Have you avoided choosing an executive coach because the process seems too overwhelming or time-consuming to be worth your while? The Golden Criteria eliminates these concerns and walks senior leaders through how to find an executive coach.

two senior executive leaders in a coaching, mentoring meeting

Even after years of successfully filling leadership roles, self-aware professionals agree on two truths: first, leadership skills are not born overnight, and second, the executive coach you choose to push you to greater heights can make or break your experience. But how do you select an executive coach? What process helps you find the right coach to maximize your development and your team’s growth without wasting anyone’s time and resources?

Choosing an executive coach can be a daunting and discouraging experience, but it doesn’t have to be.

As a senior HR leader who was responsible for securing coaching services for some of the world’s most admired organizations for many years before becoming an executive coach myself, I had to rely on fellow HR leaders’ referrals to find the right coach. Despite the vast number of available leadership development resources, I couldn’t find a practical guide geared toward senior leaders that provided criteria for choosing the right coach for their unique needs. Hence, I embarked upon the process of drawing upon my experience to create a senior leadership toolkit for selecting an executive coach to match your needs, personality, and leadership experience.

The Golden Criteria for Selecting an Executive Coach

The Golden Criteria guides your deliberations when deciding who is the most appropriate executive coach for you or your team. This ten step process simplifies what can be an overwhelming task, especially if you are already leading large teams and managing weighty responsibilities.

When searching for an executive coach, you should examine the following ten criteria:

1. Experience Level

First, always check the experience level of the executive coach. What is their core expertise? What credentials do they hold? What is their thought leadership and their view on what executive coaching is all about? Does this align with you?

2. Accreditation, Degree, and Professional Certification

What has their own learning journey looked like? Have they kept their knowledge up to date, and are they continuously looking for development opportunities in order to best serve you as a client?

3. Business Understanding and Sector Experience

What is their own professional background? Do they have any relevant experience in your sector or in a sector that you are looking to break into next? In other words, are they equipped with business industry experience that will prove useful to your own learning experience?

Image of Business Leader Sitting at Office Desk with Credentials, Certifications, diplomas, degrees

Make sure to ask all relevant questions that are on your mind before developing your shortlist of potential executive coaches. Once you have clarified the above three criteria, you should schedule a meeting with several executive coaches for a consult or “Chemistry Session”.

During the chemistry sessions with your shortlisted candidates, make sure to double check the following criteria as you proceed in your quest to find the right coach for you:

4. Chemistry Session Intelligence Gathering

During your consult, confirm whether what you learned about the executive coach during your initial research comes to life during the chemistry session. Are they engaged in conversation, and do they seem to possess good listening skills? What is their coaching style? Do they offer rigor and flexibility simultaneously to accommodate your schedule? What is their style of coaching? Bottom line…could you imagine working closely with that individual for an extended period of time and accepting their advice?

5. Coaching Methodology

During your consult, discuss with the potential coach what a “typical” client process would look like if you were to work with them? In your conversation with the executive coach, ask yourself to what degree that individual can provide you with a clear picture of their coaching process, expectations, and expected experience? If you don’t enjoy this individual’s company or feel as though they only provide you with a vague coaching outline or methodology description, then move on to your next candidate.

“Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking & creative process that inspires them to
maximize their personal and professional potential.”
-Coaching Definition according to the International Coaching Federation (ICF)

6. Coaching Outcomes

Are there clear, measurable, and agreed upon learning outcomes? How will the outcomes of the coaching engagement be measured and evaluated?

7. Coaching Ethics and Confidentiality

What is their understanding of the ethics around coaching? Are they in regular supervision themselves? What confidentiality and privacy measures do they have in place? What is stated in their contract?

8. Credible References and Testimonials

Are they able to provide you or your team’s relevant HR leader with credible references and client testimonials from others at your level of seniority? What concrete results have been achieved by their previous clients? What is the cost of a coaching engagement? What services and diagnostics are included? What would be charged as an extra? These are not questions that you want to have to answer after you have already begun working with a coach that you like.

9. Contracting Framework

How do they manage expectations within an organization? Will they involve HR and any
managers who may be above you? If so, how will that take place, and what are their confidentiality boundaries? Will those be put in writing?

10. Diagnostic Tools and Psychometrics

What diagnostic tools will they use (if any), and what is the concrete value of using that tool to support the coaching process? Will there be a 180- or 360-degree tool involved? If so, how valid and reliable is the tool, and who will have access to the results?

“Applying the Golden Criteria in coach selection will substantially increase the likelihood of landing the right coach and ensure you have a partner on your side that will help you grow beyond what you imagined possible.”
-Navid Nazemian

Putting these ten Golden Criteria to work for you will maximize your growth and strengthen your leadership skills by providing a simpler, more straightforward process. Any stress you can alleviate during the executive coach selection process will increase your chances of actually choosing a coach and following through with your intentions.

The goal of our Churchill Leadership coaches is to ensure that every leader who comes to us is matched with an executive coach that meets the Golden Criteria for that specific individual. Over the last 12 years, Churchill Leadership Group has built a robust matching methodology to pair the right coach with the right leader. Most recently, we have launched our coaching platform in partnership with Optify, which allows leaders to review coach bios privately, in their own time, and then schedule chemistry calls directly with the shortlisted coaches in whom they are interested.

Contact us today and remove the stress of selecting an executive coach. To learn more about our executing coaching options before you call, click HERE.

Dr. Pat Baxter


Navid Nazemian is a multiple award-winning, ICF-accredited executive coach and bestselling author. He helps executives successfully transition by maximizing their leadership impact, building high-performing teams, and creating admired organizations. He is the international bestselling author of Mastering Executive Transitions: The Definitive Guide. More recently, Navid has been recognized as HR’s Most Influential Practitioner by the HR Magazine, #1 Coach of the Year by CEO Today, named as 101 Most Iconic Coaching Leaders Global, and has received the Outstanding Leadership Award from Education 2.0.

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