How to Choose an Executive Coach

Hi everyone, I'm Chris Coward, executive coach and leadership development expert. I'm here to do a little video for you today on how to choose an executive coach. I'm going to go over four things that I recommend you consider when choosing your coach.

The first thing is chemistry. The way to assess that is to have at least a 15-minute conversation with the respective coach. And maybe have several different coaches that you're looking at.

And you're looking for how easy it is to share with them what your trust level is of them. Can you be open, honest, and vulnerable because that is how you're going to grow? What's their style with you? Are the warm and friendly, which is easy for you to open up? Or is there a little bit of an edge to them that maybe for your purposes of coaching is going to be really helpful to you to be challenged to grow.

So you should feel by the end of that conversation if it's the right coach, pretty excited, and ready to go. And also maybe a little daunted or nervous about it because you know you're going to be asked to stretch and grow beyond your comfort zone. So that's all a good thing. That's chemistry. That's a biggie.

The second is what is this executive coaches’ thought leadership? And you can find that out by maybe asking them directly on their leadership approach, how they work with leaders. You may see on their website what they talk about. Are they talking about using a coach approach to management? Are they specialists in managing difficult conversations, getting more productivity from the team? What is their leadership philosophy if you will.

That's good to know because you want to make sure that it's going to be helpful to what you want to grow in and learn about.

And then the third thing is you want your coach to have an understanding of organizational dynamics and team development, because that's a big part of leadership, is how am I leveraging the strengths of my team, how am I helping my team grow, bringing them together, what are the organizational dynamics in my organization, and how can my coach help me create a better understanding at how to move through that and leverage my team to get the best from them?

And then the fourth thing in this, I recognize that I'm very biased around this, is that your executive coach should have an ICF credential. What is that? The ICF stands for International Coach Federation. Again, I'm biased, but I believe it's the gold standard of the coaching industry. Meaning they have had training from a school that's approved from the International Coach Federation, and they adhere to ethics and standards around that, so you know you'll be taken care of that way. And they'll be following that code.

And again, the 11 competencies that are part of ICF training are really important and they work. The danger out there in the coaching world that you know, everybody and their mother can call themselves a coach. What happens sometimes is that people are not really trained in coaching, and they're out there calling themselves a coach and doing coach.

That can be dangerous because you don't know what you're getting. And at least with an ICF credential coach you know that you're getting someone who has been trained in a great set of core competencies, and is holding the ethical standards of the ICF.

That's it for this video. It's a short one. And good luck with that. And if you have any questions on how to choose a coach please comment below or reach out to me at the link below. Have a great day.

Why Work with an Executive Coach?

the five reasons you should hire an executive coach

  1. New Perspectives

    The more you grow in an organization and the higher you go in leadership the less people are going to tell you the truth. This is natural because of the power differential and they don’t want to give you information that you don’t want to hear. Also, the blind spots you have will not be uncovered by the employees below you unless they are comfortable and trusted resources.

A coach can help you uncover those blind spots and look at things from different perspectives that you may not have considered.

2. To have a trusted sounding board

This is particularly helpful in discussing your ideas and strategy. Having a coach that's objective, not in your organization, and has no agenda to what your ideas and strategies are is crucial. They can poke holes in your ideas, help you brainstorm and get clarity. A coach can also help you have accountability for the action steps you create.

3. What got you here won’t get you there

The third reason for hiring an executive coach was best said by Marshall Goldsmith. He's a well-known successful executive coach and thought leader. I highly recommend his book called “What Got You Here Won't Get You There”.

You had behaviors and skills that worked for you in the past, that possibly got you promoted, acknowledged, and paid well in your organization. However, those behaviors may not be what's needed in the next higher position.

For example, if you're the type of person who does whatever it takes to get things done and let other team members off the hook for their responsibilities than you are doing something that is not sustainable. Your theory is if it's going to get done right I need to do it myself, and that strategy may have made you a superstar but when you get to higher positions this approach isn’t effective. In fact, the skill that you most need at the higher position is to be able to leverage the talent and strengths of the team below you to do the work. And hold them accountable. Otherwise you'll burn out and you won't be able to keep all those balls in the air.

4. External accountability

You know this. The great athletes have coaches that help hold them accountable to their goals and what they want to achieve. And it's the same for you as a leader and an executive.

You may have set goals that inspire you but they may be hard, they may be scary, and you may be procrastinating on them. Having your coach encourage you, help you uncover what’s making you procrastinate and caring about your outcomes is a difference maker.

5. Balance the personal and professional

It's very common as a successful leader to keep working as hard as possible and neglect important things in your life, such as your family, your important relationships, and your hobbies that give you passion and joy. You might even be neglecting your health as well which impacts your energy and quality of work.

A coach can shine light on this balance because they are coaching the whole you, not just the professional side of your life.


