An executive coach can help young founders see problems differently as they begin transitioning from scrappy startup founder to leader. But not all coaches are created equal, and investing energy (and money) into a coaching relationship shouldn't be taken lightly if the benefits aren't clear to you.
Ten founders from YEC explain how to pick the right executive coach so that you can make the most of their guidance:
1. Find someone you share chemistry and mindset with.
You shouldn't be afraid to ask questions. Consider this: if you were about to get a tattoo, would you be too shy to voice your concern over the design? Heck no! This is something permanent on your body--you'd be asking all kinds of questions. You should treat your relationship with an executive coach similarly. Get into the nitty gritty details, see where their head is at and make sure you match up.--Rob Fulton, Exponential Black
2. Find a couch who will hold you accountable.
I've worked with a few executive coaches. As your business grows and changes, you'll likely outgrow coaches and find new ones who are better aligned with the stage you're at in your business. Early on, it's important to find a coach who will keep you accountable to your major goals, not just someone who starts every call by saying, "So, what are we talking about this week?"--Brittany Hodak, ZinePak
3. Ask for a needed dose of honesty.
To ensure you don't make the common mistakes of first-time entrepreneurs, they may sometimes have to be very blunt. While your coach should try to understand that you don't know everything, they should also be able to call you out when you are about to make a mistake. Listen to the stories they tell about their early experiences--your mentor should be relatable and trustworthy.--Simon Casuto, eLearning Mind
4. Look for someone with opposing strengths.
5. Make sure they have goodwill towards you and your company.
You can buy advice from almost any successful executive or entrepreneur who's made it before you, but levels of commitment will vary. A good coach will take a genuine interest in your success and in you as a person. Some of the best coaches aren't paid for their services. -Gideon Kimbrell, InList Inc
6. Seek out someone eager to teach by example.
The best executive coaches do less talking and more walking. Anyone can blurt out idealistic pep talks. The smartest and most effective leaders demonstrate how something should be done so you can follow their example. Otherwise, you may end up with an expensive "expert" who will regurgitate "management best practices" she may have read in a textbook.--Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep
7. Look for a mentor, not a "coach."
I'd be hesitant to recommend somebody who is a professional executive coach to a younger founder. Somebody like this would benefit much more from a mentor, preferably a seasoned entrepreneur in a similar industry who can show them the ropes and provide intros and insight based on actual issues they've encountered and overcome.--Travis Steffen, MentorMojo
8. Look for someone who admits their failures.
I address this a lot as a mentor to fellow entrepreneurs and MBA seniors. Your failures are the most important things you have to develop who you are as a person and a business. An executive coach should be able to talk about his/her failures openly as they've learned from their past mistakes.--Parker Powers, Millionaire Network
9. Make sure they are trustworthy and objective.
Being a founder is like being on an island. You have access to mentors, a team, investors and maybe even a board. But there are some things you may not want to share with them so as to not raise any "red flags." An executive coach can provide support in these areas and help to build emotional awareness, navigate challenges with confidence and develop strong communication skills.--Antonio Neves,THINQACTION
10. Ensure they have the ability to bring out your best thinking.
One of your best assets is your own brain and gut instinct--it's important to find a coach who can listen deeply and facilitate your best thinking, not just tell you what to do or jump straight to answers without first helping you organize your own thought process. Innovation will come from the combination of your two skill sets--look for someone who will complement, not overpower you.--Jenny Blake, Jenny Blake