While much has been written about how to select an executive coach, there’s very little information out there about another common situation: picking the wrong coach.

Leaders mismatch with coaches for a variety of reasons. They may not be sure what to look for when selecting a coach, or they may not even be given their choice of coaches.

Whatever the cause, the coaching relationship may not work out, and considering a new coach is important if leaders are determined to achieve the results they want.

Here are three steps I have seen work for clients when they realize they have matched with the wrong coach.

Determine why it doesn’t feel like a match. Is it a chemistry issue, or are you just not making progress? Does the coach talk too little or too much? Is she too structured or too vague in her approach? Has some of her feedback not landed well with you?

Address your specific concerns with your coach. Ask for what you want: more or less input, more or less of an agenda, more or less direct feedback. Good coaches are open to this feedback. If your conversation with your coach isn’t productive or if you remain dissatisfied after a few meetings, take the steps necessary to switch to a different coach.


Share your rationale with the person sponsoring your coaching. If you decide the relationship isn’t a fit, schedule a conversation with the person responsible for your coaching engagement — either your boss or a human resources expert. Be transparent and specific about your concerns. Expect them to ask about any tough feedback you may have received and how that plays into your thinking about the coaching engagement.

Executive coaching should be a transformative experience for you as a leader and as a person. It can actually change the trajectory of your life and relationships. If you follow these steps, you can make sure you have the right coach along for the journey.

(Sharon Dougherty is the CEO of Priority Coaching.)