Jul 18, 2023

10 Red Flags To Watch Out For When Hiring An Executive Coach

10 Red Flags To Watch Out For When Hiring An Executive Coach

In the world of scaling or fast-growing companies, business founders and entrepreneurs often turn to executive coaches for guidance, support, and professional development.

However, not all executive coaches are created equal. It's crucial to be aware of potential red flags when selecting an executive coach to ensure you make the right choice for your entrepreneurial journey.

🚩1. Lack of Relevant Experience and Expertise

One of the primary red flags to watch out for is a coach's lack of relevant experience and expertise in your industry or specific business challenges.

It is crucial to choose a coach who understands the intricacies and dynamics of your sector.

A study conducted by the International Coach Federation (ICF) found that coaches with industry-specific experience were more effective in achieving coaching outcomes. The study, titled "ICF Global Coaching Client Study," surveyed over 4,000 coaching clients from around the world. One of the key findings was that clients who worked with coaches possessing industry-specific experience reported higher satisfaction and better coaching outcomes compared to those who worked with coaches without industry knowledge.

Research their Background and Experience

  • Look into the coach's professional background and experience. Have they worked in your industry or with similar challenges?
  • Ask about their specific experience and success stories related to your industry or business challenges.
  • Inquire about their training and certifications to ensure they have relevant qualifications.

Request Client References:

  • Ask for references from previous clients who have worked with the coach.
  • Contact these references to gain insights into their experience, the coach's effectiveness, and their ability to address industry-specific challenges.

Seek Industry-Specific Knowledge:

  • During initial discussions, inquire about their understanding of your industry and the current trends, challenges, and opportunities it presents.

🚩2. Lack of Alignment with Values and Philosophy

A strong alignment between the coach's values, philosophy, and your own is crucial for a successful coaching relationship.

If there is a significant mismatch in approach or values, it can hinder the effectiveness of the coaching process. It is essential to choose a coach whose principles align with your own and who can support your growth in a way that resonates with you.

Reflect on Your Own Values and Philosophy:

Take some time to identify your core values and the principles that guide your approach to leadership and personal growth.

Clarify your philosophy regarding coaching and what you believe will be most effective for your development.

Inquire About the Coach's Values and Philosophy:

  • Ask the coach about their core values and guiding principles in their coaching practice.
  • Discuss their coaching philosophy and how they approach helping clients achieve their goals.
  • Inquire about their views on leadership, personal growth, and their approach to supporting clients.

Discuss Compatibility:

  • Assess whether there is alignment between your values and philosophy and those of the coach.
  • Explore whether their coaching style and methodologies resonate with your own beliefs and preferences.
  • Consider whether you feel comfortable and connected with the coach during initial conversations.

Clarify Expectations:

  • Communicate your expectations regarding values and philosophy alignment.
  • Discuss how the coach incorporates your values and philosophy into the coaching process.
  • Inquire about their ability to adapt their approach to match your values and work within your preferred framework.

🚩3. Limited or Outdated Methodologies

Executive coaching is an evolving field, and effective coaches stay updated with the latest methodologies and practices.

A red flag to watch out for is a coach who relies on outdated techniques or lacks a comprehensive methodology to guide the coaching process.

It is important to choose a coach who employs evidence-based methodologies and stays current with industry trends.

Inquire About Their Professional Development

  • Ask the coach about their commitment to ongoing professional development.
  • Inquire about the resources they utilize to stay updated on the latest coaching methodologies and practices.

Assess Their Certifications and Training

  • Inquire about their coaching certifications and training programs they have completed.
  • Ask about any recent certifications or courses they have taken to enhance their coaching skills and knowledge.

Discuss Their Approach to Continuous Learning:

  • Ask how the coach incorporates new methodologies and practices into their coaching approach.
  • Inquire about any recent advancements or changes in their coaching methods that reflect their commitment to staying current.

Explore Their Network and Community Involvement:

  • Inquire about their involvement in professional coaching networks, communities, or associations.
  • Assess whether they actively engage with other coaches and participate in industry conferences or events.

Request Examples of Recent Engagements:

  • Ask the coach to share examples of recent coaching engagements and how they incorporated new methodologies or approaches into their work.
  • Inquire about specific techniques or practices they have used to address contemporary leadership or business challenges.

Seek Feedback from Previous Clients:

  • Reach out to previous clients and ask about the coach's use of modern methodologies.
    Inquire about any specific techniques or tools they found valuable and whether the coach demonstrated up-to-date knowledge.

🚩4. Limited Availability and Accessibility

Executive coaching requires a commitment from both the coach and the client.

