Sign on for a coaching alliance with a return on your investment

Meet Louis, a personal trainer and coach with Equinox. He has managed to get my fitness level from “so so” to “top of my game”. Why, you may ask, am I bringing this up on my blog for executives? Well… Louis brings the same key qualities to the table that you should look for when hiring a coach, regardless of what they’re coaching:


Credible coaches must have credentials. These may include general academic qualifications, but they should also be coaching specific, such as having gone through a formal coaching program and/or certification process. They must embrace the fundamental elements at the core of good coaching – such as ethical conduct and absolute confidentiality.

Take a close look at their experience. Are they familiar with the challenges you face? Do they understand the kind of environment that you’re operating in? Are they qualified to deliver the services which they offer, such as psychometric assessments?

(Louis has a master’s degrees in exercise science and nutrition, as well as extensive personal training experience.  He enjoys and is passionate about keeping up with, and being at the forefront of, the latest developments in the industry.)


You are looking to excel – which will mean that you’ll occasionally have to step out of your comfort zone.  This can be difficult and challenging. The right coach will be able to give you personalized action steps that, having taken your skill and ability level into account, challenge you just the right amount.

(I continuously feel challenged, and as Louis sees my skill level increase, he matches the challenge level to keep me interested and to ensure continuous improvement. A great coach will know when to push; be that increasing your weights, or asking questions that get to the nub of your situation.)


Once you’ve agreed on an objective, you need to work with a coach who believes in you, and believes that you can achieve what you’ve set out to accomplish. Having a coach who is a gifted motivator is also crucial to making progress: there will be moments of frustration when you’ll want to give up, and you need a coach who can manage that, and help you overcome your fears and emerge a stronger person.

(One of Louis’ signature strengths is optimism, and he exudes this when working with his clients – helping them to believe in themselves and push themselves harder.)

Effective listener

A great coach needs to have excellent listening skills – and be able to read between the lines and pick up on what is not being said. In truth: the coach’s role is to facilitate the client in driving the agenda, and to be a support platform – offering insights and suggestions when appropriate.

(Louis knows how I’m doing on any given day, and makes adjustments to our training program on days when I am struggling – whether I voice it or not…)

Outcome oriented

It is critical to define at the beginning of a coaching partnership what your goal is.  What do you, the client, wish to achieve exactly, and by what point in time?

Ask your coach what you can expect in return for investing your time and $s into the partnership. A good coach will be up-front as to what you can expect: and what is unrealistic…

(When Louis and I first met, we discussed: what my ideal weight was; what percentage of body fat and muscle tone I was looking for; and what my time frame was for attaining these goals.)


It is important to look at a coach’s client list – most coaches will have listed some on their web site. Find out what type of clients the coach has worked with (What kind of companies do they work for, and what is their position within the company?). A coach should also be willing to give you the contact details of clients who are happy to recommend them, and to talk to you about their experience.

(Before I decided to work with Louis, I checked out the clients he had worked with: it quickly became obvious that he was held in very high regard, and that his coaching was effective.)

Walks the talk

Some good questions to ask your coach: Do they believe in the concept of coaching (Do they use a coach themselves – what for?) Do they lead an authentic life in line with their coaching philosophy? Don’t be afraid to ask – good coaches will expect you to do be diligent before committing to such an important relationship.

(Louis very much buys into the concept of healthy living. He works out regularly himself and is 100% committed to having a healthy diet and a lifestyle that supports his philosophy.)


Even if you checked yes on all of the above, this is the most critical characteristic of a good coach…Most executive coaches are holistic in their approach, which means that you will share a lot of professional detail as well as some personal information with them. The partnership that you have with your coach must be a close one and there must be open communication both ways if it is to be effective. For this to work you need to have the right chemistry and enjoy the presence of your coach.

(Louis as a coach is professional but friendly, flexible but firm, and makes me laugh. In short: I do enjoy his company.)

Having listed all of the “ingredients” of a great coach, I want to add a quick note regarding the “client side” of the equation: Louis always points out that I did most of the work. While in part he is being generous, I will take credit for making it clear at the beginning of our partnership what my expectations were, and for staying committed to my goals.

As the client I realize that – while Louis’ coaching sessions propel me forward – it is up to me to maintain my commitment over the 23 hours of the day when I’m not with Louis. Between coaching sessions I watch what I eat, am physically active and manage (most of the time!) the temptation to give up… It’s a two-way relationship…