Questions to Address when Choosing
• Does the coach have a clear idea of how to achieve
results through coaching?
• Does the coach have the required technical skill set (e.g.,
experience in management or human resources)?
• Does the coach have the right personal characteristics
(e.g., ability to establish rapport, trustworthiness, willingness to listen)?
• Does the coach have an understanding of the client’s
work and organizational culture?
• Does the coach have a strong track record in coaching?
• Can the coach be available when needed and accommodate preferences for on-site, in-person, or telephone
• Are the coach’s fees within the budget for coaching?
there isn’t a solid base of theory and research on which coaches
The coach search should concentrate first on finding someone with the ability to understand clients’ needs and environment from a first-hand perspective. Ideally, the coach for a
senior student affairs officer would be someone with high-level
administrative experience in academia.
Some clients prefer coaches who have actually walked in
their professional “shoes,” but unless the coaching need is
related to professional subject matter, that is usually unnecessary. More important for professional development coaching
is that coaches keenly appreciate the problems and solutions
associated with managing staff. Other prerequisites for strong
coaches include listening well and helping clients solve their
own problems using a wide variety of techniques.
Also, some clients assume that it is best to find coaches who
closely resemble them, but there are no data to support this
assumption. “My coach does not share my race or gender,”
says Helms. “I have never found my coach to be ineffective
based upon our cultural differences. In fact, they complement
As with any hiring situation, once a client has determined
that the coach has the basic requirements, it comes down to
fit. No coaching arrangement will work without mutual trust
and good chemistry.
Some coaches push clients very hard to make changes,
such as becoming more assertive or improving presentation
skills. In these cases, the coach will often assign “homework”
between meetings. If clients do not want to have their feet
held to the fire, it is important to make sure the coach is willing to employ a less directive style.
In cases of performance management coaching, a client’s
supervisor may want the final say in hiring the coach and may
want to be involved in setting clear expectations and timelines
for observable change. Still, it would be counter-productive
for a manager to force a coach on an employee, if either party
was convinced that coaching would not succeed. Before signing on the dotted line, clients will want to ensure that fees and
logistical arrangements meet their criteria.
Logistical Issues and Costs
The length of a coaching assignment is typically six to twelve
months. It could be shorter if coaching is part of a performance improvement plan that requires that the staff member
demonstrate a change in behavior by a certain date. The duration, frequency, and length of a coaching relationship are typically at the discretion of the client and are determined with
budget issues in mind. Some managers prefer longer meetings
every few weeks. Others enjoy the benefit of being able to pick
up the phone to debrief situations as they arise. Of critical
importance is the coach’s ability to have a strong grasp of the
clients’ issues and goals because coaching is contextual. At the
minimum, a two-hour, face-to-face meeting at the start of
the coaching process is usually required. Follow-up meetings
can take place by telephone if that method meets the needs of
The January 2007 issue of Harvard Management Update
reported that a six-month arrangement with a highly qualified, highly experienced coach can cost between $15,000 and
$30,000. Fortunately, coaches who work with academic leaders and managers have lower fee structures.
Nisbet reports that coaching fees for Duke University
student affairs staff members typically range from $150 to
$350 for each coaching assignment. A discount of 10 to
15 percent can often be arranged if several staff members are
working with the same coach or coaching company. Although
fees are often quoted at an hourly rate, it may be possible to
hire a coach on retainer for a certain timeframe, providing
staff access to the coach on an as-needed basis.
Gain a Return on Investment
In 2008, Fast Company partnered with Brian Underhill of
Coach Source to conduct a research project about coaching
with 48 companies. The results of the survey attest to the