A red flag to be mindful of is a coach who has limited availability or is difficult to reach outside of scheduled sessions.

A successful coaching relationship requires open communication and ongoing support. It is important to choose a coach who is accessible and can provide guidance when needed.

Clarify Expectations from the Start:

  • Discuss and establish clear expectations regarding communication and availability outside of scheduled coaching sessions.
  • Ensure both you and the coach are aligned on the level of support and availability needed.

Inquire About Communication Channels

  • Ask the coach about their preferred communication channels (e.g., email, phone, video calls).
  • Discuss their availability and responsiveness on these channels.

Discuss Response Time and Availability

  • Inquire about the coach's typical response time for non-urgent inquiries or requests.
  • Discuss any boundaries or limitations they may have regarding availability outside of sessions.

Request Information on Support Structures

  • Inquire about the coach's support structures, such as an assistant or team, to manage communication and scheduling.
  • Understand how these structures may impact their availability and responsiveness.

Evaluate Their Professional Boundaries

  • Assess whether the coach has clear boundaries and guidelines for communication outside of sessions.
  • Consider whether their approach aligns with your own expectations for accessibility.

Seek Client Testimonials or References:

  • Request references from previous clients to gain insights into the coach's availability and responsiveness.
  • Inquire about their experience in reaching the coach outside of scheduled sessions.

🚩5. Insufficient Focus on Measurable Outcomes:

Executive coaching should be goal-oriented, with a focus on achieving measurable outcomes and tangible results.

A red flag to watch out for is a coach who lacks a structured approach to setting goals, tracking progress, and evaluating the impact of the coaching engagement. It is crucial to choose a coach who emphasizes accountability and drives results.

Clearly Define Your Goals

Clearly articulate your goals and desired outcomes for the coaching engagement.
Ensure that your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART goals).

Inquire About Their Approach to Goal Setting

  • Ask the coach about their approach to goal setting and how they ensure clarity and measurability.
  • Inquire about their methods for tracking progress and measuring outcomes.

Discuss their Methodologies for Measuring Progress

  • Inquire about the coach's methodologies for tracking progress and evaluating the achievement of goals.
  • Discuss whether they use any assessment tools, performance metrics, or feedback mechanisms to measure outcomes.

Request Examples of Measurable Results

  • Ask the coach to provide examples of clients who have achieved measurable outcomes through their coaching.
  • Inquire about specific metrics or indicators that were used to measure success.

🚩6. Lack of Confidentiality and Trust:

Confidentiality is a cornerstone of the coaching relationship.

A red flag to be cautious of is a coach who breaches confidentiality or lacks the ability to create a safe and trusting environment.

It is important to choose a coach who adheres to strict confidentiality guidelines and fosters a sense of trust and openness.

Inquire About Their Approach to Confidentiality

  • Discuss the coach's stance on confidentiality and their commitment to maintaining client privacy.
  • Inquire about any confidentiality agreements or policies they have in place.

Ask About Boundaries and Limitations

  • Discuss the coach's boundaries and limitations regarding confidentiality.
  • Inquire about any circumstances in which they might need to breach confidentiality (e.g., legal obligations).

Seek Assurance of Trustworthiness

  • Inquire about the coach's track record and reputation for maintaining client confidentiality.
  • Request references or testimonials from previous clients to validate their trustworthiness.

🚩7. Inadequate Focus on Personalization

Each entrepreneur and business is unique, and coaching should be tailored to individual needs and circumstances. A red flag to watch out for is a coach who employs a one-size-fits-all approach without considering your specific challenges and aspirations.

It is important to choose a coach who customizes the coaching experience to address your unique needs.

Assess Their Approach to Individualization

  • Inquire about the coach's approach to tailoring coaching to individual needs and circumstances.
    Discuss how they customize their coaching process to address specific challenges and aspirations.

Inquire About Their Assessment and Discovery Phase:

  • Ask how the coach gathers information and assesses your unique situation before developing a coaching plan.
  • Discuss their methods for understanding your specific challenges, strengths, and aspirations.

Request Examples of Customization

  • Ask the coach to provide examples of how they have customized their coaching for previous clients.
  • Inquire about specific strategies or approaches they have used to address unique business or personal circumstances.

Discuss Their Ability to Adapt

  • Inquire about the coach's flexibility and willingness to adapt their coaching style and techniques to meet your needs.
  • Discuss their approach to accommodating different learning styles and preferences.

🚩8. Overemphasis on Advice-Giving

While providing insights and guidance is a part of the coaching process, excessive advice-giving can undermine the client's ability to develop their own solutions.