If you would like to explore working with me as your Executive Coach please contact me at and we can connect.

Why 360 Feedback Is Important


Hi everyone, my name is Chris Coward, executive coach and leadership development expert. I am here to talk to you today about getting, as leaders 360-degree feedback.

What does that mean? It's an opportunity to get anonymous feedback from people in your organization that are above you, below you, it might be your colleagues or peers, and of course yourself is included as well.

There might be a structure to it. So there's some templates that people use like the leadership circle. There's many others out there. Or it might even be just qualitative feedback where a coach interviews all these folks and puts together their feedback in a cohesive way to present to you.

And so why is this important at all? It certainly takes an act of courage because it can feel a little scary to open yourself up to what others might be saying, want to say to you but haven't said it to you yet under the safety that they have now of being anonymous and report.

Why would we do this? If you are a leader who wants to continue moving up, get new responsibilities, make more money, be more acknowledged in your company then you need to know what area of growth you need to give attention to.

And so maybe that's a growth area of... Wow, I don't listen as well as I thought I did. And that's what people are saying. Maybe it's I don't think strategically according to some folks when I get their feedback.

And what I know is that with all the leaders I've worked with, the ones that have had some sort of 360-degree feedback have taken it seriously and implemented an action plan for themselves to grow, to get uncomfortable, and to change some habits in their leadership. They are the ones that get more acknowledged, tend to get promoted more frequently, and make more money.

It's something to think about, and encourage to get your feedback on getting feedback. I invite you to explore this for yourself and for your own growth. Have a great day.


Are you managing time or managing YOU?


Hi everyone, Chris Coward here, executive coach and leadership development expert. I want to talk today about the thing that is going around in everything I'm hearing from my clients, and I'm even talking about it for me too which is this concept of time management. And what the heck is time management?

The first thing that I'm thinking about is time is finite. We don't have any more time than anyone else. It's 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And so we can't really manage time. What we can do though is manage ourselves.


And I think that's the piece sometimes that we're missing. And so as you notice even yourself saying, you might be doing what I'm doing like, "I can't do that all the time, or I don't have time to get x done and y done. And this is really important but I'm not getting it done because I don't have time."

If you think about the important things, and maybe one thing even comes to mind, that you want to get done, you've been putting it off, maybe you're procrastinating, and using the excuse that you don't have time.

It's essential that we time block, which means looking at our calendar, finding the chunk of time, maybe it's just two hours, and locking in that important thing that we want to get done.

And when I say lock it in I mean lock it in. Close your door, turn off all your email pings and your social media notifications, move your phone aside and make sure it's not dinging and buzzing, and really use that time uninterrupted.

You may have to let people know that you're doing this so they will leave you alone and really honor this time for you.

And when we can do that it just feels great. You know this because you've probably experienced this before. And this is just a reminder to bring this back into your life. There's nothing magical about it.

The other thing to really think about with this too is when are you at your best? What kind of conditions do you need personally? Because what I noticed, there's a lot of clients they want time management secrets and tips. And the reality is the first step is to know yourself. Know what your unique way of doing things is.

For example, do you work best bright and early in the morning first thing, or are you a night owl and your chunk of time is going to be best if it's 10 pm at night. That will not be good for me but I know many people that thrive at that time.

Do you like working with others, or do you work best alone? Do you do best when you have a little bit of music in the background, or do you prefer to have utter silence?

Those are just some examples. There's a million of them. And just think about that for yourself. Check in around that. And if you want any support around that I have a handout that I can share for you to do your own self-rating around this.

But I invite you to play with this. Just pick one thing, start small, carve that time out, get ‘er done, and see how good it feels. And check with me and let me know how you do. Good luck with that and have a great day.


How Vulnerability Makes Your Leadership Stronger

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I coach a lot of leaders who initially state that vulnerability does not belong in the workplace.  In fact, they believe that if they are vulnerable and share select personal things about themselves bad things could happen.  What bad things?  The information about them could backfire and be used against them or they could be seen as weak or incompetent.  I’ve heard my clients say that their team will take advantage of them if they let their guard down.  While all of these outcomes are possible, it often does not happen that way.  Vulnerability is actually a sign of strength and courage.

Think about the most impactful, powerful speaker you’ve seen at a conference.  Were you wowed because they fired off new information that was useful to you but your sense of them is that they never struggled with getting to their expert status?  Or, if you’ve had the experiences I have had hearing with powerful speakers you know there is a connection that’s made with the audience.  That connection (because there is transparency, vulnerability and basic humanness) makes me feel like I can do it too.  I too can struggle and come out winning.  I can be imperfect and flawed, but still be successful.

What about the leader who makes a mistake that impacts the company?  You are aware the mistake was made but the leader avoids talking about it with others and even hides the mistake in the hopes that no one notices.   What message does that send?  That it’s not OK to make mistakes and if you do, don’t let anyone know.

