May 30, 2023

When Should I Hire an Executive Coach?

Strata Leadership Staff

I am a professional coach who manages other coaches and directs a coach training program. In short, I strongly believe in the power of coaching. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that if asked who should hire a coach and when, I would answer, “Almost everyone and just about any time.”

If you have ever worked with an executive coach, you already know the tremendous and widespread benefits that come from having a coach. If you haven’t, read the rest of this article to determine if coaching is right for you.

When to NOT Hire a Coach

The savvy reader will notice that I did not say that everyone should have a coach all the time. There are a few instances in which working with a coach may not have the desired benefit. As coaches abiding by the ethics and standards put forth by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), part of our responsibility is to help our clients determine if coaching is the best fit for them. If coaching is not the right fit, we should assist them in successfully transitioning to another helping professional.

Do NOT hire a coach if you want/need a counselor, mentor, or consultant. 

Counselor: In my opinion, licensed counselors sit atop the hierarchy of helping professions. Individuals who go through the rigorous process to receive training and experience needed to become licensed therapists are incredibly special people. Counselors are mental health professionals who have the necessary training to help patients work through trauma and crises to achieve greater levels of mental health and stability. If you are struggling with mental illness, processing trauma, needing help with challenges in your past, or dealing with substance abuse, you are likely better served by first working with a counselor before hiring a coach.

Mentor: A mentor is someone who has walked a path you are currently walking and holds relevant insights and expertise that could be useful to you. I have a mentor who has been married for nearly 50 years and has been the type of husband and father I would like to be. He has been invaluable in offering advice and insights that I’ve incorporated into my life to “follow in his footsteps.” While I’ve also had a coach who helped me shape my identity as a husband and father, having a mentor who has already lived the path and learned from successes and failures is a special gift that can elevate your awareness and competencies in areas that are important to you.

Consultant: A consultant possesses extensive expertise and problem-solving capacity. If you have a specific problem that requires expertise to solve, which you currently don’t possess, there is a good likelihood that you would be better served by hiring a consultant rather than a coach.

Do NOT hire a coach if time and patience are your greatest allies.

I remember listening to a personal finance podcast where a caller called in to the host, somewhat frantic about his current financial situation. After thoroughly reviewing the situation, the host told the caller something to the effect of, “You’re doing everything you should be doing. I’m proud of you. Now, all you can do is keep doing what you’ve been doing and let time be your ally.” This was a unique response for the host who is never shy about sharing his advice or telling callers everything they’re doing that’s wrong. But, in this instance, he effectively conveyed that time in the market, by way of compounding interest, was the only missing ingredient. In other words, once you’ve planted the seeds, there’s nothing you can do to speed up the harvest. Some things just take time, patience, and persistence.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have a solid plan that breeds confidence and assuredness, it may be the case that the best thing you can do is to just keep at it and watch the “compounding interest” of your best efforts produce the desired crop. Even the best coach in the world can’t speed up time.

When TO Hire a Coach

Outside of the instances mentioned above, there aren’t any other blanket circumstances I can think of that would lead me to say that you shouldn’t hire (or couldn’t benefit from) a coach. In fact, what many individuals may consider the worst time to hire a coach are actually instances in which having a coach would be most helpful. Going through a transition? A coach will help. Dealing with a lot of complexity? A coach will help. Feeling overworked, spread-too-thin, insecure, or like an imposter? A coach will help.

Something those unfamiliar with coaching often assume is that it is primarily about problem-solving. Therefore, before beginning coaching, they might need to have a specific problem, clear goals, objectives, and outcomes, and the space or margin to think creatively. However, this is not the case. An effective coach primarily focuses on coaching you as the person rather than just solving a specific problem. By keeping the focus on you, your coach will help you achieve greater levels of self- awareness regarding your tendencies, values, priorities, dreams, goals, and ambitions.

At Strata Leadership, our team of coaches becomes experts on you so that we can help you create your vision, clarify your goals, and take concrete actions that you move you closer to a fulfilling life and the ideal version of yourself as a leader.