Executive coaching is on the rise.

Despite living within an oppressive hyper-masculine culture that teaches leaders to hide their weaknesses because vulnerability makes people feel insecure, more and more motivated individuals are seeking to improve their personal growth.

Because people and companies alike are starting to understand something fundamental--that optimal performance requires holistic wellness.

When you experience emotional stress--a basic requirement of any demanding job--it coincides with the release of cortisol in the body.

This stress hormone, when experienced over a long period of time, causes problems with your cardiovascular, immune, and GI systems. And all of these health factors are related to behavioral issues like insomnia and psychological challenges such as depression.

As you can see, everything is related.

What you feel impacts how you think. How you think impacts how you behave. And all three--how you think, feel, and behave--impact your physical state.

With all of these factors intertwined, individuals interested in achieving optimal performance are re-integrating mental health and emotional wellbeing back into their wellness routine.

As a coach who works with executives to improve decision making, maximize productivity, and increase emotional intelligence, I think it's important that all individuals interested in coaching know how to find a quality coach.

The truth is that there are many coaches that look great. That have an online presence. That display confidence. And that look like they can help you.

But without looking for the seven simple traits listed below, you may not get the results that you desire. Read the list below to make sure you can maximize your ROI.

1. Basic credentials are an absolute necessity for any quality coach. Make sure they have them.

Coaches don't have any basic requirements, meaning that anyone can call themselves with a life coach. Don't get brainwashed by good marketing--look for coaching certifications that show you they've at least attended a workshop or two.

2. Evidence of advanced training is also highly recommended--it shows commitment.

If you can find a coach that has been trained as a therapist or psychologist, chances are high that they know their stuff. They also have spent a great deal more time, energy, effort, and money to ensure that they provide you with top-quality coaching. These are the real experts.

3. Prioritize coaches that share their thoughts and ideas online so that you know their values.

This is not an absolute rule. Some coaches and therapists are notoriously late to technology and may not have an online presence. However, it can be helpful to know what a coach values so that you can know what to expect.

For example, I value congruence, authenticity, and presence. I believe that trust is the foundation upon which successful coaching matures and provides lasting, transformative value. For clients that are interested in completing worksheets or having me ask them 100 questions instead of cultivating a meaningful relationship, I'm not a good fit.

Knowing the coach's values, then, can save you a lot of time.

4. Look for signs that the coach prioritizes their own personal development.

In their materials, do they appear to be both confident in their ability to help and humble about their own areas of growth? Remember, real confidence is not the masking of weakness, but the self-trust to be unapologetically oneself.

Coaches that don't value their own continued growth have a lower ceiling than coaches constantly working to improve themselves. And that's a fact.

5. Make sure you consult prior to payment to avoid scams and make sure you're a good fit.

For some coaches, you won't have this option. At that point, it's like buying a used iPhone on Craigslist--the burden is on the buyer, not the seller. Try to speak to your coach, even briefly, to determine if you are a good fit for one another.

6. A good coach should make you feel understood even if it's your first time meeting.

During your initial consultation or first session, you should feel that your coach is listening to you. That they value your thoughts. And that they want to learn more about your experiences.

7. A great coach also makes you feel slightly outside of your comfort zone (which maximizes your growth).

Krishnamurti once said that people aren't afraid of the unknown as much as they are the known coming to an end. And I think that's absolutely true.

If you want maximum growth, it requires you to leave your comfort zone.

Coaching challenges you to be more vulnerable than you are in most relationships. Unlike your workplace, coaching creates an environment that asks you to immerse yourself in the unknown--not-knowing what you will say next. No script. No filter. No pitch.

Just honesty. And the ability to trust that the coach will be there with you--standing in the same lack of certainty and discomfort that, paradoxically, leads to the emergence of your own greatness.

A real coach can help elicit your best self. But at the end of the day, you must be the one willing to take the first step. 

Published on: Apr 4, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.