Five Steps to Hiring a Great Executive Coach

Mic Berman

October 19, 2016

Choosing an executive coach can feel daunting. Simply search for “coach, <insert your city>” and results will vary from the Coach brand to coaching associations. Here are five simple steps I’ve found to be the most effective for choosing a coach:

  1. Identify why you want coaching. You may be taking on a new leadership role, making a major life transition, leaning in to who and how you want to show up in the world, etc.
  2. Research potential coaches. How were they trained? What references can they offer? Do they work remotely or in person?
  3. Try before you buy. Set up a sample session and notice how you feel before, during and after -– without judging your feelings. Do you feel that you can trust him/her, especially with your deepest, darkest fears? Does he/she inspire or energize you? Often this will come down to your gut feel about the person.
  4. Make a resonant choice. Create some space around your decision by facilitating your search in the way you make decisions best. For me, my best decisions come when I’ve done my research about the topic and the candidates, and then gathered input from as many sources as I feel I need. This process helps me to follow my gut once I’m actually engaged with someone.
  5. Let the data be your guide. As you lean in with your coach and begin the work, check in after three sessions. Is he/she meeting your expectations? Be honest about why or why not, and the role you play in the dynamic. Engage in a dialogue about how it’s going and decide from there. It’s unlikely you’ll have made a poor choice, but if you have, both of you should be able to talk about it. If your coach can’t comfortably engage with you on this topic, there’s a clue.

It’s also important to be clear about the role you play in the coaching relationship. Getting the most out of coaching requires what I have found to be the hallmarks of highly effective people in life overall:

  • The willingness to be honest with yourself and your coach about how you’re really behaving and what you’re choosing, whether consciously or not, with the actions you’re taking.
  • The willingness to make a resonant choice about how you want to be in the world, who you want to be and to stand up for what you truly want. In other words: your BIG AGENDA.
  • The willingness to be held accountable for reaching your goals.

To be sure, this type of self-introspection can be a bit challenging, but just as with sports training, a bit of pain will give you major gains. I recently hired a personal trainer and I love her even when I hate her –- she will not let me get away with anything! My goal may be three repetitions at a certain weight but if I can only do one or two right now, that’s my reality and I want to work to overcome it. The problem is that without my trainer, I’ll still be using old habits to overcome it a year and 10 more pounds from now. It’s the same with executive coaching… a focused approach with a trusted guide will fast-track your development and ultimately your success.

If you’d like to talk about how we can help, please reach out to me at

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