Grillo Leadership

How to Select an Executive Coach

There’s a lot written about what makes a good executive coach but I haven’t seen very much about what makes someone a good candidate for coaching. So, here, in my opinion, are the six characteristics of an ideal candidate.


First, they must have the ability to take a long, hard look in the mirror and find out who they are warts and all. This takes work and guts, which many people aren’t up for. The “readiness” level of the candidate should not be overlooked.

Clue: They are ready to discover their blind spots and don’t run from the room when you mention the word coaching.

Accepting of Feedback

360-degree feedback can be hard to take but it’s the beginning of knowing your strengths and weaknesses and a basis for self-awareness and self-management. If you’ve read my other posts, you’ll know that to me knowing your “default” style is critical to personal and professional growth and preparing someone for any situation they may encounter. I can’t help but quote Marshall Goldsmith who was spot on with his book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There.

Clue: They acknowledge and take ownership of the feedback – positive and negative. They are not in denial, make excuses or try to figure out who said what.

Active learner

Ideal candidates are active learners meaning they are always actively seeking ways to improve.

Clue: They usually rate their performance lower than others do because in their estimation their performance is never good enough.

Active listener

Good listening skills are critical to the coaching process. Being a good listener and being an active learner go hand in hand. Ideal candidates understand that listening is like throwing a ball back and forth. One person listens while the other talks and vice versa.

Clue: They are more interested in what you have to say than hearing themselves talk. They absorb what they hear and are eager to apply what they learn in the real world.

Dedicated and Passionate

The coaching process takes time and in order to benefit from it the person must put in the extra hours in addition to doing their job. They are committed to spending whatever time is necessary to improve.

Clue: Ideal candidates usually ask for coaching or are excited and appreciative when told they are getting coaching. They can’t wait to start the process.


Ideal candidates have an innate curiosity about life and people. Unlike the cat, curiosity has never killed a candidate.

Clue: They ask lots of thoughtful questions.

Finally, if you feel you are not reaching the person, ask them what it would take to engage them in the process. If you get nothing back, they are not ready for coaching.

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