How to find a great coach

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You’re ready to make a change, you’re stuck in the wrong job, burned out, in transition, or you have finally landed your dream job and want to make sure that you crush it in every way possible. You want a coach.

But how do you find a great coach?

#1 Make sure you are ready. Are you genuinely ready to take on board observations that might challenge you? Are you ready to work hard in and out of your coaching sessions? Are you excited about the possibility of having someone hold space for what you are trying to create?

#2 See what HR has to offer. There may be coaches your organization already has a contract with or recommends, internal coaches or professional development funding you can use towards having a coach. If you are certain that you want to leave your current organization, think twice about using these resources, but if you are trying to achieve more in your current role, or need support to achieve even greater things or cope with challenges where you are, this can be a great option.

#3 Use your network. Facebook and LinkedIn are great places to drop the question — Can anyone recommend a coach? Even better, think of those you admire or trust and ask them directly if they have hired a coach. Make sure you ask good questions about why they liked the coach and what the clear impact of hiring that coach was. The International Coaching Federation and other coaching networks also have ‘coach finders’ online, but nothing beats a personal recommendation.

#4 Don’t (necessarily) look for an expert from your field. While you should do the usual, bio/resume/google to get a sense of what kind of leader a coach is and has been, you are not hiring them for their resume or credentials, you are hiring them for their ability to help you achieve what you really want (see step #5). It might be nice to have someone coach you who understands the particular nature of your field, but it is not essential. This might seem counterintuitive but a coach’s job is the person in front of them. A great coach can coach you, even if they have never built an app, performed surgery or trained dolphins.

If you still feel certain you need a subject expert, what you might be seeking is more of a coach/consultant hybrid. For example, I will work with some clients on their strategies, or to facilitate something, both as a coach and a consultant. Just make sure you are very clear in terms of what you are expecting (see ‘after you find a coach’ below). If you do want someone to teach you something or to do something for you — you are seeking something in addition to just coaching. This can be a great option too, just ensure you are clear with your coach on what you really want and need and what you expect of them.

#5 Vet your prospective coach. Whether the coach is internal to your organization, a recommendation, or a coach you found online — you are hiring them and should use a combination of diligence and intuition to figure out if they are a fit for you. If you’ve never had a coach before it might be a good idea to vet two or more coaches to get a sense of what’s out there. There are common principles and best practices for coaching but no two coaches are exactly the same. Decide if you want a coach to meet with you face to face most of the time or by phone or both. Meeting with a coach by phone might be a great option if you are trying to add it to an already packed schedule.

#6 Speak to your coach. Before making a commitment of any kind, speak to prospective coaches. Notice how different coaches approach your first conversation and whether that feels right to you. A great coach won’t take every client, and they will be very keen themselves to figure out if they are the right person to support you. Some coaches do prefer to coach in a specific field, or they have a special area of focus. If I think a client could benefit from a different coach or a different approach I will let them know.

#7 Ask yourself important questions. While you are speaking for the first time keep in mind the following questions: Do I think this person can really support me to get where I’m going? Did I learn anything new about myself, or my situation from this initial conversation? Am I excited to keep going in this way, with this person? Another shortcut question can be to ask yourself: who did most of the talking? Coaching is about tapping into your inner wisdom, not getting a load of advice from someone else. If your potential coach is doing all of the talking, that’s consulting, commiseration or something else entirely. You should feel as if the coach ‘gets’ you and is completely focused on you.

#8 Invest. It’s the same old adage that you get what you pay for. That does not mean you need to go into debt to pay for a coach — it means you need to be clear what it is worth to you based on your resources and what you are trying to achieve. Coaches exist at many price points and many also have different rates for non-profits or do pro bono work on the side. If cost is a true obstacle — not just more than you hope to part with — talk to your prospective coach. Many will not negotiate, but may be interested in your thinking and obstacles.

After you hire your coach…

Create a contract. All of the great coaches I know do this in writing to articulate both how the coaching will work and what the objectives for coaching are. This contract helps both the coach and client be sure they are on the same page about what they are working towards. Sometimes it takes a few sessions to iron out exactly where you are headed, and renegotiation of objectives as you go is possible, but it is worth taking as much time as needed to have this shared and concrete understanding to reflect back.

Good luck finding a great coach!

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