

  • what skills he or she will bring to the relationship
  • what he or she wants from the relationship
  • any styles or personal preferences they may have

Subsequently, you can make an informed choice about who will be the best match, both in terms of their specific skills, background and experience, and also any preferences either of you may have. Do bear in mind that there are wider benefits of coaching that may emerge by working with someone with a different background and perspective!

It is impossible to predict how well you will get along before starting to work together and there is no ‘best way’ to determine a good match. But there are things you can do to make sure you are making the best possible decision when choosing your coach.

A good way to start when meeting with your potential coach is to clearly outline your goals for the programme and then get feedback on how he or she will work with you to achieve these.

Finding out as much as you can about his or her interests, personality and experience will help you make a useful and productive match. Practicalities like when they are available and how much time they will commit to you and the programme are also important considerations.

Deciding What You Want

In order to match your requirements to an appropriate coach, it is important to consider what you want out of the relationship.

For example, you may want your coach to act as a sounding board, to challenge your thinking and to provide different perspectives.

Listed below are some of the areas in which a leadership coach can provide support:

Learning and Development

    • understanding personal strengths and weaknesses better
    • overcoming barriers to learning
    • improving problem-solving ability
    • challenging existing patterns of behaviour and thinking

Specific Skills

    • communication / presentation skills
    • commercial awareness
    • planning and organising
    • problem analysis and solving
    • delegation
    • creativity


    • helping to develop your career plan
    • working towards specific career objectives
    • developing and using your networks

General Support

    • developing self-confidence and personal profile
    • improving relationships with colleagues
    • dealing with conflict
    • becoming more self-aware

Which are relevant to your needs? What questions can you ask a potential coach to help match them to your needs?

Useful Questions to Ask

Here are a few questions to ask a potential coach to identify his or her suitability for your needs:

  • What do you hope to get from this programme as my coach?
  • Do you have a coach? What can you tell me about this?
  • What specific skills do you have that makes you a good coach?
  • What can go wrong with coaching?
  • What do we both need to do for this relationship to work well?
  • What specific interpersonal skills do you have that coaching requires?
  • What about feedback – what’s the best way to do this?
  • How do people learn, and how will knowledge of this help you as my coach?
  • How much commitment can you give to this programme?

Final Thoughts

It is right to recognise that even well thought out matches can end up going poorly, so it’s also important to know that you have the option of changing your coach should the relationship not work for any reason.

Feedback at this point is critical, to help understand why the pairing didn’t work and what you can do to create a better match next time around.

If you would like to discuss your coaching options, drop me a line and we’ll arrange an introductory call.

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