HomearticleWhat to look for when hiring a coach for yourself or your organisation

What to look for when hiring a coach for yourself or your organisation





IECL has a proud reputation for world class organisational coaching. Over the past 25 years, we’ve learnt a thing or two about what exceptional coaching looks like, having trained over 10,000 coaches through our coach education courses and providing 1:1, group and team coaching to thousands of leaders across the world. Every year we receive applications from coaches hoping to work with IECL and our clients. We put them all through their paces (even after we’ve trained them) and we encourage you to do the same. 

Organisations procuring coaching and recipients of coaching often ask us for advice on what to look for and what questions to ask. It can be daunting reading bios, searching the web, scrolling through LinkedIn profiles and vetting referrals. There is a lot of choice and it’s hard to know how to sort the world class options from the masses. 

So how do you separate the ‘wheat from the chaff’? Traditionally this has been incredibly subjective - Who do you like? Who has worked out before? Who have previous counterparts enjoyed working with? Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily equate to exceptional coaching and strong outcomes. Here are few things to consider before selecting a coach:

Firstly, look for coaching capability.  

All coaches will tell you they are good at coaching, but how do you truly know? What can you look out for? What questions can you ask? This is a tricky one to ascertain before you leap into coaching. Here are some tips that may help:

Questions to ask your prospective coach:

  • Has the coach undertaken specific coach training? Just because they are a leader or mentor does not mean they can coach. Calling yourself a coach or reading every book on coaching does not make you a coach. Ask lots of questions specifically about their coach training and check out the reputation of the training provider/s. Question whether they’ve had their capability assessed and what was the outcome of that assessment. 

  • How does the coach continue to stretch themselves and advance their coaching capability? The coach should be able talk through how they keep up to date with the latest developments in coaching and demonstrate a commitment to ongoing professional development including coaching supervision. Select a coach with a commitment to continually honing their craft and doing the work to be the best they can be. 

  • Importantly, have them coach you (not just talk about coaching). Most coaches offer a meet and greet or chemistry check. Ask them for a short coaching session. Did the coaching help you to generate new insights and leave you feeling motivated to take action? Did you find yourself thinking differently as a result of the questions they asked?

  • You need to feel a degree of trust and safety with your coach. They will challenge you in a constructive way that enables you to achieve what you are looking for from coaching. Coaching should encourage you to think more expansively and to look at yourself and the organisational system in ways that you haven’t before. Only say yes to your coach if you feel you have a strong relationship with them, and you are confident they will challenge and stretch you in ways you’re not doing for yourself.

Secondly, look for experience in organisations and understanding of organisational systems.

This can be a trap. You don’t want to get caught up in wondering “has the coach held an equivalent role or worked in the same industry as me?” however you are seeking experience in organisations because you want the coach to understand the context of your role, not the detail of your role. Does the coach have an interest in and deep knowledge of the complexities of organisational life? 

Questions to ask your prospective coach:

  • What coaching experience do you have of working with someone with a similar brief? 

  • What coaching experience do you have of working with similar organisations?

  • What do you know about working with someone at my level? 

  • What is an example of a common coaching engagement for you? What are the focus areas worked on? How do you support that person?

Important note! If the coach drops names, shares details of the content of coaching conversations or breaches confidentiality in any way, this is a big red flag.

IECL engages organisational coaches who have a deep understanding of the context in which they are working. They are interested in the business world and are constantly curious about the changing landscape. Through personal experience and coaching experience, the coach should have developed an understanding of organisational systems including structures, relationship dynamics and broader environmental factors.

Thirdly, look for coaching presence. 

Have you ever been impressed with a CV or coach bio only to meet the person and be disappointed in how they ‘presented’? Presence is both intangible and very real. It is what gives the coach the relational authority to do the work. You want to engage with a coach who is impressive but not arrogant, confident without being cocky. They have credibility and authority but are not dominating. They are with you but give you space. A coach’s presence is what makes their skills and experience work so powerfully.

Some questions to ask yourself after meeting your coach:

  • How do you feel after having met with your coach - Uplifted, inspired, bored, uncomfortable, excited or something else? What does your feeling tell you about how the coaching engagement might play out?

  • Did they convey confidence and build rapport quickly? 

  • Did you feel as though you had space in the meeting to be you? Or did the coach take up more space talking about themselves?

  • If you are meeting more than one coach, how does the way you are feeling compare?

We trust this has been helpful in your search for the right coach or yourself or your organisation. Remember … coaching is a privileged relationship – you wouldn’t want to be coached by just anyone! Ask the questions.