How should you choose an executive coach? If you are in an organization or if you are working on changing careers, how do you know who can help you with that process? How can you choose someone who will know enough about you, about your business, and about your goals that that person can become like a sports coach for you – giving you exercises, training, homework, and most importantly, direction? In the case of executive coaching, often the direction comes from the client but with the in-depth question-asking and assessment-taking of the coach.
How do you find the best executive coach for you or your organization?
1) Know what you want to work on. (The Topic, The Goal)
You can’t start training unless you know whether you’re training for a marathon, a dance recital, or a mountain bike ride. What are the general parameters of the question you’re asking? What is the general topic? What even is a goal – whether at this point specific or not?
Do you want to be promoted? Become a stronger manager? Create a full work-life balance? Become a better salesperson? Become more valuable to your organization? Grow your own business?
In positive psychology coaching, the goal is the question and the answer. It can always be further refined – and should be! because people are changing. In positive psychology coaching, the client knows – whether logically or not yet logically – but the client himself and herself knows what the goal is. It’s the role of the positive psychology coach to draw out the larger goal and then work on creating subgoals and plans and a training routine (and potentially even some veering directions off the main one), but the formulation of the goal comes from the client. The client knows.
2) Know how you want to work. (The Style)
Are you a rusher or a through planner? Are you in a hurry or do you want to cover all the details? Are you a multi-tasker or a single-tasker? Are you looking forward to this goal or is it a chore?
In positive psychology coaching, there are many assessments that the coach usually presents to the client – many upfront and many during the coaching process. Again, as with the goals, in positive psychology coaching, we believe that the client knows. These self-assessments are just that – self-assessments. They are ways for the coach to isolate certain parts of a client’s personality so that both the coach and the client can examine the subparts together. For example, an assessment may be about strengths or learning style or optimism or various routes to happiness. When the coach and client look at the summaries of the self-assessments, this allows the coaching experience to be more targeted.
3) Know how the coach works. (The Fit)
Do you like to be challenged? Do you like to be listened to? Do you prefer many exercises or few? Do you prefer more general talk or more specific exercises?
In positive psychology coaching, exercises are important for two reasons. Trying something in a new way through exercises allow the mind to play (which is question #5) and exercises isolate various experiences.
Know how the coach likes to work. What kind of exercises does the coach prefer? How frequently? Is this how you like to improve? Is this how you like to train? Does the coach’s demeanor fit with yours? Does it complement yours? These are all questions of fit.
4) Know how much you want the goal. (The Motivation)
Sometimes motivation and self-regulation are large issues and sometimes they almost disappear as issues. Coaches can provide motivation and increase a client’s self-regulation. Is this part of your goal (your answer to #1)? In most cases it is. The key is to realize that for some reason, the client may not have made certain changes before, and that the client may be looking to the coach to change the experience so that in this case the changes stick.
In positive psychology coaching, both self-regulation (mindful self-control) and self-efficacy (the belief that one can do something) are key parts of a coaching experience. Like an athletic coach giving exercises and training regimens, an executive positive psychology coach creates the environment for success in the coaching. Some of the tools of positive psychology make self-regulation fun, and the tools that do this for hte client are the best ones to use for that particular client.
5) Know what is fun for you in coaching. (The Play)
How do kids learn best? By playing. One of the only ways to learn so that it doesn’t feel like learning is by playing. If it feels like learning, often the brain closes down, and says, “not now, no thank you.” Play jumps right through that barrier. The brain never knows that it’s working. Some of the best ways to learn are by making mistakes and trying new ways. The best place to make mistakes is in practice (although often in real events the mistakes stay stronger), and that practice can come in the form of play.
In positive psychology coaching, there are many tools and techniques that you can play with on an active level, experientially. But you don’t ever need to be “working” or “intellectually learning” to get something. A lot of the tools from positive psychology allow a person to get himself fast and thoroughly. Many of the assessments and exercises in positive psychology do not appear to be work or effort, but appear to be unusual and sometimes inexplicable until they are completed. That’s what makes many of these tools games as opposed to work.
In summary, you will end up choosing an executive coach based on the coach’s jizz, that overall impression of Goal, Style, Fit, Motivation, and Play. Enjoy!