How do I pick a partner to help me develop my leadership skills?

You’ve heard a lot about the benefits of coaching.  And you want to develop leadership skills for yourself or for other leader(s) in your organization.  So, you’ve decided to hire a coach.  How do you know what to look for?  What’s important to consider?  Hiring a coach can feel a bit overwhelming and making investment decisions should be taken seriously.  The good news is that there are some clear criteria for you to consider.  

Coaching is a growing profession.  This is good because it means there are a lot of coaches to choose from!  This also means there is a wide variation in the backgrounds of people who call themselves coaches.  Before hiring a coach, it is a good idea to define what is important to you and your organization.  Here are three key considerations:

1. What formal training and credentialing does this coach have?

Formal training includes rigorous learning of a structured program, skills application, and assessments in order to prove proficiency.  This formal training is foundational. Some training programs are accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the leading global organization dedicated to advancing the coaching profession. Having this accreditation means the programs are rooted in a common coaching philosophy, process and have defined competencies that are being taught. Beyond the formal classroom training, once a coach has provided actual coaching to clients for a set number of hours, they can submit to ICF for formal credentialing.  Having this credential means the coach has been trained in specific competencies and is held to a code of ethics that are important for quality coaching.  It also means they are committed to receiving continuing education and development.  Hiring a coach with this kind of training and credentialing increases the likelihood you have the sustained improvement you value.

2. What type of coach are you hiring?

Coaches usually identify who they want to serve based on their background, experiences, and who they prefer working with.  If you are looking to develop your leadership skills, then picking a wellness coach may not be the best fit.  

Before looking for a coach, be sure to define what goals and objectives you have for the coaching.  If leadership development is the primary objective, then you likely want to hire an executive coach.  Even once you clarify the type of coach you want, it can still feel a bit daunting to know who to hire.  Look at the professional background and experiences of the executive coach.  Your coach doesn’t need to have the exact same experiences of the leader receiving the coaching.  But, having a coach who understands what it means to be an executive, has been in leadership positions, and has strong leadership skills is a benefit. That kind of background will help them ask you powerful questions and guide them as they work with you to develop your leadership skills.

3. How do you fit with the coach?

Once you identify a list of coaches that have the formal credentialing, and the background and experiences that are important to you, there is one last criteria to assess – how you “fit” with the coach.  This one is hard to gather from just reading about someone. A coach should be a trusted confidante and someone you connect with.  To assess this, set up an initial phone call or sample session with the coach. Most coaches should do this for free as a way for you to determine if you want to move forward.  

Identifying what is important to you about the coach before you start looking for one is important. If you are hiring executive coaches for multiple people in your organization, having clear criteria for evaluation can help improve the quality and consistency of the results.  

You are invited to reach out for a free session to explore if executive coaching is right for you.


HR4D’s mission is to ensure our client organizations fulfill their visions, by adopting their goals as ours, creating solutions that are right for them, and making the people who hire us professionally successful.  Contact us to learn more!

Jennifer is a seasoned leader and executive coach with over 20 years experience including as a Chief Human Resources Officer overseeing the HR and Communications functions. She is an Associate Certified Coach through ICF.