How to choose a coach

I care about the image of coaching profession and I want as many people as possible to be happy with their experience. I’ve heard stories about people paying money to coaches and essentially not achieving anything. And those stories really bother me.

People seeking coaching should know that results will depend greatly on how careful you are choosing your coach. The coach who is the best choice for some clients can be absolutely worthless for you. And, in this case, you’ll just have pleasant conversations.

I also hire coaches for myself from time to time. And also want to make my choice more conscious. Based on my experience, it is important to pay attention to the following:

1. Trust

You can call it a chemistry, rapport, connection, but essentially you need to understand whether you are going to trust this person.

You will need to share very personal information, talk about your motivation, values, dreams, and fears. Will you be comfortable sharing all that with this person? Are you going to let yourself be vulnerable in his presence? Do you feel that he is there for you?

2. Partnership

Coaching is based on equal relationships. If you feel that the other person imposes his expert viewpoints on you or forces you, even ever so slightly, to a certain line of thinking, it is very unlikely that you will get good coaching.

Do you feel that you are going to be an equal partner in this relationship?

At the same time, a coach is not there to please you. The coach may also challenge you and say things that other people will not dare to say. If you will need to leave your comfort zone, will this person will be able to support you? Will you accept tough feedback from this coach?

3. Feedback and referrals

Who can recommend this coach? Is it possible to talk to his previous clients? Is there any feedback about working with him available?

Also, if that’s an option, ask your friends and colleagues whether they have ever worked with a coach? Were they happy with the results and can they recommend that coach? Personal recommendation from a trusted person is a great way to find a coach.

4. Is there a way to ‘try before buying’?

When you just meet the coach to discuss his services you won’t learn much about how this coach works and whether his style will serve you. Find out how you can check his work. Are there demo sessions where you can see his work? Is it possible to get a free session or a discount for a first session to check his approach?

Also find out what’s going to happen if you are not happy with the results? What are the conditions required for stopping that coaching engagement?

5. Check qualifications

Some people call themselves coaches without having any specific coaching training. These people can be experienced therapists, trainers, or subject-matter experts. So find out why they call themselves a coach?

Look for the following things:
– Education. Where and for how long did they study? Are those courses accredited by a professional organization (more about them below)? Be aware that coaching training cannot be too short because building coaching skills require time and deep personal work.
– Certifications by a professional organization. Are these people certified by any of the respected coaching bodies? Make sure they are certified and not just members — there might be a big difference between those two.
– Continuous development. What does a coach do to ensure the quality of his service? You cannot just pass your training, get your certification, and immediately become a great coach. Professional coaches need to learn a lot and self-reflect on their practice and their client cases. So they might work with mentors, supervisors, or have additional training.

With these criteria it will be much easier to make your choice. Also, always talk to different coaches before making a final decision. Ask questions, a lot of questions. Make a conscious decision. And get the extraordinary coaching experience you deserve.

A few words about professional organizations.
There are a lot of professional coaching organizations that strive to increase the quality of coaching and establish the standards for the profession. They conduct research, accredit coach training programs, certify coaches, develop ethical rules for their members and so on. They might be international organizations with thousands of members or operate on a national level. A lot of them have a complaint procedure to revisit the cases when a coach doesn’t work in an ethical way.
The biggest and most prominents ones are the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). Also you can see coaches certified by Association for Coaching (AC), mostly in the UK, and the International Association for Coaching (IAC) — in the USA.
If your coach is somehow affiliated with these or other professional bodies find out more about this organization and what its membership or certificate means.

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