Finding the 'Right' Coach


Last week I wrote about the topic of coaching and how everyone, regardless of your age, industry or background needs a coach.

But how do you find the 'right' one?

Sometimes you are given a coach, so it's not a choice and you have to make the best of it. I have been in that position myself a few years back. The company I worked for picked a particular organization for leadership development. And part of that program was assigning a coach to each participant. The challenge was there didn't appear to be a process for matching each of us with coaches. In fact, it felt quite random. Now, I know that the organization had good intentions but me and my coach...we didn't jive.

While the program was under the guise of a 'Leadership Development Program," to me, it seemed very much a program telling me what I should do in order to move up within the organization. It wasn't necessarily about my own growth, development or learning per se but learning about what 'tricks of the trade' would help me 'go far.' I wanted to learn more about issues, how to develop myself personally and professionally. And I just wasn't getting it.

That's why when you have an option to find your own coach or you are currently seeking out a coach or you are given a coach by your company and aren't sure about the fit, it's important to consider these 4 things.

1. Your Mental Model

Your mental model consists of your 4 Drives of Motivation and your 'Lens' through which you see the world.


As a human being you have 4 drives. The drive to:
  • Acquire, i.e., taking or keeping something or desiring status
  • Bond, i.e., forming relationships, your social identity
  • Learn, i.e., curiosity, expanding your knowledge base
  • Defend, i.e., protecting yourself, reactive, fight or flight response

These will vary depending on our situation but when we are faced with a choice, a decision to make, each of these drives comes into play.

Also, as a human being you have a 'lens' through which you see the world and that is composed of your:
  • Social norms
  • Personal values
  • Past experiences

Your drives and your lens lead you to make one decision or one choice over another. They make up your mental model.

2. Your coach's mental model

Your coach or potential coach is a human being, too so it serves you to ask questions that can help you better understand their mental model.
  • What do they see as being 'normal' or how things are done?
  • What are their values?
  • What has been their experiences in work, at home, in their community?

3. What are you looking for?

This can be a challenging one because if you have had a coach or know someone who has a coach now, you know. You sign up for coaching in one area and then as you get into the program you learn something else - often times about yourself...something you didn't anticipate uncovering or revealing or honestly, even being there in the first place.

I say this is challenging because when people sign up for one of my coaching programs or ask me to speak or conduct a workshop they are usually looking for one (or more) of the following:
  • Better communication
  • Gaining more time in their day, without using another calendar or organizer or App
  • Setting a strategy in an area that is truly meaningful to them
  • Growing and learning - themselves and their team
  • Increasing their profits and revenues
  • Being better in business, at home, etc.
Yet, often times, what I hear from them when I ask what they are learning, getting out of the program or speech or workshop, I hear:
  • Wow! It's okay to be me...but I need to work on what or who that really is...I have neglected myself longer than I realized
  • I never thought to ask that person what they needed
  • I'm now able to get home before my kids get into bed at night and spend time with them
  • I feel the most healthy than I have in a long time
  • I smile easier and laugh louder
  • My Team is enjoying each other

It may be one of these things or something completely different. But the point is to think about what you are looking to achieve by hiring a coach, by working with them. It will take time and money so you might as well get the most out of it that you can. And side note - the more you think about this and are thoughtful in the decision the more you AND your coach succeed.

Which brings me to my last point...

4. Is it a good fit?

Some questions to ask include:
  • Do we have similar personal values?
  • Overall, what does their 'lens' look like? How do they see the world?
  • Do their values and 'lens' jive with mine?
  • Can they give me what I want?

This is one that I always tell people to go with their gut reaction. And if you are one of those who says you don't have gut reactions, then listen to that voice in your head or person over your shoulder that says either "YES!" or "NO!"

The YES! reaction is easy. It's the 'no's' or ' might work' or 'maybe's" that may seem hard at first. But here's a tip...

If it's not a YES! then walk away. You can walk away or say no politely but walk away. It's better for you and your coach or potential coach.

So, do you need a coach? Yes.

Who is the 'right' coach? That's where the fun begins. Once you start asking some of the questions I share in this article, you will not only start honing in on what you want but you will learn something about yourself in the process.

And to me, that is one of the most beautiful things about coach - uncovering and discovering what has always been there all along.