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Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt says a coach is a must-have. Here's how to find one.

Eric Schmidt knows all about success having been at the helm of Google and Alphabet for more than a decade. He also believes everyone who is serious about success needs an executive coach.

Asked in a CNN interview for the best advice he ever got, Schmidt says it was to have a coach. The reason is simple, “One thing people are never good at is seeing themselves as others see them.” Only an executive coach gives you that perspective.

So what should you look for in an expert coach? Here are five points which will help you to find a true expert.

Ask colleagues, peers and customers to recommend a coach.
When I ask clients who their best coach was and how they found the coach, they all say via word of mouth. It is still the best way to find the right person for you.

Decide what you really need. This is not the same as keeping your ego happy.
If you need somebody to bounce ideas off, get a trusted advisor. That could be a mentor, experienced in your industry or at your level. On the other hand, if you need to rattle and shake your mindset or change your deep-rooted (negative) behaviours, get a qualified coach.

Look for a coach with qualifications beyond an entry-level coaching certificate.
Entry-level coaching certificates are normally awarded for knowing a basic coaching process and putting in the hours. That’s like saying anyone who passes their driving test and drives for 60 hours is good enough to be a Formula 1 driver! I have two different post-graduate qualifications which complement each other: a Master of Science degree in Psychology and a postgraduate qualification in Gestalt counselling. This in-depth knowledge is vital in coaching to spot the early signs of executive stress, burnout, addiction and other serious health problems.

Ask the executive coach what their limitations are.
The best coaches know their competences and limits. For example, I have successfully supported clients with relationship breakdowns outside of work. But I draw the line at marriage guidance – this is not my area of expertise. I have other people in my network who can deal with these issues and I am happy to connect the client with them. A sure sign of an coach who is out of their depth is a coach who says they can cover everything.

Have an “no-obligations” first meeting
There has to be professional chemistry between people. The coach doesn’t have to be your best friend. I have coached some people whose management style I would never use in a million years. But it worked for them. The pertinent point is that in every case our coaching relationship was totally open, honest and respectful. We trusted each other. That said, there are a minority of people (both managers and coaches) who let their ego get in the way. The golden rule: if you intuitively sense it is not right in the first meeting, walk away. You will save yourself a lot of pain and wasted time.

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