What should you look for from a coach? Beyond having a good feeling about the coach (although that's important), or hearing from a trusted friend that someone is a good coach (also potentially important), today I'm talking about the process that a coach offers - specifically, what key things should be part of any effective coaching process according to the research.
If you're in the market for an executive, leadership, or lifestyle coach, don't be afraid to have a conversation with your prospective coach about their process. While there are a number of evidence-based approaches a coach may use, an effective coach will at a minimum include some form of the following five: Contracting, Exploration, Diagnosis, Action Plan, and Follow up. They might be called by different names - so let me talk you through the five so you can tick them off your list while interviewing your potential coach!
Contracting – At this phase, your coach will help set the boundaries that define a performance coaching relationship. This should including sharing their theoretical approach, as well as being clear about confidentiality arrangements and declaring any conflict of interest.
Exploration – Coaching aims to create advanced self-awareness, which serves as the foundation for personal growth. Exploration involves not only clear goal setting and exploration of a particular topic, but also exploration of the you as the 'coachee' including a relevant internal processes and relationships with others. This does not mean they should engage in counselling - they should definitely not, in my opinion - but it does mean that an effective coach will have some handle on how your relationships with yourself and with others impacts on your goals.
Diagnosis – Feedback is an important constituent of the coaching process, as it facilitates the basis for your learning process, personal development, and talent enhancement. Feedback on objective facts serves as the foundation for this growth. For that reason, your coach should draw from a variety of assessment tools, including questionnaires, interviewing techniques, and so on, to get a clear picture. One tool that has been particularly effective in my own coaching practice with leaders has been the Measured Leadership Qualities (MLQplus) suite of assessments.
Action Plan (also called 'intervention plan' by old-school folks!) – Based on the information obtained from earlier stages, at this stage you and your coach collaborate in creating an action plan tailored for you that is compelling, realistic and which takes advantage of optimum pathways to success. I.e. an evidence-based, individualised way forward - not guesswork, nor a one-size-fits-all solution which they use with all their clients!
Follow up – follow up assessment of the coaching process is essential to realise the level of change that has occurred and to identify more opportunities for growth. How will you know that you got to your desired goals? There need to be ways to measure success, otherwise, what was the point of engaging in coaching?
Whilst not an exhaustive list, these five key things should be part of any professional, effective coaching process, and are what you ought to expect as a minimum standard from a coach that is worth their salt.
Thank you for indulging me by reading this far; I wish you luck if you're in the market for a coach. You are, of course, welcome to make contact with myself through my website or LinkedIn - although I'd like to point out that I'm focussing my coaching work mostly on leadership development, and in the next couple of months I'm not looking to take on new clients. (Nevertheless, I should be able to point you towards a number of coaches who'd be likely candidates for you, and/or you're welcome to discuss the option of booking with me in the future).
If you're interested in my sources, have a look below. The first resource has a chapter (Ch. 10) devoted to executive/leadership coaching which I recommend to anyone seeking to have an overview of the coaching literature (be aware it is a tad on the heavy side if you're not used to reading scholarly work!) The second is a meta-analysis (that is, a systematic review of a wide range of scholarly articles) regarding the effectiveness of coaching. However, a third source that I can't go past (not listed below), is the invaluable experience I've been fortunate to have had on placement as a corporate coach within the Work and Organisational Resiliency Centre (WORC) at Griffith University. Thanks WORC - for all the training, supervision, and brilliant opportunities!
Brough, P., O'Driscoll, M., Kalliath, T., Cooper, C. L., & Poelmans, S. A. (2009). Workplace psychological health: Current research and practice: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Theeboom, T., Beersma, B., & van Vianen, A. E. M. (2013). Does coaching work? A meta-analysis on the effects of coaching on individual level outcomes in an organizational context. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 9(1), 1-18. doi:10.1080/17439760.2013.837499