Coach's corner: hiring an executive coach

Do your homework before hiring an executive coach.

Executive coaching is still a relatively new enterprise, one without regulations. So it's especially important to do your homework before committing to a particular coach. Here are five tips to keep in mind:

1. Different coaches have different areas of expertise. Some are best at helping execs overcome a particular set of weaknesses, while others are more suited to specific topic areas, such as transition planning or marketing.

2. Whether a coach is certified by the International Coaching Federation or educated in a related field, such as psychology, they need something to show they have basic skills, such as making people feel comfortable and being objective. A certificate means someone knows the ropes, but it is no substitute for actual experience.

3. Hopefully, you're already in the habit of doing background checks on all your potential service providers — and coaches are no different. Some coaches may cite confidentiality, but don't be fooled. A coach who doesn't have references isn't worth your time.

4. Chemistry is important, just like in any other personal relationship. You don't have to fall in love — indeed, you'll probably butt heads with your coach from time to time if he's doing his or her job properly. But figure out whether you feel comfortable confiding in a potential coach.

5. Put the coach on trial. A test session may be a bit out of context, given that there isn't an existing relationship to build on. But you'll quickly see if the relationship can work. Executive coaches are expensive, so make sure you're getting your money's worth.