Executive coaching is now considered a mainstream development tool for leaders across industries.

As more leaders learn about the results that executive coaching delivers, the process is becoming mainstream.

But, just as when you are building a house, not just any tool will do the job you need it to do. Hiring an executive coach without performing due diligence can lead to wasted time or unintentional effects, so it’s important to take time and choose an executive coach with care.

Here are five mistakes that can completely derail the coach-client relationship. Being aware of them can help you plan and choose to the best of your ability, so that you get the most from the experience.

1. Hiring a Coach Who’s Not Sufficiently Experienced in Business

Someone can be an excellent coach (a life coach or fitness coach, for example), yet not be well-versed in how business works. Coaches must understand the realities of professional boundaries, ethics, and the general actualities of what it means to be a leader in business. Executive coaching isn’t a “feel-good” exercise, or a confidence-boosting one, though you may very well feel good about the process and come away with greater confidence. Ultimately executive coaching is about helping you develop your potential as a leader in business, and a coach without business experience can’t facilitate that.

2. Insisting on a Coach Who Specializes in Your Industry

While you do want an executive coach with business experience, it doesn’t necessarily have to be within your industry. While there are executive coaches who specialize in the healthcare industry, the chemical industry, and others, your coach’s purpose is to help you develop leadership competencies, not industry-specific strategy development. And also bear in mind that having a perspective from outside your industry can be helpful in breaking out of “the way we’ve always done it,” and in learning how to truly innovate as a leader.

3. Discounting the Importance of Coach-Client Rapport

Chemistry is essential between coach and client. It’s indefinable and hard to pin down but expecting great results from a coach with a great track record won’t come to much if the two of you do not have rapport. The only way to determine whether you and your prospective coach have genuine rapport and chemistry is by talking to them. In person is best, but a video conference or even a phone call will work. Much of your work with an executive coach will take place remotely: through phone calls, video conferences, and emails, so you’re wise to determine your rapport level via technology as well.

You can’t force rapport, and without it, the coaching process falls short.

4. Not Reading and Understanding the Confidentiality Agreement

Good executive coaching depends on trust. Ask any prospective coaches up front how confidentiality is handled. This may be more complex than you envision, particularly if the coach is hired by your company and will involve other stakeholders like your superiors, peers, and direct reports in their evaluation process.

Also, ask how your prospective coach handles client confidentiality after the coaching contract ends. What is the procedure for using you as a reference for their future coaching engagements? Will they want to use your case as part of their marketing, and if so, how will they gain the proper permissions from you?

5. Insufficient Attention to Measuring Outcomes

Management consultant and educator Peter Drucker is credited with the business axiom, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” There are exceptions, and qualitative feedback has significant value, but for the most part, your coaching investment should include measurements of baselines, milestones, and outcomes.

Effective coaches understand that you are investing in results, and they know how to take baseline measurements, create goals, and regularly measure progress toward them. Measuring progress ensures you stay on track to reach the goals you and your coach define.

Assuming that you have the time to commit to coaching, a supportive supervisor, and the willingness to accept feedback and practice behaviors to make lasting changes, choosing the right executive coach is the key to getting the best results. If you are interested in learning more about the coaching process, I encourage you to check out my leadership coaching page.

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