How to Find an Executive Coach

Stephen CognettaStephen CognettaPublished

Executive coaches can be one of the most helpful tools in an executive's arsenal to improve their performance and business skills. Executive coaches range in the areas they support founders, from starting new companies to shutting down existing ones.

Yet, finding an executive coach is hard. Selecting and choosing an executive coach depends on the goals you have, the priorities of your company, and the fit between you and your coach.

In this article, we'll break down the key things you need to look for in an executive coach and how to find one.

The Different Types of Coaching

Before we jump into how to find a coach, let's discuss the main types of coaches that exist and which options are available.

In general, one attribute of coaching is that it is more driven by question-asking than advice-giving. Don't expect your coach to give you the answers; instead, your coach will ask you the important questions to help you reach conclusions about how to achieve your goals and your goals.

Coaching usually happens with at least two sessions per month, and is usually about an hour per session.

Career Coaching. Career coaching is a discipline focused on helping to accelerate one's career. Usually, this involves career navigation (which career should I move into?) or career transitions but can vary widely depending on the goals of the coachee. Career coaching is perfect for someone who wants to focus on improvements and goals in their career.

Executive/business coaching. Executive coaching is designed for individuals who are in leadership roles in a company, and is designed to help not only the executive grow, but also to have positive impacts to the business. Executive coaching is usually focused on helping the coachee gain more self-awareness around their goals and how to achieve them in the business context.

Life Coaching. Life coaching is a more comprehensive discipline of coaching, that can target and approach a variety of issues. Life coaches can help with many topics (including career) but could also help with relationships or day-to-day life.

Leadership Development. Leadership development coaching is centered around how to improve you as a leader. Sessions could be focused on communication skills, running meetings, or how to manage your team more effectively. Unlike coaching, these sessions are a bit more instructional in nature and may involve worksheets or more tactical learning goals.

Consulting. When a specific subject matter expertise is required to support you and your workstream, it can be helpful to seek more of a consultant or a coach who acts in that capacity. Typically, with a consultant, there are clear questions and goals that you're working toward, and the

Therapy. In some cases, your needs may align more to a therapist than a coach. Licensed therapists are trained on how to diagnose and manage clinical mental health issues, while coaches aren't. Therapists also, depending on their practice, may dig deeper into the "why" behind some of your thoughts and behaviors. On the other hand, coaching can be more future and forwards looking on how to achieve your goals.

Understanding your goals in an executive coach

Now that you know if executive coaching or coaching more broadly is right for you, let's talk about how to identify your goals with coaching, which will help you find the right coach.

Some of the most important questions to ask in evaluating a coach are:

  • What are your biggest challenges right now in your company?
  • Why are you deciding to seek coaching now?
  • What goals do you have for coaching?
  • What would a successful coaching experience look like after 3-6 months? What would an unsuccessful coaching experience look like?
  • What experience is it important to you for your coach to have?
  • What budget do you have for coaching?

After you've asked yourself these questions, you can then narrow down the types of coaches you're looking for. For instance, if you're focused on a tech startup and looking for someone who can help understand and think through issues in your company alongside you, you may want to limit your search to coaches with technical expertise. On the other hand, if you're looking for someone who has experience with helping founders move on from their businesses and exit successfully, there may be a different type of coach you're seeking.

Finding an executive coach

Now that you're ready to start your search, you can look for executive coaches in a few key places:

International Coach Federation. The international coaching federation is one of the more well-known coaching organizations in the world, and they have a database of different coaches that you can select from on their website. There are other coaching databases like CoachHub and BetterUp.

LinkedIn. If you're looking for something more specific, you can do a LinkedIn search for executive coaches, and type in the search function with the specific coaching need you're interested in (e.g. "startup executive coaching").

Internally at your company. Many times, your company may already have coaches that they hire for various employees, or they may be willing to engage with a coach or coaching company to help. Companies like Torch are focused on selling their coaching services to businesses, to help grow and develop company leaders.

Referrals. Reach out to your network - referrals and word-of-mouth can be some of the more common approaches to finding an excellent coach.  

Exponent. Exponent has a list of career and interview coaches if you're looking for help making career transitions. Simply check out Exponent's database of coaches.

Still not sure how to find a coach? Often google searches and other coaching databases can be the best way to go. Remember, when seeking a coach, always ask in your first call to ensure you've hit the goals of the coach that you've identified earlier.

We hope this article was helpful to getting you started with finding an executive coach. Good luck with your coaching journey!

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