Wow, we’ve covered a lot of ground this series of articles! So far, we’ve talked about what coaching is, the work of coaching, and the distinctions in coaching. At this point you might be thinking, “Enough already! You’ve sold me on coaching. How do I get myself, my team, or my organization started?”

There are two important parts to the process of getting started with a coach:

  1. Assessing Readiness
  2. Finding the Right Coach

Let’s dive into the first – Assessing Readiness. Is the potential client ready to do the work of coaching? Henna Inam, writing for Forbes, offers a number of key considerations in her article on the topic.

  • Is the potential client considered high-potential or in a high-impact role?

Coaching is an investment most often made at more senior levels in organizations, or where the client has an outsized impact on the organization relative to their role. Research shows feedback drops off as leaders rise in the ranks, so coaching can be leveraged to help clients get good feedback.

  • Does the leader need customized development?

Coaching is a highly customized approach to development and gives leaders the opportunity to focus on their unique issues and challenges. Coaching goes beyond behaviors to look at mindset as well, offering a deeper experience than other leadership development approaches.

  • Is the leader coachable?

Coaching requires clients to be engaged and open. Often leaders are stretched for time or are simply not in the right frame of mind to receive developmental feedback and “work on themselves.” Coaching should be engaged when clients are able to devote the time and energy to do the work and have the right mindset.

  • Does the development need require a sustained change in behaviors?

Coaching is a sustained approach, lasting anywhere from a few months to a year or more. The work of coaching also occurs mostly in between sessions with the coach – not during them. In this way, coaching is uniquely suited to provide accountability and reinforcement for changes that need staying power.

  • Is the leader’s environment changing significantly to require a step-change in leadership?

It is often difficult to release one frame of reference in favor of a new one. Coaching can help leaders adapt to significant new changes or demands in their work context, such as restructures, merger or acquisition activity, changes in the marketplace, and so on.

  • Is the leader going through or being prepared for a significant change in responsibilities?

Coaching is an excellent choice to support leaders who are taking on significant new responsibilities in the organization, be it a promotion, a new initiative, or other scope-expanding changes. Complexity almost always increases as responsibilities increase, and coaching is useful to identify and navigate the new landscape.

  • Is the leader new to the organization or function?

Leaders onboarding to a new organization, or a new part of their existing organization, often benefit from coaching. This is because the culture of the organization or the expectations of the role itself can be a big departure from what they’ve known and how they’ve operated. Often new leaders are brought in to initiate change.

  • Is the leader at risk of derailing?

Previously high-performing leaders can suffer lapses due to a change in context or because they are experiencing personal difficulties. Coaching can help leaders become aware of their performance lapses and take steps to correct them, or step into their agency with a decision to depart

Finding the Right Coach

A key concept for finding the right coach is fit and how comfortable the client feels with the person they’ll be working with. While the client should feel comfortable and able to be vulnerable with their coach, they’ll also want to choose someone who is going to help them move forward on their goals, which is the reason they came to coaching in the first place. This often involves the coach offering gentle challenges to the client’s thinking or observations they may not (initially) agree with. Clients should look for a coach who feels like the right balance of safety and challenge – where they can be themselves and grow into a bigger version of themselves.

Henna Inam, again writing for Forbes, offers a handy list of questions to consider when selecting a coach:

  • How do you handle confidentiality?

Confidentiality is key to help clients feel safe and vulnerable during coaching, which facilitates progress. The International Coaching Federation has a code of ethics which offers guidelines for confidentiality. A good coach will follow these.

  • What credentials do you have?

Coaching is a relatively new profession, and as such not everyone who calls themselves a coach has been trained or certified. Ask potential coaches if and where they completed their coach training, and if they are certified by the International Coaching Federation or another certification body. This will help ensure the chosen coach has the appropriate skills.

  • What’s your coaching experience and track record with leaders like me?

While direct experience in the client’s industry or function is not an indicator of improved coaching outcomes, clients should inquire about that if it’s important to them. More critically, clients should inquire about the coaches’ experience coaching leaders at a similar level and with similar desired outcomes.

  • How do you define and measure success in a coaching engagement?

Outcomes in coaching can be defined externally and internally. External success is concrete, observable, and measurable. Internal success can be measured more subjectively by the “joy and ease” you experience at work and in life. Coaching is a holistic modality, so quality coaches will be attentive to both aspects.

  • What kinds of clients have you had the most success with?

Coaches often have strengths with particular kinds of client engagements, such as onboarding, transition, certain organizational levels or skill sets.

  • What is your typical coaching process and cost?

This question and the next one are the most tactical – what can the client expect over the course of the entire engagement, and session by session? What assessments may be used? How will goals be set and progress tracked? Is the coach available in between sessions? What happens when the coaching isn’t working?

  • What happens in a typical coaching session?

This is where the roles and responsibilities of the coach and the client are outlined. The client is often responsible for setting the direction of each session once the overall goals are established. Coaches generally employ a mix of powerful questions, deep listening, reflecting what they hear from you or notice, and occasional challenges to stretch the client into their best capacities.

  • What kinds of issues can I bring to the table?

Coaching can be comprehensive, extending into a client’s personal life. And yet, there are ethical limitations to a coach’s expertise (they cannot treat mental health issues, for example).

  • How do you work with stakeholders?

The system within which the leader leads is an important part of coaching. A good coach will want context on this system, potentially through 360 feedback, alignment meetings with HR and/or the client’s boss, and so on. It’s important for coach and client to be aligned on when and how stakeholders will be involved.

  • How do you address lack of motivation or resistance to coaching?

Change naturally involves resistance, so it’s a good idea to talk to any potential coach about how they handle this. If a coaching engagement stalls due to lack of motivation or resistance, a coach should raise the issue and help the client work through it.

  • What would you like to know about me?

This helps a client get a feel for a coach’s style, and helps the coach assess the client’s readiness and fit for themselves. It’s a two-way street!

  • What else would you like me to know about you?

Coaches may want to share things about themselves that a potential client has not asked about. This gives them a chance to do so.

If you’ve decided to engage in coaching for yourself, your team, or your organization, congratulations! These questions will help confirm the readiness of the participants and make sure the right coach is identified. Schedule a complimentary call with me, Jessica Bronzert, to get the conversation started!