A red flag to be aware of is a coach who tends to impose their own ideas and solutions without empowering the client to explore their own options. It is crucial to choose a coach who facilitates self-discovery and empowers you to find your own answers.

Inquire About Their Coaching Philosophy:

  • Ask the coach about their coaching philosophy and approach to guiding clients.
  • Discuss their stance on empowering clients to find their own solutions versus providing direct advice.

Assess Their Listening Skills:

  • Observe how well the coach listens to your thoughts, concerns, and ideas during initial conversations.
  • Assess their ability to actively listen and understand your unique perspective.

Discuss Their Approach to Solution Generation

  • Inquire about how the coach facilitates solution generation and idea exploration.
  • Discuss their methods for empowering clients to develop their own insights and answers.

Request Examples of Facilitating Self-Discovery

  • Ask the coach to provide examples of how they have empowered clients to find their own solutions.
  • Inquire about specific techniques or exercises they have used to foster self-discovery.

🚩9. Lack of Genuine Empathy and Rapport

The coaching relationship thrives on trust, empathy, and rapport between the coach and the client.

A red flag to be mindful of is a coach who lacks genuine empathy or fails to establish a strong rapport. It is crucial to choose a coach who genuinely cares about your growth, understands your challenges, and fosters a supportive relationship.

Assess Their Listening and Communication Style

  • Observe how well the coach listens and engages in active communication during initial conversations.
  • Assess their ability to create a safe and non-judgmental space for open dialogue.

Inquire About Their Approach to Building Rapport

  • Ask the coach about their strategies for building rapport and establishing a strong coaching relationship.
  • Discuss how they foster trust and create a supportive environment for your growth.

🚩10. Absence of Continuous Development

The coaching profession requires ongoing professional development to stay updated with the latest research, methodologies, and practices.

A red flag to watch out for is a coach who does not prioritize their own growth and development. It is important to choose a coach who demonstrates a commitment to continuous learning and improvement.

Inquire About Their Professional Development Activities

  • Ask the coach about their commitment to ongoing professional development.
  • Inquire about the training programs, workshops, or courses they have attended recently.

Discuss Their Engagement in Coaching Communities

  • Inquire about their involvement in coaching communities, associations, or networks.
  • Discuss their participation in conferences, webinars, or events related to coaching.

Inquire About Their Reading and Research Practices

  • Ask the coach about their reading habits and how they stay updated with the latest research in coaching and related fields.
  • Discuss any specific books, articles, or journals they find valuable for their professional development.

Assess Their Collaboration and Learning Networks

  • Inquire about the coach's collaborative relationships with other professionals in their field.
  • Discuss their ability to learn from others and leverage collective knowledge.



When hiring an executive coach, it's crucial to be aware of red flags that may indicate a mismatch between your needs and the coach's abilities.

Here's a quick 10-point checklist summarizing the most important advice when hiring an executive coach:

  • Check their relevant industry experience and expertise.
  • Request client references and contact them for feedback.
  • Ensure alignment of values and philosophy with the coach.
  • Confirm their commitment to staying updated with the latest methodologies.
  • Watch out for excessive advice-giving and prioritize self-discovery.
  • Seek a coach who establishes genuine empathy and rapport.
  • Ensure confidentiality and trustworthiness are paramount.
  • Emphasize the need for personalization in coaching approaches.
  • Verify their commitment to achieving measurable outcomes.
  • Choose a coach who demonstrates continuous development and learning.
  • By considering these points and asking the right questions, you can make an informed decision and select an executive coach who aligns with your needs, values, and goals.

By avoiding coaches with limited industry experience, misaligned values, outdated methodologies, limited availability, insufficient focus on measurable outcomes, breaches of confidentiality, inadequate personalization, excessive advice-giving, lack of genuine empathy and rapport, and absence of continuous development, you can make an informed decision and choose a coach who will truly add value to your entrepreneurial journey.

Selecting the right executive coach is an investment in your personal and professional growth. By partnering with a coach who possesses relevant industry experience, aligns with your values, employs effective methodologies, fosters a supportive and confidential environment, and demonstrates continuous development, you can unlock your full potential, navigate challenges with confidence, and achieve sustainable success in your scaling or fast-growing company.

Remember, the right executive coach will serve as your trusted partner, offering guidance, support, and expertise to help you reach new heights in your entrepreneurial journey.

Choose wisely and embark on a coaching relationship that will propel you and your business toward long-term success.

If you are an ambitious professional looking to achieve your business goals and take your business to the next level, click here if you'd like to Book a 30-Minute Coaching Session with Ross.

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