I had a coaching mentor who always said, “flaunt your flaws.”  I took that to mean it’s OK to be open about who you are which includes strengths and weaknesses.  None of us are great at everything and if you present as if you are you will not connect well with others.  We can sense when someone is full of it and not being candid.

Brene Brown is a thought leader on vulnerability and I highly recommend her books and Ted Talks that highlight her research on this topic. 

If you want to practice vulnerability in the workplace here are some suggestions:

1.     Start with a trusted colleague and share something about yourself that you haven’t shared with anyone at work.  It doesn’t have to be something huge but on a scale of 1-10, maybe a 6.

2.     Be transparent about an area of professional development you are engaged in.  For example, when I coach leaders and they are working on a specific skill like giving feedback, I have them tell their staff that they are working on this skill and will be asking for feedback on the feedback.  It’s amazing how this openness increases feelings of safety on the team.

3.     Think about a workplace skill you admire in someone at work and tell them that you respect that aspect of their work.

4.     Remember, being vulnerable does not mean let it all hang out.  It’s about sharing with the right audience who is deserving and has earned your trust.  Be selective in your audience and timing.

How can you show your courage and strength by being vulnerable?  Is there a small step around this you can try at work?  I’d love to know how it works out.

Are you avoiding difficult conversations?

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From time to time we all have difficult conversations that need to happen at work and home.  You know, those conversations that you are procrastinating on and avoiding for various reasons.  Maybe you feel like the other person is going to be angry and defensive, maybe the other person is great at talking circles around you or maybe they are highly sensitive and you don’t want to hurt their feelings.  No matter what stressful thoughts you are having about these discussions there are some principles and skills that can make these talks go much smoother than you are envisioning.


1.    Lead with transparency and vulnerability to create a safe environment

From the field of neuroscience we know that transparency and vulnerability increase connection.  The part of the brain associated with distrust, fear, and protecting self is the Amygdala.  This old part of our brain is important to keep us safe and was especially important back in the day when there were numerous physical threats.  I’m sure you are familiar with the stress response that generates fright, flight, freeze, etc in us when triggered.  In .07 seconds we register whether the interaction with someone is safe.  The newer part of the brain, the Prefrontal Cortex triggers connection, collaboration, caring and creativity. 


As you consider your next challenging conversation, what actions, thoughts or words will trigger openness in the other person and you?


2.    Look to connect before launching into the topic

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” FDR


We’ve all had the experience of a boss, partner or someone we know launch into a criticism or something they are angry with us about without an introduction to either prepare us or using an easier to digest approach that doesn’t trigger our stress response.  It doesn’t have to happen that way!  One way to approach the conversation is to establish rapport first with the intention of bringing trust, openness and connection into the conversation.  What does this do?  It activates the hormone oxytocin (which is a feel good hormone) and reduces cortisol.


Before your next challenging conversation, set the intention of listening to connect.  The goal is to withhold judgment of each other and be open to new possibilities created in the conversation.



3.    Listen to Understand

As you are listening to the other person how much do you fully step into their world and see things from their viewpoint?  To do this requires openness and being non-judgmental and it’s harder than it sounds.  We all carry a story about the other when we come into these conversations.  What would it do for the conversation to put the story aside and be curious and open about their experience?  From a neuroscience perspective, the ability to do this activates empathy and mirror neurons.  Mirror neurons allow us to understand each other – they open up empathy.


4.    Practice!

There’s no shame in practicing what you are going to say and how you would like to show up in your challenging conversation.  You can test out with someone else how your words and energy are landing on them.


I’ll share a personal example of using these strategies.  I was not looking forward to having a conversation with a contracted employee who I needed to take off the project he was on.  The story I made up was that he was going to be really angry and try to talk me out of my decision, a decision that was best for our company.  I also knew there was plenty of room for him to let me have it around the startup nature of the project and how frustrating the technology was and all the changes that were happening.  I set an intention of how I wanted he and I to feel in the conversation before we had the conversation.  I wanted me to feel empathic and understanding and I wanted him to feel heard and appreciated for what he did bring to the table.  Essentially I valued him as a person and consultant and thought he could do well in a different situation.  I wrote out some bullet points to cover so I wouldn’t lose track and practiced my opening. 


When we did have the discussion I transparently told him that I was nervous about the conversation and asked him if there’s anything that we could co-create that would minimize defensiveness.  I asked him how the project was going from his perspective.  I shared my concerns with him on the project and that we decided that he be removed from this type of client work.  He was not defensive and actually seemed relieved!  He did give me some feedback on how things could improve and we ended the conversation both feeling heard and appreciated.


To learn more about the neuroscience behind conversations check out the work of Judith Glasser and her book “Conversational Intelligence.”


To work with Chris to help you manage challenging leadership conversations in the workplace contact her for a complimentary consult.