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So, you wrote the post pandemic ‘survival’ /  ‘fight back’ plan, you are well and truly ‘in the middle of it’ and every day, people are looking to you for answers and delivery. It is relentless.  Well, it is for most people and if it isn’t for you right now, take a moment of gratitude.

Who is supporting you?

‘Executive Coaching’ used to have a stigma attached, implying a weakness needing to be “worked on.”  Now, it is viewed very differently, hence the proliferation of ‘coaches’ offering to assist business, career or personal journeys.  But what is effective executive coaching, where do you find it amidst this plethora of options and how do you get the most out of it?

Using Space2BE’s 18 years’ experience of executive coaching, and some insight into the latest thinking on this topic, we hope to provide some answers.

Definition of Coaching

The International Coaching Federation (ICF), defines coaching as, “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential.”

At face-value, that may imply simply seeking an individual with empathy and ideas, but therein lies one pitfall for those choosing an executive coach because, as the ICF also highlights, “the road to masterful coaching requires deep knowledge of and intensive practice in the core competencies that separate real coaches from others who simply adopt the title.”

In what is only a partially regulated sector, it is possible to hire a coach with just a few coaching modules under their belt or one who, even if established for some time, has not kept their skills up to date.  This needs to inform your thinking when choosing the right coach, especially if you are a first-time, potentially vulnerable coachee. Your executive coach should, like our team at Space2BE, have years of successful executive coaching experience, have high quality executive coaching qualifications and accreditations, be in regular ‘reflective practice’ / supervision, have had experience of working in organisations in a leadership capacity and ideally have in-depth knowledge of ‘change’ at an individual, team and organisational level.

How to Choose the Right Coach: Five Steps Recommended by Space2BE

  1. Set down your goals, determining the outcomes you want from coaching. Do you wish to be a better leader?  Or, maybe, to build teams more effectively?  Are you stressed and would benefit from someone helping you to change this? Do you want to conquer particular fears or imposter syndrome, or to maximise your potential?  Are you looking for someone to challenge you to be even better than you currently are?  Would you value having a sounding board to assist your decision-making?  Deciding ‘approximately’ what you want from coaching is the first step however, as any seasoned executive coach would tell you, the ‘initial goals’ often change and grow as conversations take you into spaces you have never ventured before.
  2. Having set your goals, remember not to go speed-dating but to really focus on what is going to make a successful relationship. It’s not all about chemistry.  It will also involve trust and your ultimate belief in the advice given.  For that, your chosen coach needs credibility.  At what level their own experience has been earned will really depend on your own context.  Have they coached people like you before and with what success?  Are you a CEO of a global business, or are you an up-and-coming entrepreneur?  Are you a manager seeking to become a better leader or are you one struggling with career progression.  Your coaching requirement will differ.
  3. Do your due diligence. Check out the credentials of your shortlisted potential coaches.  Where have they earned their stripes?  Have they worked at your level of executive management?  Have they got bona fide accreditations and memberships of professional bodies?  How long have they been coaching?  What is the Internet and social media saying about them?  How does their LinkedIn thought-leadership look? Remember, they don’t have to have directly worked in your specific sector or job to be an effective coach, unless it’s mentoring you seek.  Bringing fresh insight is often key to successful coaching and insight is often earned across many different sectors.
  4. Make sure you focus on finding evidence of a coach’s Continual Professional Development (CPD). Look at the dates of their certification.  How much is current?  The EMCC says CPD is one of the key determinants of good practice and “serves as the main vehicle of the dynamic evolution of every coach, mentor and supervisor.” [i] If a coach has no CPD record to show, what does it say about their relevance to today’s business world or their professionalism?
  5. Having narrowed down options, arrange a 30-minute chemistry check, to talk to them face-to-face, even if by Zoom. Adopt the ‘inversion technique’, as we call it, by not asking who they like to coach but who they do not like to coach.  Ask to hear some specific success stories. Then ask a killer question; find out who supervises their coaching and how often.  If they are a good coach with a busy practice guidance suggests this should be at least five times a year.  Most of us here engage in some form of supervision circa 5 to 10 times a year. Also assess how many sessions they feel you will need.  What will all of this cost you?  What is their approach?  Have they themselves been coached?
  6. Tap into your gut instinct. Does the rapport feel right?  Would you be comfortable with this person or too comfortable, so coaching feels more like a pal’s chat?  Will they stretch you?  If you have been down the coaching route before and found it unsuccessful, why was that?  Does this feel different?   Don’t be afraid to ask for ‘how’ you want to be coached… this is something we contract for regularly and our clients ask for challenge, feedback, support and so on.

How Important is the Chemistry?

Various studies into the impacts of chemistry between coach and coachee have been conducted in the past 20 years, such as those by Scoular & Linley (2006) and Boyce et al (2010).

Erik de Haan, Director of the Ashridge Centre for Coaching and the Hult International Business School, and a leading global name in Executive Coaching, built on these in 2013.  He saw the client-coach relationship as the key factor in how clients perceive the outcome of coaching.  In 2014, in an article in The Psychologist, he and Nadine Pope, a Research Fellow at Ashridge Business School, stated that it, “It pays off in coaching to make the relationship as strong as we can, by reaching agreement on the way in which we work and the objectives we are seeking to achieve and making the chemistry, the click or bond between coach and client, as strong as possible.”

De Haan has recently published an update to this thinking in a new book, ‘What Works in Executive Coaching?’, having carried out an analysis of 34 controlled trials into coaching efficacy.[ii] Whilst he notes that, “Whether described as ‘rapport’, ‘trust’ or ‘working alliance’ the relationship usually emerged as the strongest predictor of coaching outcomes”. He has also stated, more controversially, that there is uncertainty as to the degree of link between the alliance and the outcome.  This requires further exploration.

The Right Coach for You? 

Erik de Haan says, with 95% confidence, that coaching will produce palpable effects, whether the coachee wants efficiency savings, effectiveness / quality improvements, or careers transitions.  He believes coaching offsets the risks of what he calls “leadership derailment” and can combat neuroticism, anxiety and fears, imposter tendencies and emotional volatility.

Here at Space2BE, we can vouch for this, having assisted thousands of individuals through our professional coaching programmes, delivered by CPD-focused executive coaches, fully and impressively accredited and supervised regularly, in line with best practice.

If you wish to benefit from first-class coaching, we know we can find the right coach for you.  Please just contact us on 0208 720 6991 or visit