How to Choose the Right Executive Coach

Posted in: Blog, Executive Coaching | 0

More and more companies and individuals are realizing the many benefits of executive coaching, with approximately 93% of US-based Global 100 companies using executive coaching.

But, how does one go about choosing the right executive coach for themselves or someone in their company?

Choosing an executive coach isn’t the same as it would be for choosing a life coach, which focuses heavily on finding the right fit. Of course, it is important that both parties get along, but the results-driven nature of executive coaching means a lot more comes into play. There are a number of factors to take into consideration when searching for an executive coach – such as their training, professional background and experience, coaching methods, cost and location.

Identify ideal coaching candidate

When searching for an executive coach for either yourself or another individual at your organization, it is important to understand what makes a good candidate for executive coaching. While it is often argued that everyone should have a coach, but executive coaching is more results-focused than that of a life coach, is often reserved for senior executives, C-suite employees and high-potential young leaders. What’s more, while other types of coaching are focused on helping a client overcome a specific challenge in their life, executive coaching is typically used to further develop high-potential employees or to facilitate a transition into a higher role (although it is sometimes used to help problematic leaders – often referred to as deficit coaching).

If you are looking for a coach for one of your employees, here are some questions to ask before making the decision to hire a coach for that person:

  • How valuable is the executive’s performance and potential to your organization?
  • How willing and able will the individual be to work with a coach?
  • What is the challenge the employee is facing right now?
  • Are there other alternatives available that may be better suited?
  • Are key people in the organization ready to support this person’s efforts to grow and change?

Understand coaching needs

Once you have identified the ideal coaching client within your organization (whether it be yourself or an employee), you want to identify the main goals of the coaching engagement. Does your leader need to improve their emotional intelligence (EQ)? Strengthen their presentation skills? Establish themselves as a leader in the organization through increased confidence?

Identify a budget for coaching

One you have chosen your ideal executive coaching client and identified their coaching needs, you want to map out a budget for the coaching engagement. Companies who are familiar with executive coaching services typically set aside specific budgets for their top layer executives and directors to be coached and have a grasp of how much they are willing to pay for executive coaching services. However, those organizations who are new to the coaching realm may find it difficult to decide on a suitable price.

A survey conducted by the Conference Board Council on Executive Coaching, shows that the hourly rates companies pay for coaching services can range for services at all levels of an organization.  When it comes to coaching the top layer of executives, companies pay a wide range of fees—anywhere from under $200 per hour to more than $500 per hour—with a majority spending in the higher price ranges. In 2008, organizations report paying on average between $301 and $400 dollars for coaching services at the C-suite level, with a median rate of $425.50. And for lower-level executives, about 70% of the survey respondents report spending between $201 and $400 in 2008 per hour to have executives who are two to five levels below the CEO be coached.

The reason companies pay more for C-suite executive coaches is not just because they like spending more money per hour for the same service. Companies pay more because CEOs will typically want to work with coaches with more senior executive coaching experience. For example, you may have two coaches with the exact same number of coaching hours and credentialing but one brings 20 years of CEO experience in multinational companies while the other brings 10 years of HR management experience in smaller, local companies. The coach with greater senior executive experience is more likely to be selected for a C-suite coaching engagement and will rightfully charge more for their services. 

When mapping out your executive coaching budget, take into consideration the level of the coachee, the desired level of experience of the coach and of course, the length. Most executive coaching engagements are around six months in length, so you’ll want to figure out how much you can spend in total and divide that by the number of sessions (typically two per month for a total of 12) to get an idea of the hourly rate you can budget.

Outline key characteristics/experience required

When choosing an executive coach it is important to ask the right questions to ensure you will get the results you need. Here are some of the basic questions you’ll want to ask yourself and the executive coach candidates, once you have them in place:

  • What credentials does the executive coach need to have?
  • How do they handle confidentiality?
  • What coaching experience do they need to have and what is their success rate with leaders like me (or my employee)?
  • How do they measure success in a coaching engagement?

You want to be sure that the executive coach has the key characteristics and background experience required to help your ideal coaching client. If you are searching for a coach for your CEO, you’ll likely want to find a coach that has held the same position for a number of years, has leadership experience in a corporate setting and is well-versed in commonly used assessment tools like 360 degree reviews. Industry specific experience is another factor to take into consideration, but is often much less important than the other factors. While it may seem that an executive coach that specializes in your industry would be a better fit, the engagement will be focused on assisting the leader in developing specific skills, which don’t directly correlate with the industry itself, but the position.

Connect with Mainsail to receive coach recommendations

Once you have decided on the key characteristics and experience you want in an executive coach, it is time to find them! There are thousands of executive coaches out there, so the process of finding the right match can be daunting. Luckily, our coaching experts at Mainsail Executive Coaches make the process of finding the best executive coach matches for your leader simple and painless!

Our executive coach match specialist will set up a call with you to discuss the details of your coaching needs, such as desired location, educational and professional background and budget. They will then create an outline for potential coaches that include details such as the number of coaching sessions, the length of the coaching engagement, the budget and other requirements (360 assessments, etc).

Participate in consultations with coach matches

Once the coaches agree to the terms, Mainsail will draft up documents outlining each coach’s details for the executive coaching client to review. They will then set up consultations with the coaches of interest and decide on the best match.

Of course, we are happy to send along more recommendations if the initial coaches aren’t a good fit.

Schedule a kick off call and start coaching!

Once the executive coaching client has selected a coach to work with, we suggest a kick off call between the point of contact at the company, the executive coaching client, the coach and their superior. This is a great way to start off the coaching engagement with clear expectations and allows all the parties involved to get more details about what will happen in the coming weeks and months during the coaching engagement.


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