Finding The Right Executive Coach

Finding the right executive coach for you is not always as easy as reviewing education, experience, and certifications. While all of these are important, the most crucial aspect of finding the right executive coach for you is much closer to home. In my last post, we looked at what executive coaching is and how it can help you. Now let’ look at how to find the right coach.

The most important aspect of finding the right executive coach.

Education and certifications can help find the right executive coach but don’t emphasize these qualifications alone. John Glenn, the first astronaut to orbit the earth, was a high school dropout. Winston Churchill had a tough time getting into college and never did well. The late Steve Jobs went to college for a total of six months.1 Education and/or certifications are just one consideration. Let’s look at some of the characteristics you will want to look for to ensure you have a positive experience with executive coaching.

Approach and personality

Before you look at anything else, you have to find someone who you can work with. Their personality and approach must match your style. Do you work better with direct and critical or someone who takes a supportive approach? If you want a successful coaching experience, it will be critical that you answer these questions when finding the right executive coach for you.

I think back to my experience of becoming a private pilot. My instructor was very direct and critical. I recall having difficulty landing, and he would wait until the last minute, pull the plane up, and tell me I almost killed us. That works for some people but not me. I barely completed my training, and even after passing my FAA check ride, I lacked confidence.

Contrast that to my experience years later when I was going through a required biennial proficiency check. The instructor I worked with was calm and allowed me to make some mistakes. He also put quite a bit of trust in me. I decided to hire him to help me increase my skill level.

During one training session, we ran into some foul weather, and visibility dropped to zero. I was never very accomplished at flying in similar simulated conditions, but we spent hours in the clouds with me at the controls on this day. When the weather deteriorated, we were landing, air traffic control through a last-minute adjustment. Without hesitation, he turned control of the plane over to me while he calculated the new route.

The result was us landing safely and gaining the confidence to master other maneuvers I was afraid to practice. All of this was the result of the instructor’s personality. It was a fit for me. The same thing is true when finding the right executive coach. Their personality and approach have to be a fit for you.


You must be comfortable talking about difficult subjects with your executive coach. She has to be someone you can be honest with and feel confident the information will remain confidential.

Without trust, it will be almost impossible to make progress, and you will waste your money.

Background and experience

A good executive coach does not have to be familiar with your industry. They do, however, need to understand your work environment. They must grasp the context of the conditions you work under.

And do not think that they can help you do the same because they were successful in their career. A coach is not a mentor, teacher, or consultant. Remember, there is a difference, and you want a good executive coach. Should you need a better understanding of the differences, review this article.

Education and training

As I said, you should not discount experience and training. But do not make that the deciding factor. There are several different approaches to executive coaching, but they all have several things in common. They should always approach the relationship with the belief that you, the client, drive the process. They facilitate.

Beyond that, depending on their training and philosophy, they will take different coaching approaches. One approach is not necessarily better than another, but it may make a difference to you. Have them explain their approach and how they will help you to accomplish your objectives. The best coaches will alter their approach depending on the circumstances and the needs of the client.

Process and finding the right executive coach

Search tools

Up to now, we have discussed what to look for in a coach, but how do you go about finding candidates? There are several ways to research and find good candidates. Here are a few.

  • Networking – Talking to friends, colleagues, and business partners is a great way to start your search. Personal recommendations and why can give you a good insight into a lot of what you need to know.
  • Internet Search Tools – There are many reputable search tools you can use. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) has a search tool you can use. I am biased toward John Maxwell certified coaches, so I recommend the John Maxwell Group search tool.
  • Google – Yes, the old fashioned google search will also work. Most executive coaches will have a decent website that gives you information about their background, experience, and coaching approach. You can easily narrow the search based on geography if that is important to you.

Don’t limit yourself to one method of searching. They all have advantages and disadvantages, but your initial goal is just to put a shortlist together.

Final screening

As you near the end of your search for the right executive coach, you will need to choose one. You’ll get a feel for personality and how it meshes with your style by talking with them. But having a few questions to get the discussion going will be helpful.

Here are a few suggestions, but feel free to come up with your own as well. You have to be comfortable that they are a good fit so ask questions to determine that. They should be willing to meet with you (virtually or in-person) at no charge so you can both determine if it is a good fit.

  • How long have you been coaching?
  • Why did you become an executive coach?
  • Tell me about your background and business experience.
  • What coaching methodology do you use? (It is important they can explain their approach to you so that you understand it).
  • What is your training?
  • Can you provide me with a copy of your coaching agreement for review? (every good coach should have a formal agreement outlining what you can expect from them and their expectation of you)
  • Can you provide me with some references?

As you ask questions, you will either feel comfortable relating to them or not. If they cannot clearly articulate their approach, methodology, and experience, I would approach with caution. In the end, you will choose the executive coach whose personality and style fit with yours. And, without question, they should have appropriate training and experience that makes you comfortable.


Finding the right executive coach is not an exact science. Even if a coach has all the right education and qualifications on paper, they are meaningless if you are not comfortable with them. How you relate to the coach is the determining factor for a successful relationship.

Please don’t rule out a prospective coach based on their education and training alone. Dig deeper until you find the match that will work for you.

If you have questions or would like more information, you can send them to me here.

Good luck with your search.



Stephen Johnson
Author: Stephen Johnson

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