How do you select a coach?

We spend too much time alone on social media. Instead of being present in a meeting, we check messages; instead of enjoying a view, we post pictures on Facebook. We are too often disconnected from the things that matter; from relationships with colleagues, family and friends. Coaching is about relationships and relationships are about connection.

In last month’s bulletin we highlighted how the relationship between the coach and person being coached, is central to successful executive coaching. So, if an effective relationship is critical, how do executives decide if the relationship with a particular coach will work for them? Are coachees making decisions based on the coach’s website, their LinkedIn profile or something else?

With these questions in mind, welcome to the second in our new series of evidence-based monthly coaching dialogues. This month we look at what really matters to people when selecting a coach.

In recent Australian research (Tooth, 2014), coachees reported that their final decision to work with a coach was based on a feeling of connection. Importantly, this assessment occurred when they meet the coach ‘in-person’ – this may be face to face or a video/Skype call, “After meeting the person I had quite an instant feeling.”  “The one who looked best on paper wasn’t right.” Coachees assessed this sense of connection based mainly on ‘soft’ criteria such as a sense of shared values, trust, cultural ease and personality-fit. Earlier research (Lawrence & Whyte 2010) also found warmth was critical as well as ‘harder’ data including, “Has the coach the breadth of experience and knowledge I’m after; will they challenge me in an acceptable way?”

This suggests that for coachees, the final selection decision is a highly individual and intuitive process, rather than a rational assessment based on the coach’s bio.

Professionals who manage coaching in organisations focus on sourcing good quality coaches.  They also recognise the importance of the person being coached making the final decision. Providing opportunities for coachees and potential coachees to meet and assess this connection is an integral part of the process of creating a coaching relationship.

In selecting a coach, what factors are important to you?

Please contribute to the discussion and let us know what you think of our second bulletin.

Next month we explore the coaches’ experience in selection. Also look out for WhyteCo Coaching Autumn Research Bulletin Testing best practice in delivering 360° feedback.


Lawrence, Paul & Whyte, Ann. (2010). Coach Matching – art or science?  WhyteCo Research Bulletin No 4, Spring.

Tooth, Julie-Anne. (2014). Experiencing executive coaching. Saarbrucken, Germany: Scholars Press.