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Hiring an Executive Coach

Published Thursday Jan 9, 2020

Author Noreen A. Biehl

Hiring an Executive Coach

Eyeing the C-suite in a fast-paced tech company or climbing the corporate ladder rung by rung may feel as daunting as mastering a NH 4,000-footer. But with the support of an experienced coach, executives can create strategies to meet their goals, excel in their careers and even boost the bottom line of their companies.

The search for the right coach can be as complex as the businesses and individuals seeking them. The Executive Coaching Forum, an online resource, suggests answering these key questions:

• “Why are we doing this?”

• “What is the business objective? Is it to retain top performers? Or, is it to manage ‘stars’ with serious shortcomings?”

Finding the Right Coach
The International Coaches Federation (ICF) website lists 36 ICF certified coaches in NH. So how does one find a coach who will be a good fit?

Russ Ouellette and Heather Ramsey, two of four partners at Sojourn Partners, an executive leadership coaching firm in Manchester, stress the importance of certifications, business experience and higher education degrees when choosing an executive coach.

Despite its growth, professional coaching is an unregulated industry chock full of acronyms and nebulous qualifiers. Carlotta Tyler, who has a master’s of science in organizational development, is an associate certified coach and designer and lead faculty in the University of NH’s Professional Coaching certificate program, says certification “is critically important and a warranty of meeting certain standards.”

But Tyler cautions would-be clients to look closely at credentials and experience. Tyler says good coaches need a background in behavioral science. Her clients build on their own strengths as she helps them notice patterns in their behavior. “Coaching is about empathy,” Tyler says. “It’s not directive, it’s question-centered. You’re not a guru telling them how to live. You’re not in charge, they have to do the work.”

Make sure the coach has experience relevant to your needs and will be frank with you. “Our job is to be totally committed, to be unbiased and objective, understanding that we’re working with people with real life issues.” Ramsey says. “We work on relationships with our clients—how to best connect and hold each other accountable.”

Some clients are concerned about people knowing they are accessing the services of an executive coach. While Ouellette prefers coaching in person, he understands the value of connecting virtually for clients who have hectic schedules. Ramsey has even coached clients she only knows through phone conversations. “I sometimes think it works because some people just want the anonymity. I get that,” she says.

The Role of a Coach
Debora McLaughlin, founder of The Renegade Leader Coaching & Consulting Group in Nashua, likens coaching to standing at the rails of a concert to get as close as possible to the lights, the music and the action. She says, similarly, coaching addresses an executive’s need to get closer to the action in his or her own business.

McLaughlin says it is essential that clients be open to change. People really strive to get faster results, she says. “This is about putting them into turbo mode.”

Cate Rafferty of Cate Rafferty Consulting in Dover coaches clients in NH, New England and as far away as China. Although they differ in geography, they are all “looking to up their game” and are trying to be more intentional about their professional development. Rafferty says her clients want coaching, not a check box. “It’s not like going to a training class and passively participating. Coaching is an investment,” she says.

To make sure her clients are appropriate, Rafferty begins with a chat or two and asks them what they hope to get out of coaching and how they could work together. She provides one-on-one, group  and/or virtual coaching depending on the client’s needs. “Generally, we plan for a 15- to 20-hour engagement,” she says. Trained to administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument and DISC Behavioral Assessment, Rafferty also uses 360-degree feedback evaluations, a tool used by most executive coaches to help clients set achievable goals.

The Investment
Executive coaching fees vary widely. The 2019 Annual Sherpa Coaching Survey lists an average of $398 per hour for executive coaches and $250 an hour for business coaches. Hourly fees tend to range from $125 to $500 per hour. Most coaches negotiate and package fees based on the size, complexity and goals of an organization.“Not one type or one rate fits all,” says Tyler of UNH. “Organizations are getting savvy about coaching; they know their biggest asset walks out the door every night. They need to invest in their employees. Feedback is so important.”

Sojourn’s Ouellette knows prospective clients are cautious and concerned about spending money.“I tell them they can stop anytime,” he says, “but people don’t quit; they’re improving and they see the difference coaching makes.”

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