Professionals work with an Executive Coach for a number of reasons. Some come because they are burned out. They are simply looking for more work-life integration. Others still are newly promoted and may want to get off to a good start. Some are in over their head or struggling with a blind spot that is holding them back. Whatever your reason for seeking executive coaching, here’s some guidance you can use to help you decide how to choose the right coach and determine if now is the right time for you.
How to Select an Executive Coach
If you haven’t worked with an Executive Coach before, it helps to know what to look for. First of all, you want to make sure you are working with someone who has gone through a rigorous training program certified by the International Coach Federation, or ICF. Since there is little to no regulation on coaching, anyone can use the title. If it’s not obvious they are credentialed, be sure to ask. For example, I hold the following certifications which means I can use the letters “ACC” and “CPCC” after my name:
What to Expect from an Executive Coach
Most Executive Coaches offer a sample coaching session. This is a 30-minute call that will help you both determine if you are a good match. There are also coaches who specialize in specific areas. This can be a benefit if you are also looking for an experienced and practical perspective. For example, I have worked in Human Resources my entire career, much of that time helping develop effective managers. That makes me a great fit for both HR professionals and leaders who are working on their behavioral skills. I offer versatility in being able to provide Executive Coaching, Career Coaching and HR Coaching.
In the early sessions of working with an Executive Coach, your coach may ask you to fill out a 360-degree assessment or take self-assessments. The 360 gives you great insight into what others perceive are your strengths, as well as areas needing improvement. Another option I often use is interviewing your key stakeholders to find common themes on your perceived strengths and weaknesses. This helps form the goals that will be the focus during the coaching engagement.
To get the most out of working with an Executive Coach, you must be prepared for coaching homework. This typically isn’t overly time consuming, but is important to get the most out of the coaching. Examples of homework assignments might include:
- Keep a log of every time you hesitate to speak up in a meeting. What were you feeling/thinking?
- Use The 5 Minute Journal to grow your habit of daily gratitude which is proven to increase happiness.
- Choose 3 nights a week you will be home in time to have dinner with your family this week.
The other thing that is important to know about Executive Coaching is that the magic of coaching actually takes place in between coaching sessions. This means that those critical a-ha moments often come after your mind has had a while to process the coaching discussion.
What About the Length of a Coaching Engagement and the Cost?
Most Executive Coaches will talk to you about your goals and the amount of time you have to commit to achieving them. Depending on your timeline, I typically suggest starting out with a coaching session every 2-3 weeks to allow enough time in between sessions for you to process the coaching, complete their homework and notice changes. A typical coaching engagement is 6 months on average, although I have clients that I have worked with for years. Most find the coaching process helping not just in their career, but in life overall.
As far as pricing, coaches are all over the map. Literally, you might be looking at upwards of $10,000/hour for a very established and well-known Executive Coach, all the way to $50/hour for someone who is just starting out.
How is Executive Coaching Different than Therapy and Consulting?
Executive Coaching focuses on the future, whereas therapy focuses on the past. One analogy I use a lot to explain this is that of driving down an empty highway. Coaching focuses on the road ahead while therapy looks in the rear-view mirror.
Another favorite analogy is this: If a consultant was teaching you how to ride a bicycle, they would give you an instruction manual. If a therapist was teaching you how to ride a bicycle, they would ask you how you felt about it. If a coach was teaching you how to ride a bicycle, they would run along beside you holding the seat steady until you could take off on your own.