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• Able to establish an intimate and trusting relationship with the client; bonds well with the client; creates a sense of optimism and safety
• Establishes a useful coaching contract
Structuring the Relationship
• Designs and creates appropriate action plans and action behaviors
How Do You Select a Coach? 33
• Develops plans; establishes and revises goals with the client
• Manages the client’s progress and holds him/her responsible for action
• Is fully present, conscious, and spontaneous— demonstrates authenticity
• Actively listens—really hears what the client is dealing with
• Asks powerful questions
• Has good insights into the informal and political issues within organizations generally and the client’s organization in particular
• Has good insights into human issues—understands interpersonal relationships
• Communicates clearly and directly
• Creates and raises the client’s awareness; serves as an astute observer of the client’s behavior and is good at providing constructive feedback
• Practices in an ethical manner; treats people and information with dignity and discretion
• Appreciates the issues that are important to the wide diversity of clients in the organization
Working with the Client in Selecting the Coach
A reasonable way to involve the client in coach selection would be to have an early discussion with the client in which you come to
34 Executive Coaching
agreement on the following topics:
• What criteria to use for coach selection. Using some of the criteria outlined above, you and the client can determine which factors are important and how a particular coach meets the desired criteria.
• How to proceed in meeting and screening coaches.
After you have found one or more potential coaches, it is likely that you as the HR professional will conduct the initial interview. You will need to determine at what point the client enters into the process and weighs in with an opinion.
• How the final decision will be made. This may work differently depending on the level of the client in the organization and the culture of the organization. After consideration and discussion of all relevant criteria, both you and the client must have confidence in the coach you have selected and expect that the investment of time and resources will have a successful outcome.
Things to Avoid in a Coach
Coaches aren’t perfect, of course. There are some danger signs, however, that are good predictors of potential problems. They tend to fall into two categories—how the coach works and who the coach is.
Some coaches have settled on “the one right way” to do coaching, and neither wish to nor can use alternatives. This kind of inflexibility opens up possibilities for disputes about how, when, or what needs to be done. Rigidity of style is a matter of degree, of course. Sometimes the coach really needs to take a firm position on a topic. But if it happens too often, the problem may be more with the coach than the client.
How Do You Select a Coach? 35
Another working issue is an overloaded schedule. Coaches cannot schedule their new clients—business comes in whenever it happens to come in. Coaches cannot schedule when their clients have crises or go on long vacations or business trips. Each client thinks—and perhaps deserves to think—that he or she is the only client the coach has, but that’s obviously not the case. How many clients should a coach have at any one time? There’s no magic number, but there shouldn’t be so many that the coach can’t find time for each client when needed.
In terms of who the coach is, two related points are worth mentioning. The first has to do with big egos. The goal of coaching is to make a success out of the client, not the coach. Everyone wants to look good, but a coach can’t do that at the expense of a client. On the contrary, the coach must be the client’s cheerleader. Why would a coach want to display a big ego? Because coaches sometimes do self-serving things, or perhaps that’s just the way the coach is wired. Whatever the reason, it’s not good.
A related issue has to do with authenticity. Being a coach isn’t just a role, and the coach shouldn’t be wearing a mask that says, “I’m a coach.” Coaching requires truly human connections, not role playing. The coach needs to connect to the client, to hear and feel what the client is thinking and feeling, and to respond with genuineness.
In some large organizations, there are professionals who do coaching of other employees. These internal coaches do essentially the same job as their external counterparts. It may be a full-time job, or they may have other duties as well, such as leadership training, succession planning, or organization development.