What to Look for When Hiring a Professional Coach in 2020


Anyone looking to accelerate their professional development should consider engaging a professional coach who has a track record of successful talent development.

Three out of four employers provided some form of coaching to their employees in 2019.  Over the past decade, coaching has become one of the top tools used to accelerate the development of talent in organizations because it has proven so effective. 

This purpose of this post is to provide you with some practical tips to help you decide if coaching can help you, and to select the best person to coach you.

First Determine What You Want From a Coaching Program

This is an essential first step to take before you can begin the selection process for choosing a coach.  For example, do you want someone to coach you in sales and sales management?  Or engineering?  Or to become a more effective leader?  Perhaps you a looking for a personal coach to advise you in your career.  Take the time to first identify the area(s) in which you desire coaching, then begin identifying potential coaches with whom you can work.

Next, Select the Right Coach

There are tens of thousands of business coaches worldwide; most major metro areas have dozens to choose from. While degrees, certifications, and affiliations are helpful indicators of effective coaches, consider the following criteria as essential when choosing the person with whom you will work:

1. A successful track record in the areas in which you desire coaching. This is the most important criteria. Suppose you needed surgery – would you choose the surgeon with the shiny new degree who has studied all about your surgery and practiced it on cadavers, or the surgeon who has successfully performed the operation for years? You choose experience every time! The tough thing about experience is that it takes time to get, which is why you may want to avoid someone who lacks enough experience to be of value to those being coached.

2. The type and method of diagnostics and tools to be used. Just as a doctor uses diagnostics, such as x-rays, physical examinations and blood work, before embarking on a course of treatment; business coaches should be able to explain the diagnostics they propose to use. What is the coach’s diagnostic plan? Look for industry-proven assessments and instruments that have a solid track record. Ditto that for any curriculum or books being used. Find out how much experience the coach has with the diagnostics and tools he or she uses.

3. The degree of tailoring to each client organization and each individual. This is an area that separates average coaches from exceptional ones. Suppose the person being coached is technically excellent but has challenges due to poor interpersonal skills? Will the person being coached gain a general knowledge of how to work more effectively with others, or will knowledge be gained of how to work with specific people in his or her workplace? Will the coach be flexible enough to temporarily detour off plan when the need for the moment is greater than the plan?

4. Ask current and prior coaching clients. Prospective coaches will not give you a bad reference, so you’ll need to do a little homework. Ask for multiple references. Speak to clients and learn the plusses and minuses of working with the coach. What short-term and long-term improvements have they helped individual clients make? Were they engaged once, or for multiple times, and will the reference re-engage the next time coaching is needed?

5. Learn how each coach is keeping current/ahead of their areas of expertise. One of the benefits of coaching is that individual clients and their organizations gain outside perspective and expertise not available within their organizations. It is imperative that the coaches you engage are also green and growing, not resting solely on yesteryear’s best practices. Learn how each coach keeps current

6. How is the personal chemistry? In order to be effective, there needs to be an iron-clad level of trust between the coach and each individual being coached. Trust starts with positive chemistry, so you may want to ask for a complementary session to judge for yourself. This factor will have a significant bearing on your ability to work with a coach, so don’t overlook it.

7. Ask the coach about his or her views on confidentiality. This follows the trust factor closely. The benefit of having a coach is that you to discuss things that you would not typically discuss with your boss or others within your organization. Look for a coach that has an ironclad guarantee of confidentiality. Ask each prospective coach to explain how he or she will deal with sensitive issues should the employer or boss him or her ask about you.

8. What is the coach’s proposed plan and costs? Once the coach understands what you are seeking to accomplish, ask for a written plan that spells out his or her services and costs. What does the first month or two look like (where most diagnostics will be used), and how does it compare to post-diagnostic months? How long is the commitment, and how easily can you get out of the commitment if you find that the program is not working (you should know this by the third or fourth session)? What specific outcomes will be delivered? How and when will progress be reported? What kind of a ROI can you expect from the coach/coaching firm and proposal? Will the coach guarantee his or her services (in other words, if you are not satisfied, does he or she say, “don’t pay my bill?”.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What can I expect to pay? While fees vary, a high-cost coach may be overpriced for the value he or she delivers, and a low-priced coach may be wholly ineffective. In the US, typical per-hour coaching fees range from a low of $125 per hour to a high of $3,500 per hour (source: Harvard Business Review and BMG research). The important question is this: what is the expected ROI? If a $3,500 per hour coach can generate a multiple of that amount in profits, margin, expense saving, or other key organizational metric, then it was a great investment.

2. How important is it for the person(s) being coached to desire coaching? In a word, critical. If someone doesn’t want to be coached, then your investment will be wasted. Individuals must be motivated enough to commit to the program, attending scheduled meetings and completing diagnostics, assigned reading, practice, and other assignments on time.

3. What levels in an organization are typically coached? The answer depends on the needs of each client. For example, some BMG clients engage us to coach primarily at the C and V-levels; others at the director and manager levels; and still others for high potential individual contributors being groomed for larger assignments.

4. Should I work with the same coach my boss works with? This is a difficult question. Coaches should provide an absolute guarantee of confidentiality. That said, human nature is such that a coach’s objectivity can be compromised when working with individuals in the same reporting structure. Think through whether or not this would be a comfortable relationship for you.

5. Is an outside coach more effective than an inside coach? Outside coaches who work with multiple clients are generally preferred to internal coaches who work with employees in their own organizations. The top three reasons cited for this preference are:

a. The greater breadth of perspective offered by coaches with multiple clients, followed by the confidentiality;

b. A greater perception of confidentiality gained by not sharing sensitive areas with a fellow employee; and

c. The independent perspective that someone outside the organization brings.

Bottom Line

Effective coaching has become an essential tool for developing today’s talent to tackle tomorrow’s opportunities and challenges. An effective coach should deliver an ROI of three or more times the cost of the program, making this a sensible investment for businesses and institutions of any size.

I love working with people and organizations who want to improve their effectiveness! Here are several outstanding resources that can help you and your organization to go to the next level:

I work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. I also help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search. To find out more, please visit us at www.boyermanagement.com, email us at info@boyermanagement.com, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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