How to hire an executive coach

executive coaching and mentoring

It is often sensible for the organisation to identify a number of suitable coaches (a ‘pool’) who fit the desired requirements of the organisation.

This allows the organisation to recruit a series of practitioners who fulfil the organisation’s basic requirements, but who may also have different specialisms or approaches to coaching. It also allows the possibility of offering individuals a choice about who they work with, in the knowledge that all the coaches have been assessed to ensure they fulfil the organisation’s criteria.

How do you select a good external coach?

Here are some of the areas that the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development recommends that clients should consider when selecting coaches:

  • Appropriate level of coaching experience: The coach should be questioned about how many hours of coaching they have delivered, how many coaching assignments they have delivered, what kinds of issues they have coached individuals for, and at what level of seniority they usually work.
  • Relevant business/industry experience: Most people would agree that coaches do need strong understanding of organisational dynamics and the business world to be effective. While the coach should have a sound knowledge of business, their real contribution is their ability to help individuals learn and develop. Relevant experience can be useful in establishing the ‘face validity’ of the coach.
    One of the main benefits of using external coaches is their neutrality and objectivity. They can uncover limiting beliefs, values and assumptions that may be obstructing the strategic objectives of the individual and the organisation.

  • References: A good coach should always be able to supply references.
  • Background of the coach: Coaches come from a variety of different professional backgrounds. Examples include human resources, occupational psychology, training and development, sports psychology and management development. Naturally, these different backgrounds will mean that the coaches will bring some very different experiences and skills to the coaching relationship. The key is to find a good fit with your organisation and the needs and purpose of the coaching intervention.

  • Supervision: Benefits that supervision can deliver:

    • It offers protection to clients
    • It offers coaches the opportunity to reflect on their work
    • It offers coaches the opportunity to identify their own personal strengths and weaknesses
    • It offers coaches the opportunity to learn from peers
    • It offers coaches the opportunity to keep up to date with professionals developments.
    Clients can question coaches about their supervision arrangements so that they feel comfortable with how they review their coaching relationships and keep their skills up to date.
  • Breadth of tools, techniques, models: Coaches should be able to clearly describe their favoured approaches, but you should watch out for coaches who push particular models and are unable or unwilling to flex their approach to suit a particular individual/organisation. Good coaches will use models, techniques and frameworks from a wide range of theoretical backgrounds, including organisational theory, occupational psychology, psychometrics, learning and counselling.
    The simplest tools/techniques are often the most effective. Coaches should use tools that are ‘fit for purpose’ to encourage reflective learning and change, and they should be able to describe these clearly and concisely during selection.

  • Understanding of boundaries and approach to referral: Coaches should not knowingly accept an individual into a coaching programme if they need specialist support beyond the competence of the coach or the resources available.

  • Relevant qualifications and training: Coaches should be able to demonstrate that they are competent in the provision of coaching services. One way of providing this is to demonstrate that they possess a relevant qualification. Coaching qualifications should cover relevant psychological theories in enough depth to provide individuals with a necessary grounding for them to operate as a coach.

  • Membership of professional bodies: All the main professional bodies demand that members adhere to codes of conduct and ethics with associated complaints procedures.
  • Professional indemnity insurance: Before a coach is formally hired, the HR practitioner should ask to see their certificate of insurance.

  • Other qualities/personal characteristics: The best coaches are those who give honest, realistic, challenging, feedback, are good listeners and suggest good ideas for action.

Organisations hiring coaches need to check coaches’ references and credentials thoroughly as well as assessing both their coaching skills and industry knowledge. One idea is to use a questionnaire or checklist to get coaches to clarify their style and approach to coaching and provide information about their skills, experience and qualifications (including which assessment instruments they are qualified to use).

An interview should be used to establish how well the candidate matches your desired coach profile, and to explore any particular areas on which you would like more information.

Matching the coach to the individual

Research has demonstrated that the single most important factor for successful outcomes in one-to-one relationships such as coaching is the quality of the relationship between coach and client.

Different individuals will prefer different styles of coaching relationship based on a supportive approach, whereas a few benefit from a rather more confrontational dialogue. The vast majority of external coaches will work using a style of coaching that is closer to the ‘pull’ end of the continuum. Considering an individual’s personality and preferred learning style may give an indication of which of these styles may work best.

Establishing a contract

Establishing a contract for the coaching services is very important as it sets out clearly what services have been agreed for the fees, and what outcomes and deliverables you are entitled to expect.

The coaching contract represents both its scope and its boundaries and should therefore include:

  • The parties to the contract
  • Termination
  • Outcomes/deliverables
  • Etiquette/expected behaviours
  • Timing, frequency, duration and location of coaching sessions
  • Confidentiality, feedback and information flow
  • Use of external resources
  • A schedule of payments
  • Additional fees
  • How the work will be controlled and monitored – criteria for evaluating the results
  • If coaching organisations are being used, the coaches providing the services will be identified in the contract and any subsequent changes will take place only in consultation with the client
  • Agreement on the nature of the coach-client relationship (eg roles, responsibilities, boundaries, time frames)
  • Dealing with further requests for business by individuals
  • Any variations to the contract being discussed in full and agreed in writing

Coaching the top team

With our MBA level experience and training in the psychology of change, Brefi Group coaches possess the unique combination of maturity, professional skills and human qualities required to work with top decision-makers and the leaders of the future, whether they be in commercial or public organisations or running a small company. Such key individuals have the maximum leverage for change – they provide the leadership and role models for the rest of the organisation. They are under the greatest pressure, and are more likely to suffer from stress and an out of balance work/home life.

We can also train managers as coaches and set up in-house coaching and mentoring schemes.

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What to do next

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Thank you for your interest in Brefi Group's training programmes. To contact a representative about how Brefi Group can help with coaching or coach training, use our contact page.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to talk to one of our consultants, then call +44 (0) 121 288 3417.


Brefi Group designs, develops and licenses coach training programmes for managers who wish to improve their leadership style and for individuals who wish to qualify as professional coaches.

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