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How to how to hire the right coach for your business

This article was written by Hank Boyer, the CEO of Boyer Management Group, and originally appeared on

Your organization likely invests significant resources in training your staff members. But learning something new does not mean the person has mastered it, and that is where coaching comes in.

Coaching moves an individual from knowing what to do to consistently executing at a level of mastery. Coaching has produced some impressive results for companies and organizations of all sizes:

- Coaching resulted in an "ROI of almost six times the program cost as well as a 77 percent improvement in relationships, 67 percent improvement in teamwork, 61 percent improvement in job satisfaction and 48 percent improvement in quality," according to a Chicago Tribune report citing a study of Fortune 100 executives.

- The same source also cited a Fortune 500 study by MatrixGlobal of telecommunications companies producing a eye-opening 529 percent ROI.

- A joint American Management Association / Institute for Corporate Productivity study reported that coaching is used by 52 percent of US companies with another 37 percent considering implementing a coaching program.

- As far back a 2004, Right Management reported that 86 percent of employers used coaching to sharpen the skills of high potential managers and leaders.

- Small businesses can be the largest beneficiaries of coaching since they typically do not have the ability to hire the pedigree of trained manager that large corporations have, nor do they have the in-house training resources to develop staff to their fullest.

Determining what you want from a coaching program is an essential first step to take before you can begin the selection process for choosing a coach. For example, do you want someone to coach your sales staff? Or R&D scientists? Or managers/supervisors/emerging leaders? Perhaps you a looking for a personal coach to advise you in your career.

Take the time to first identify the area(s) in which you desire coaching, then select the right coach.


There are tens of thousands of business coaches worldwide; most major metro areas have dozens to choose from. While degrees, certifications and affiliations are helpful indicators of effective coaches, consider the following criteria as essential to your decision to select a particular individual or coaching firm:

1. A successful track record in the areas in which you desire coaching. This is the most important criteria. Suppose you needed surgery -- would you choose the surgeon with the shiny new degree who has studied all about your surgery and practiced it on cadavers, or the surgeon who has successfully performed the operation for years? You choose experience every time! The tough thing about experience is that it takes time to get, which is why you may want to avoid someone who lacks enough experience to be of value to those being coached.

2. The type and method of diagnostics and tools to be used. Just as a doctor uses diagnostics (X-rays, physical examinations and blood work) before embarking on a course of treatment, business coaches should be able to explain the diagnostics they propose to use. What is the coach's diagnostic plan? Look for industry-proven assessments and instruments that have a solid track record. Ditto that for any curriculum or books being used. Find out how much experience the coach has with the diagnostics and tools he or she uses.

3. The degree of tailoring to each client organization and each individual. This is an area that separates average coaches from exceptional ones. Suppose the person being coached is technically excellent but has challenges due to poor interpersonal skills. Will the person being coached gain a general knowledge of how to work more effectively with others, or will knowledge be gained of how to work with specific people in his or her workplace? Will the coach be flexible enough to temporarily detour off plan when the need for the moment is greater than the plan?

4. Ask current and prior coaching clients. Prospective coaches will not give you a bad reference, so you'll need to do a little homework. Ask for multiple references. Speak to clients and learn the pluses and minuses of working with the coach. What short-term and long-term improvements have they helped individual clients make? Were they engaged once, or for multiple times, and will the reference re-engage the next time coaching is needed?

5. Learn how each coach is keeping current/ahead of their areas of expertise. One of the benefits of coaching is that individual clients and their organizations gain outside perspective and expertise not available within their organizations. It is imperative that the coaches you engage are also green and growing, not resting solely on yesteryear's best practices. Learn how each coach keeps current.

6. How is the personal chemistry? In order to be effective, there needs to be an iron-clad level of trust between the coach and each individual being coached. Trust starts with positive chemistry, so you may want to ask for a complementary session to judge for yourself.

7. What is the coach's proposed plan and costs? Once the coach understands what you are seeking to accomplish, ask for a written plan that spells out his or her services and costs. What does the first month or two look like (where most diagnostics will be used), and how does it compare to post-diagnostic months? How long is the commitment, and how easily can you get out of the commitment if you find that the program is not working (you should know this by the third or fourth session)? What specific outcomes will be delivered? How and when will progress be reported? What kind of a ROI can you expect from the coach/coaching firm and proposal?


1. What can I expect to pay? While fees vary, a high-cost coach may be overpriced for the value he or she delivers, and a low-priced coach may be wholly ineffective. In the U.S., typical per-hour coaching fees range from a low of $125 per hour to a high of $3,500 per hour (source: Harvard Business Review and BMG research). The important question is this: What is the expected ROI? If a $3,500-per-hour coach can generate a multiple of that amount in profits, margin, expense saving or other key organizational metric, then it was a great investment.

2. How important is it for the person(s) being coached to desire coaching? In a word, critical. If someone doesn't want to be coached, then your investment will be wasted. Individuals must be motivated enough to commit to the program, attend scheduled meetings and complete diagnostics, assigned reading, practice and other assignments on time.

3. What levels in the organization are typically coached? The answer depends on the needs of each client. For example, some BMG clients engage us to coach primarily at the C and V levels; others at the director and manager levels; and still others for high potential individual contributors being groomed for larger assignments.

4. Is an outside coach more effective than an inside coach? Outside coaches who work with multiple clients are generally preferred to internal coaches who work with employees in their own organizations. The top three reasons cited for this preference are:

- The greater breadth of perspective offered by coaches with multiple clients, followed by the confidentiality;

- A greater perception of confidentiality gained by not sharing sensitive areas with a fellow employee; and

- The independent perspective that someone outside the organization brings.


Effective coaching has become an essential tool for developing today's talent to tackle tomorrow's opportunities and challenges. An effective coach should deliver an ROI of three or more times the cost of the program, making this a sensible investment for businesses and institutions of any size.

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