How to select the right coach

A professional coach can get the best out of untapped talent and be the driving force behind a coachee’s performance success.

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However, it is important to find the right coach if these objectives are to be met. We highlight what organisations and coachees should consider if they are to engage the right coach for their needs. 

What should organisations consider when looking for the 'right' coach?

As an organisation keen to secure the right coach for an employee, you may want to consider:

  • The coach’s background prior to coaching
    Look at a coach’s background more holistically and for evidence of business leadership experience, especially if you are seeking an executive coach. Though not strictly necessary, you may want to hire a coach with a similar background to the coachee, or one who has worked within the same industry as your organisation, so they are a good fit contextually.

  • Training and credentials 
    Check the coach’s training qualifications. For example, look for a coach that has come through the International Coaching Federation (ICF) - an ICF credentialed coach. They should have been assessed by and must adhere to the ethics of a recognised professional coaching body and be a certified career coach.

  • Specialism
    Where do their strengths lie, and do they have expertise in areas that are important to your organisation? Perhaps they specialise in coaching entry-level employees to facilitate communication and team cohesion? Or perhaps they focus on one-to-one senior leadership coaching to support career transition?

  • The coach’s own professional development
    This is critical if coaches are to stay on top of new topics and developments. Have they been suitably invested in? Have they been individually assessed? Are they cognizant of coaching standards? 

  • Coaching level 
    What level does the coach usually work at or to? Can they demonstrate how they have helped other coachees at the same level achieve their goals? Check they have coached people who are at the same level as the coachee.

  • Feedback on previous coaching
    Gather testimonials, referrals or feedback from past clients or colleagues. Organisations can also get assurance 

Make sure the coachee is closely involved in choosing their coach so you can find someone who gels with your HR and line management teams but is also the right fit for the coachee. Both are necessary to get the best results.

What should a coachee consider?

If you are ready to commit time and energy to being coached, that is a good starting point. Refrain from choosing a coach based purely on a referral by a colleague. Finding the right coach is all about finding someone who can support your specific needs and objectives.

Chemistry

It is best practice to be given a choice of coaches and the opportunity to talk with each of them prior to making any decisions to see if you have chemistry. Chemistry with a coach is important, and a key contributor to the success of any coaching engagement.

Ability to challenge

The right coach will provide sufficient support, but they should also challenge you and push you from your comfort zone on occasion, as this is crucial for personal growth and to help you break free from any self-limiting attitudes or mindsets.

Once you have met with each potential coach, consider how you feel. Do you feel inspired but a little nervous? Do you feel excited by the prospect of being coached by them? Or do you feel underwhelmed and unsure if they can provide the challenge required? The right coach will be someone you feel comfortable with and inspired by but also someone who challenges you, and this may make you feel a little nervous or excited. Trust your intuition.

Background experience

You may prefer to work with someone who has similar background experience in terms of role, training, career path or industry. This is useful if you want a coach who has met the challenges you face and can support you from a place of shared experience.

However, always consider working with someone with a different background from yours. Coaching is an opportunity to be challenged and to embrace diversity of thinking. A coach with a different background should provide this and encourage you to look at everyday challenges through a new, more globally diverse lens.

A good coach will always challenge you, irrespective of background experience. But someone with a different background may bring a universality that can be incredibly useful, not least because you are forced to look beyond the specific challenges you face in the context of your role and industry and adopt a broader perspective on aspects of communication, leadership, and people management.


Organisations should make sure the coach meets any set criteria, but always give the coachee freedom to choose their coach based on personal and professional needs.

Unlock the power of coaching webinar

Pauline Muldoon, Senior Principal Consultant, LHH Talent Solutions – Coaching, Marc Dufraisse, LHH EMEA Master Coach and Christophe Touton, Senior Vice President – Global Strategic Clients, share their insights based on years of real-world experience on how to build and deliver an effective coaching program, including how to identify objectives, provide training for coaches and evaluate results.

Unlocking the power of coaching webinar
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