I received an email the other day from a follower with the question:
“I’m considering hiring an executive coach, and I have no idea where to start. Do you have any advice, and is this something you do?”
As I answered the question, it occurred to me that she wasn’t the first person to ask me this question. First — on how one gets started hiring a coach, and second — what is it I exactly do when I work one on one with people. I thought it might be useful to share the answers with everyone.
Why do you think you need an executive coach?
The most common answer I hear is, “Because x person said I should.” or “For someone at my level this is what you do.” That might be the case, but if you’re getting a coach without having an exact personal reason, you’re wasting time and money. My company hired a coach for me once. I thought I was pretty great at the time but also understood the benefit of self-improvement, so jumped in with my usual enthusiastic energy. It took me a while to figure out why I needed him. It was, by then, too late for me to correct the mistakes I’d made.
Ask yourself the question, “What do I want to change about my current state, and why?” My why? — What is the reason for the inconsistency in how I show up when power dynamics are at play? Something to consider, if your “why” is a promotion, then what you’re asking for is a power label change and not a personal change. There’s a difference. If you’re signing up for a coach, it’s YOU that is going to change, not everyone else.
Today it means this is one of the first questions I ask people is, “Why do you need me?”
How much are you willing to invest?
I’m talking about both time and money here. Let’s talk about money for a second. The rates you’re going to pay for a coach have spectacular ranges. I’m aware of one coach who has a $1M per year rate for one of his programs. Yes, a million dollars. I did a little digging for you, and of course, someone’s done the research. Here are the 2019 averages:
- You can undoubtedly find a newer coach right out of training or looking to increase their hours, which will charge you $200/hour.
- You can also find a large organization or “celebrity” coach who will charge $50,000-$100,000 for a 6-month program.
- Most professional-level executive coaching programs fall somewhere in the range of $20,000-$30,000 for a six-month program.
Several companies are trying to solve the “affordability” issue, so there are lower-cost options, but look at your coach like any expert. How do you evaluate value when you’re hiring an architect, a doctor, or a therapist? What results are you expecting?
Here’s the other thing that’s worth sharing when talking about the money part of investing in you. The cost doesn’t necessarily have to come out of your pocket. Your company will always benefit from you becoming a better you. Ask them to help you pay for it. Or pick up the whole tab. There’s no harm in asking. What’s the worst they can say?
Here’s the thing, the money element is the easy part of the investment. Your time and energy, that’s a whole different situation. If you decide to hire a coach, then hold yourself accountable to the time you’re going to spend working on you. As much as they’d like to, executive coaches can’t do the work for you. Think about how much time the Williams sisters put into the game of tennis. At the height of their tennis success, they likely had an army of coaches. They, however, needed to put in the work. Don’t do the work, and nothing’s going to change, however much money you spend.
Who does your coach need to be for you?
This question is probably the hardest of the three questions to figure out. Take a trip down memory lane, and you’ll remember that you’ve been surrounded by coaches your entire life. If you’ve recently hung out with a teenager, you’ll know that you can’t make them do anything they don’t want to do. Mathematics, soccer, music, chemistry, history… I could keep going… Teachers are also coaches. And every teacher has an individual style of coaching. My guess is you responded well to some and not to others. For example, I do terribly with the “You can do it!” type of coaching. But help me see the future benefit of my focus and watch me go. Finding the right person takes time. Try people on and see if they fit. Note, however, this does not mean you get to “try” coaches like samples at the ice cream parlor. Their time is as precious as yours.
I’ve got about 100 more questions you should consider when hiring a coach, but these three are big meaty ones. You are, in essence, hiring your first employee at You Inc. You should think carefully about who that person needs to be, and as the CEO and Founder of You Inc, YOU are the decision-maker.
And what about my questioner’s other question. Do I consider myself an executive coach?
While technically, I talk to executives all the time (and almost every other level in an organization), I don’t call myself an executive coach. Why? Because I don’t offer the traditional executive coaching programs. I also haven’t trained for it. I do coach, but I’m more like a batting coach, and people hire me for a specific future vision. I’m there to make sure when you need to swing for the fences that the ball goes right out of the park.
Here’s what I believe: We’re all on a career adventure. Sometimes it’s super exciting and fun — it’s exciting and fun when you’re:
- Confidence in what you’re doing and the people around you (peers, leadership etc.) believe in your capabilities and want you to do all the things you can do in the future.
- Curious about the thing you’re about to do/learn — It’s a project that will stretch you and help you grow, and the people around you (peers, leadership etc.) believe in your potential to get to the next level.
If your confidence in what you’re doing and your excitement for the future are in the right place, you don’t need me. You probably love your job, the people around you think you’re brilliant and recognize the Future You’s potential.
If this isn’t the case, you either have a curiosity or a confidence problem, maybe both. The “curiosity problem” means either you or the people around you don’t see your potential. The “confidence problem” means either you or the people around you don’t believe in your capabilities.
This is where I come into help. We work together to align both why you’re awesome and the Future You, so not only can you confidently step up to the plate and knock your ball out the park, but your team and your fans believe you can do it too.
Great coaches help you get to the next level of awesome you. As someone who coaches and has had a coach, heck I have coaches now; it’s worth all the investment.
Ps. On one of our recent LIVE! with Joanna’s I was asked, “Should you keep your camera on?” Here’s my thoughts on working in the new virtual world.