Choosing a coach
The power of a coaching partnership is largely dependent on the status you confer on your coach. You decide to value & consider carefully, or not, the questions, reflections, challenges, & observations your coach brings to your partnership. So think about:
Is the transfer of knowledge or expertise an important dynamic in the coaching partnership?
Some of my clients have been managing major internal transformation programmes, or working on mergers. My experience of change and mergers on large transformation projects reassures my client that I have relevant expertise and adds to my credibility. Other clients work in the consulting sector. They feel reassured that I’ve worked in the consulting world and understand it’s challenges. They don’t feel obliged to spend time setting the context or fear that I won’t understand the terminology they use.
Some potential clients I’ve spoken with are leading tech start-ups. During our initial conversation they realise they want a coach with tech start up experience. I don’t have that experience to draw on, and recommend a specialist start up coach.
It’s important to evaluate if the transfer of knowledge or expertise is paramount. If so, consider a mentor instead. I do have hybrid coach and change mentor relationships with some clients – They decide if the session is a coaching session, or if there’s a key change management issue they’d like to explore and think through, explicitly drawing on my subject matter expertise and experience. This is a more complex relationship, requiring careful and regular contracting. You can of course, have both a mentor and a coach as they serve different purposes.
How important is your coaches background and experience?
Think about what degree of coaching experience and depth of behavioural competence is required to help you understand your challenges in a safe psychological space. Does your coach need to be accredited, undergoing supervision, and developing themselves professionally? Are you comfortable with a coach at the early stages of their career?
How important is it that your coach has operated at your level within management?
If you’re a CxO of a global corporation, must your coach also have been a CxO, or are you willing to be coached by someone who hasn’t had that role themselves?
On the one hand, a coach who has been a CxO themselves has tremendous corporate experience to draw on as they coach you, and can empathise, personally relating to the pressure, decision making and conflicting demands you experience. However, they may find it tempting to move to a mentoring role rather than stay focused on helping you find the solutions that are right for you. Be aware too, that assessment centre data suggests that a high level of experience in management, when not accompanied by a high level of coaching maturity, represents poor value for money.
Someone who has not had a CxO role may be more removed, and while not having personally experienced the complexity of your business challenges, they may help you to focus on areas or values you’ve neglected. This may bring fresh insights to your thinking that assist your decision making. Perhaps, in our VUCA world, you want a coach from a younger generation, who will bring you a different perspective and challenge your “Norms”.
Your answers will help establish your coach selection criteria