How to Hire the Right Coach for You

How to Hire the Right Coach for You
– by Senior Level Executive Coach, Colle Davis

After thirty years as a senior-level executive coach, I’ve seen the rise, fall and dramatic resurgence in the coaching industry. This information will guide you about hiring the right coach for you.

The term ‘coach’ has (sadly) been linked to many individuals, associations and stadiums of idiots, charlatans, and fools who crowned themselves as self-proclaimed students of human behavior who possessed the skills to be king and queen makers. Over the years, the coaching industry has both mellowed and matured and today, there are many talented, caring and trustworthy advisors whose instincts boost careers, corporate images and stock prices. The finest coaches teach their clients how to leverage their skills, talents, abilities, and contacts to create a higher value for themselves, their organization, and their reports. 

If you are ready to focus, shift a few behaviors and test your results, then it is time for you to hire a coach. We do not often see ourselves as others do, and an experienced coach has the perspective to examine and oversee your choices, monitor your behaviors and implement your new plans in a way one cannot do alone.

1) Here are some suggestions to consider in your preparation to working with a new coach:

  • In an initial discussion with a prospective coach, be forewarned, they must always ask, “What do you want for an outcome?” (if they do not ask you this question, they are only wanna’be coaches and unqualified). A good coach needs to know where you are going.
  • A good coach will ask you what resources you have (contacts, education, experience, skills, etc.) that will be necessary for the journey. In other words, you will need to know what you have that will ultimately help you reach your intended outcome. Sharing your resources is an important exercise but listening to the coach’s response is also important. Did they listen? Did they interrupt? Are they patient or pushy? Did they talk too much?
  • A good coach will also ask you what you want your life to look like when you reach your outcomes and goals. “I’ll be asked to speak more often.” I’ll be asked to sit on boards.” “I’ll delegate and work fewer hours.” “I’ll buy a cabin on the lake as a family get-away.” “I’ll be able to travel to exotic places on holiday.”

The answers to these questions may take time to answer. A few of my clients took over a year to firm up the results and define their outcomes. In the meantime, they are learning the skills necessary to improve their life and the life of those around them.

2) Coaching credentials are only door openers. The various coaching organizations offer courses, testing, joining requirements, and offer a canned form of their system of coaching. If you are looking for a high-level coach, remember their credentials are not important but their experience must be evident.

Here are questions to ask a prospective coach:

  • Have they been an independent paid coach for more than ten years?
  • What is the average income of their clients? (It needs to be 10% higher or more than your expected next position.)
  • What is the average time for their clients to reach their original goals?
  • What key industries have their clients worked in who have achieved the greatest success? Financial? Health care? Entertainment? Politics? Manufacturing?


  • Can you speak to one or two of their current or recent past clients?
  • What promotions or income changes can you expect over the first two years if you hire them as a coach.

3) Find out if the coach can stay in rapport with you under stress. Here’s an insider’s secret. As a senior level coach, here is one of my secrets for establishing trust in the first session, not the first conversation (be prepared to hate this question). Few coaches or therapist have the guts to ask it because it sounds so harsh and scary because it is. It also reduces the time to reach their goals by at least half. Get the tough stuff out of the way first.

Ready? Here it is: “What is the last thing you want to tell me?” Here, the coach must stop talking. They should not speak until the client answers their question. When I train coaches, I add another piece here to enhance the value of the question. In face-to-face sessions, this question produces an amazing reaction that includes their client going white, holding their breath and closing their eyes. Phone conversations are harder to judge the reaction, but the question and its response are still impactful. 

Caveat here: In-person sessions are 50 to 80% faster for achieving results because the coach can see your reactions and adjust their questions. Phone/virtual coaching requires an exceptionally acute perception of verbal and silent responses and takes years to develop. New coaches are not qualified to provide coaching over the phone.

Use these guidelines to find a great coach, when you are ready.

Here are two final thoughts before I close:

1) I have no idea what a ‘life coach’ is or what they do, sorry. My clients are always professional go-getters and people willing to work hard and love the rewards they reap. I am an executive business coach and mentor for my clients and have been doing so for over three decades. Many of my clients call me their ‘secret weapon’ or their ‘trusted advisor.’

2) Do not hire a coach as a therapist or a talk buddy. It is a waste of your time and money, and a good coach will not let you get away with it. 

Now go on with your life and when you are ready, go on vacation, hire a coach or find a new job. Each will add joy and excitement to your life.

Working with me is scary, fun, hard work and I will make you dangerous in your efficiency. If you have the guts, call or email me to set up a free conversation and if that works for you, a free session. Colle Davis or 804.467.1536. You are free to come sit in our coaching nest (an idyllic setting on a private lake) for one-on-one private coaching sessions with me if you are near Richmond, Virginia, or if you are out of the area, we can conduct phone sessions.

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