Qualities of an Effective Executive Coach

During a recent coaching meeting with a client, I was informed that they had been exposed to two other coaches, and frankly found the experience to be less than favorable. This provoked my thinking regarding how coaches are both perceived and experienced by a coachee. The question I find myself asking is, what qualities should an executive coach have in order to be truly effective? The most comprehensive and rigorous meta-analysis of professional coaching ever conducted was just published in print, and the results are unambiguous: coaching in a business context has significant positive effects on performance and skills, well-being, coping, work attitudes, and goal-directed self-regulation.

So I am truly surprised when I speak with people regarding their own experience with a coach,  and they tell me that the person was either insensitive or possessed poor communication skills. These two things (empathy and excellent communication skills) should be very high on your list if you are thinking about or have engaged a coach. I believe that effective coaching is more about innate skills and experience, versus qualifications and certifications. The real work and development emerges from the relationship between coach and client rather than industry experience or qualifications. The following skills or qualities separate the most effective coaches from the rest:

Authenticity. 

As a coach, you must have developed a significant understanding of yourself and people to be able to understand and recommend actions and strategies related to behavioral change. To be authentic is literally to be your own author, to discover your own nature, energy, and desires, and then find your own way of acting on them. A good coach will encourage you to discover your authentic self, which is the opposite of walking around in borrowed postures, spouting second hand ideas, trying desperately to fit in rather than stand out.

Empathy

If a coach is to be effective, and by that I mean, being able to motivate another individual to recognize the need for change, and both learn and practice new behaviors, then it is crucial that they be masterful at reading emotions. That is a) able to take another persons’ perspective b) empathetic and sensitive to others feelings c) skilled at listening to others. Nothing could be worse for a coachee to find themselves with a coach who lacks these critical skills.

Thought Leadership

The best coaches live by the adage…you are your best teacher. Learning is experienced as a personal transformation. A person does not gather learnings as possessions but rather becomes a new person…to learn is not to have, it is to be. So coaches talk about and share how they have grown and changed personally rather than employing techniques and fads which are here today and largely gone tomorrow.

If you have had or are having a less than effective coaching experience, remember coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.