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What to Look for in a Coach

What to Look for in a Coach

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Choosing a coach can be either the best thing you ever do or a lead to a waste of your time and money. At the worst, the wrong coach can cause you and your prospects great harm. Always focus on the prior experience - particularly successful experience - of a candidate. Avoid pedantic coaches who see the world through a fixed set of lenses. Never
Choosing a coach can be either the best thing you ever do or a lead to a waste of your time and money. At the worst, the wrong coach can cause you and your prospects great harm. Always focus on the prior experience - particularly successful experience - of a candidate. Avoid pedantic coaches who see the world through a fixed set of lenses. Never

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Published by: Dr. Earl R. Smith II on Oct 13, 2008
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05/11/2010

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What to Look For In a Coach
By Dr. Earl R. Smith IIDrSmith@Dr-Smith.comwww.Dr-Smith.comSince the Executive Coaching industry is at presentunregulated, it means any individual can callthemselves a coach, whether they are adequatelytrained or not, and any business can now offertraining and certification. You need to be cautiouswhen selecting a potential coach. Here are a fewguidelines on what to look for in an Executive Coach:1.
Tracks in the Snow
: When selecting a coach, Irecommend that you start with the 80/20 rule. Actualexperience - doing what you are trying to learn how to do - is fourtimes more valuable than ‘book learning’ on a subject. One of theimportant things to realize about certifications is that most of the‘education’ involved focus on the ‘process of coaching. You should bevery forceful in interrogating potential coaches on the specifics of theirexperience - particularly when it comes to accomplishments. A friendasked me to evaluate a coach that he was thinking of hiring. When Ianalyzed the coach’s a background I found a series of failed attemptsto start businesses. The experience reminded me of that old saw ‘They,who can’t do, teach’.2.
Experience and Background
: To be effective at executivecoaching, it is critical that the coach has extended and successfulexperience in the skills that you are interesting in mastering. If acandidate does not have that experience, you are just going to getuntested opinion instead of tested judgment. One of the most effectivecoaches that I occasionally work with has sat in the CEO seat half adozen times and served as Chairman of two boards of directors. Inaddition to his deep knowledge and experience in the business of running a business, he has built and managed teams, managedstrategic planning, implemented and monitored plans, turned aroundan organization and much more. Just ask yourself - do I want to learnfrom somebody who has been there and done it - or from somebodywho has read about it and has an untested opinion about it?3.
Other Engagements
: It is a good idea to ask a candidate coachabout his recent and current coaching engagements. A good coachshould be continually keeping their skills and knowledge up to date.Good coaches seek out engagements that push them to learn newthings. Beware of coaches those engagements all look the same. I seethis pattern with coaches who have read some book and fallen in love
 
with the author’s system. As the client, you need a coach who will helpyou diagnose your challenges and develop a coaching program thatwill help you make the progress you are seeking. If you coach seeseverything according to a single perspective, what do you think youwill get?4.
Full Time Coach vs. Part Time Coach
: This one is more complexthat it might seem. The very best coaches engage with companies inother ways. My own pattern of engagements presently includes serviceon two boards of directors, chairing two advisory boards and workingas a senior advisor to a senior management team. Some of myassociates are similarly engaged. We are all committed to full-timeengagement. It is important that you always look for a coach that isprofessionally engaged on a full-time basis. Avoid the ones who areamateurs and working part-time - when they can get the workRegrettably, many individuals today are attempting to marketthemselves as coaches when actually they are really only trainers,speakers, and business consultants, or only do coaching part-timewhile really doing something else for a living. This type of coach can domore harm than good for you.5.
Initial Consultation
: In order for a coaching engagement to beproductive, you need to trust, get along, and communicate with yourpotential coach. It is important that you have a good relationship witheach other. I do offer a free initial consultation. Most professionalcoaches do - or one at a very low rate. Before committing to a coach,schedule an initial consultation with them first to make sure that youare good fit for each other.6.
Fees
: Unfortunately, Executive Coaches do not come cheap. Icertainly do not. Like anything else in life, you get what you pay for. The demand for executive coaching is always greater than the actualsupply of good coaches. Fees for executive coaching vary throughoutthe country as well as the world. However, keep in mind that if youhave a potential coach whose fees are much higher than most othercoaches, chances are that that coach will be paying very closeattention to you to make sure you succeed! Always go for relevantexperience and a history of success - avoid book learning as asubstitute.7.
References
: Any good coach will have a set of references that youcan call. Beware of coaches who try to avoid providing you withreferences. Remember to interview at least two or three references percoach. Talk to them either on the phone or in person. Do not try tocheck references via e-mail. Through this diligence, you are seeking a

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