This article provides examples of topics commonly addressed in leadership coaching and also makes suggestions for how to go about selecting a coach.

People in leadership positions often seek out a leadership coach due to an initial challenging issue or issues that have arisen in their work life. In my experience, common issues can include:

– Conflict with a direct report, a peer, boss or board member(s)
– Wanting to improve a particular skills such as team leadership and management
– Concerns about how to address an increasingly negative work environment
– Improving impact and effectiveness as a leader after a negative experience
– Assistance sorting through the implications of a reorganization or change in role
– Reducing inter-generational or cultural conflict in working styles, pacing and norms
– Understanding organizational resistance to change and taking steps to counter it
– Developing strategies for improving and maintaining a positive organizational climate
– Assistance in better managing the activities and tone of dysfunctional boards of directors
– Help in developing engagement agreements for a team with conflicting work styles
– Developing a strategy for breaking down the silos in a leader’s organization
– Improving the level and quality of collaboration with other organizational partners

While workplace challenges are the most common impetus for people in leadership positions to seek out a leadership coach, increasingly there are other more positive reasons as well. Most of these reasons focus on further enhancing a leader’s impact and effectiveness. Here are some examples:

– Leaders who have resolved a past issue or problem through coaching often come to see coaching as an ongoing approach for further improving their leadership abilities
– An organization adopts leadership coaching to facilitate onboarding for all new executive hires
– A new CEO has asked all members of the senior management team to consider leadership coaching to improve their individual and group effectiveness
– A newly promoted executive director wants assistance from a coach in taking on the new role
– A top manager wants to explore how best to approach and roll out a complex project
– An executive director seeks assistance in developing a more collaborative, cross-functional work climate
– A top-level manager wants to take advantage of HR’s new menu of professional development activities that now includes leadership coaching
– A successful leader wants to further improve his or her leadership style with direct reports
– A newly promoted member of a senior leadership team has negotiated for ongoing coaching support as part of her compensation package

Choosing a leadership coach who’s a good fit for you will require some research on your part. Search online for both local and national listings of coaches in your geographic area and also ask your friends and colleagues for referrals. Narrow your search to two to five coaches and review their websites and LinkedIn profiles to get a sense of their coaching styles and specialties. Almost all coaches provide a complementary initial consultation of 20 to 60 minutes. Why? Because coaches want their clients to be a good fit for them as well. If the fit clearly isn’t a good one, most coaches will refer you to other coaches who might be more appropriate.

Make sure to prepare in advance for your conversation with a prospective coach:

-Be able to clearly describe the specific issue, situation, opportunity or goal you want to address in coaching, what you want to accomplish and in what time span.

-Indicate early on if you are looking for coaching on the phone, in-person coaching or a mix of both; many coaches prefer to travel to meet a client for an in-person session early on and then continue the coaching by phone with periodic in-person sessions.

-Be clear about whether you or your company will be paying for the coaching (company coaching rates are usually higher than those for individuals; rates also differ between public, private and non-profit sectors and can vary considerably by geographic location).

-Understand that leadership coaches are professionals who will have rates similar to those of other professionals that you hire such as lawyers or tax accountants.

-Be prepared to ask the coach about his or her past coaching experience and their credentials; most coaches will gladly send you their resume; also check them out on LinkedIn and other business social media.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of prospective coaches, make an appointment to speak on the phone with the coach that seems most appropriate. Let the coach know what your search process is (i.e., that you’ve got a short list of coaches and are interviewing them so see who might be the best fit, etc.). Make sure ask about how they typically work with clients, their policy regarding a complementary session and their rates. Most coaches prefer to meet directly with clients early in the coaching relationship and some prefer in-person sessions, so also inquire about the coach’s approach to in-person versus phone sessions. Remember to take notes. If the first coach you call seems to be a good fit…it’s your choice whether to call the others or not.

If you’d like to proceed with this first coach, ask for the complimentary session. Some coaches will offer this complementary session on the spot if they have time, while others prefer to schedule it in the near future.

A coach could be very good in general terms, but nonetheless a poor match for you. Beyond examining the coach’s credentials, endorsements, web site and social media, the question of whether a coach is good for you is very client-dependent. Here are some ways to assess your first session with a coach:

– The coach has experience coaching others at your level and in the same or similar organizations
– You’re put at ease by the coach and feel comfortable talking with her or him
– The coach understands what you’d like to accomplish and asks thoughtful questions
– Your conversation with the coach is already giving you new insights, ideas or perspectives
– You feel energized, optimistic and also relieved about getting help in moving forward

If you have any doubts after the complementary session, set up a call with the next coach on your list. In any event, do send a follow up email to any coach you spoke with but didn’t choose, thanking them for their time…you never know when you might cross paths again…

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