How to work with an executive coach

Written by Derek Abma

Coaches are no longer just for sports.

In fact, entrepreneurs are increasingly using them to better their business game. Like their athletic counterparts, executive coaches offer strategic insights that help their “players” win in the business arena. They also keep clients motivated when they’re down and work on improving specific skills and talents.

PROFIT recently caught up with a few executive coaching experts and asked the key questions about coaching.

How do I find a coach?

First, consider what areas you’d like help with. Executive coaches have different areas of expertise. Some are best at helping you identify your personal strengths and weaknesses while developing your skills. Others can provide expert advice in specific business areas such as marketing or strategic planning. Still others specialize in leadership and team-building.

Once you’ve determined which type of coach you want, be sure that your style and personality matches his or hers. Ask for a sample session from them, recommends Madeleine Homan, a New York-based coach who co-wrote the recently released book Leverage Your Best, Ditch the Rest. Adding, if you don’t sense progress is being made or some sort of connection in the first 15 minutes then you’re probably not with the right coach.

As for tracking down a coach, Homan recommends asking your peers or checking the home page of the International Coach Federation, where you’ll find the “Find a Coach” referral tool.

How much effort will being coached require?

The process works only if you want the help and are willing to put in the time and effort, says Reg Ellis, a 15-year coaching veteran and senior partner of Toronto-based Ellis Associates. “[Some] people come and park in the office and go, ‘Okay, so you’re the coach. What are you going to do?'” notes Ellis. “They kind of wait for the pearls of wisdom or the advice. They don’t realize it’s work that they have to contribute to.”

Time commitments vary. A coaching arrangement might be focused and involve three or four sessions over a few weeks, or it can last several years. Ellis says his long-term clients might consult with him for a few hours every quarter or a half-hour every few weeks. Homan says her client relations can last a few weeks if they’re dealing with specific issues or up to 18 months for some clients. Sessions can be over the phone or in-person, but most coaches prefer the latter.

What’s the cost?

$300 to $400 an hour for top-level executive coaching is typical, says Ellis. Sometimes executives pay a retainer in the tens of thousands of dollars to a keep their coach accessible for a year.

Homan is vice-president of blended services at the Ken Blanchard Companies, an international management consultancy with an office in Mississauga, Ont. The firm employs eight coaches in Canada and charges $750 for a basic three-session package. Longer-term arrangements start at $1,000 a month.

Read other pointers on How To contribute to your business success!

© 2004 Derek Abma

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com