How do organizations make decisions about coaches?

November 19, 2021

Chemistry conversations; the importance of being authentic and more as a coach

The coaching market in India has evolved over the last ten years that we at Navgati have been training leaders to be coaches . Organizations have evolved their processes when it comes to making the right choice of coaches for the leaders

We wanted to help our Coaches Collective community (a group of coaches and coaches in training, many of whom have been through our ICF accredited coach training program ) deepen their understanding of these choice practices so that they could strengthen their plans for setting up coaching services of their own.

So, in our Coaches Collective happy hours session in September 2021, we had two very articulate leaders (Arati Mohanram and Rituparna Dasgupta) talk about their experiences with making decisions on which coaches to hire across the many organizations that they have been a part of (General Motors; Intuit; Nokia; Oracle; Cognizant; Mr. Cooper).

We had about 50 coaches attend and the questions that were raised led to a very insightful conversation of value to anyone considering setting up a coaching business of their own in India or anyone wanting to hire coaches for their leaders.

Here’s a summary of what the two of them shared

Who do you offer coaching to in your organisations? Coaching is offered mainly to top talent across levels; defined as individuals identified as succession potential; also, those taking on new charters that will require them to stretch their abilities. For these organizations, the association of coaching with “remedial” is a thing of the past. In fact, in some companies, all critical roles are assigned a coach.

What is the process you follow to identify a coach? The process followed to identify coaches would depend on the level of the leader and the number of leaders to be coached. For executive level, they would look at individual coaches who have proven capabilities. For manager level, they would look at organizations of coaches that have the capacity to scale.

In both cases, the process followed is

  1. Identify a pool of potential coaches
  2. Have a conversation with them (as the talent/HR leader)
  3. Empanel coaches who seem a fit
  4. Set up a chemistry conversation with the leader to be coached

How do you measure the effectiveness of coaching ? Feedback from the client; feedback from their stakeholders and status versus the goal that was set at the beginning of the engagement. There is still some way to go on making this process of measurement as effective as it could be.

How do you go about identifying a pool of potential coaches? Word of mouth plays a very important role here. They would

  • Contact coaches they have worked with in the past
  • Reach out to peers in other organizations
  • Ask the coaches they know if they would recommend others
  • Ask leaders who have been coached in the past to share who they would recommend

Social media plays a smaller but an important role. There’s a lot that can be assessed about a person’s approach to coaching in how they talk about it online.

What would you look for in the initial evaluation (before meeting the coach)?

  1. Certification is important (ICF is the largest and most familiar). In terms of whether a PCC is more valuable than an ACC certification, it appears that confidence in the coach’s ability will come from one of two places – the coaching credential or their experience with coaching. So, if the coach hasn’t worked with senior level audiences before, then a PCC would be important. But if their credentials are great, then an ACC level coach would also be fine.
  2. Experience in coaching – in terms of the number of hours and the leadership level the coach has worked with in the past. Here again, a higher certification does appear to compensate for lesser experience.
  3. An understanding of the industry – both Ritu and Arati were very clear that not having coached people in a similar industry (or worked in it) does not impact the coach’s ability to be effective but it does impact their ability to be accepted by the leader they will be coaching. Being able to talk about the coach’s prior industry experience does make it easier for the HR/talent person to sell the coach’s profile internally.

Does a specialization matter? Would you find a “leadership transition coach” more appealing than someone who just calls themselves a leadership coach?

The answer to this is no; we don’t appear to be at the stage yet where coaches are sought out for very specific capabilities. The only exception would be when the coaching goal is a very niche one (for example executive presence).

What would you look to assess in your conversation as a talent leader with the coach?

The two big areas that these two leaders would look for is authenticity and competence.

Authenticity in terms of – Does the coach come across as grounded? Are they clear about their reasons for wanting to coach or is there a God complex at work? Are they realistic about what coaching can achieve and what role they will play in the process?

Competence in terms of – Can they create an environment of safety for their clients? Are they clear in their communication of their process? Do they seem invested in the growth of their clients? Do they demonstrate listening and presence in the conversation with the talent leader? Are they clear about the administrative and professional contracts and is their articulation of these simple?

Some questions they would ask of a potential coach

  • Why were you drawn to coaching?
  • What do you gain from being a coach?
  • Where does coaching not work?
  • Tell me about a coaching experience that did not go well? How did you deal with it?
  • Can you describe your style as a coach?
  • What is the process you follow?

What would be warning signs in your initial conversation with a coach?

  • If the coach is talking down “let me tell you what coaching is”
  • If the coach is not present or does not demonstrate listening in the conversation
  • If he/she over indexes on assessments as a key part of the process
  • If he/she appears overly reliant on frameworks and models
  • If the coach is trying to upsell or being pushy
  • If they overpromise what they can deliver without really knowing the client or the context
  • If they don’t appear interested in learning about the context
  • If they appear to be taking a one-up stance with their clients (“I’ve selected this client”)

How should a coach be in the chemistry conversation?

  • Ask lots of questions of the talent leader – the more prepared you are, the better
  • Be prepared to articulate what coaching is and what you will and will not do as a coach
  • Demonstrate to the client what they can expect in the coaching in this conversation (listening; empathy; acceptance; inquiry)
  • Invite them to articulate what they want from coaching; what would make it not work for them
  • Clarify the administrative contract (especially confidentiality)
  • Avoid getting into work (using a technique; starting the coaching)
  • Relax – you’re in this call because you fit the profile. Focus on establishing rapport with the client and getting to know them better.

What advice do you have for coaches looking to grow their practice?

  1. Build personal coaching engagements with the kind of leaders you want to work with (defined as working with individuals directly as opposed to working through an organization). Tap into your personal network; look for organizations you can be empaneled with; find pro bono opportunities etc. Find creative ways to build your initial base (eg the coach who circulated fliers with her profile in her apartment complex that had many people in leadership roles)
  2. Create a strong coach profile for yourself that calls out your style and philosophy clearly and is attractive. Make sure you have a coach specific biodata; invest in a web page if you are serious.
  3. Get 5 strong testimonials from people you have coached
  4. If you’re looking to work with organizations make sure you have your infrastructure in place (payment gateways; billing practices). Also be organized in terms of your scheduling and billing; most HR teams are very lean and having to chase coaches for schedules and invoices generally results in the coach not getting repeat business
  5. Build a Linkedin profile over a period of time that is reflective of the kind of coach you are

All the very best! If you’re interested in knowing more about the Coaches Collective, follow us here ( If you’d like to know more about the work we do at Navgati in ICF accredited coach training programs , please go here

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