This is the fourth article in a series designed to advance your understanding of coaching and the opportunities a coaching program can create in your life.
Coaching is an unregulated business and finding the coach that is best suited to help you advance your performance can be daunting.
This article is written to identify some considerations in your search for a coach, as well as offer a few tactics to help you find your perfect coach.
The perfect coach? The coach that you click with, that truly hears you and advances your performance in powerful ways that are most important to you.
-Coaching is an Unregulated Field-
Yep – any person can call themselves a coach and charge for coaching services without any specific certification or training. On one hand a coach may have completed rigorous training through an accredited program and coached dozens of clients over the years, or she may have no real training and minimal experience. And those considerations may affect her ability to be a successful coach for you, or they may not.
Because coaching is not regulated – and in high demand – coaches and coaching businesses are popping up pretty much everywhere. It is big business. The landscape is dotted with coaches who purport to support your growth and discovery. It is my observation that there are a few excellent coaches out there and some really good ones. There are also some well-intentioned, but ineffective coaches and some that aren’t even well-intentioned.
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) has done a great job (in my opinion) of bringing standards to this unregulated industry. In particular, the ICF provides accreditation to coaching training programs and also ICF certification to individual coaches who meet the standards.
Here is a link to the ICF website: https://coachingfederation.org/
As a coach who has completed several ICF accredited training programs, I can attest to the rigor that the ICF applies to coaching schools it accredits. And while some of the best coaches I know have not pursued individual ICF certification (mostly because they are sufficiently in demand without upgrading their professional biographies) many others have. In the absence of any other information, narrowing your coaching search to those coaches who have completed ICF certified coaching programs and/or are individually ICF certified, will yield a list of coaches that have at least met some standard.
My best recommendation is to ask acquaintances who they have used as a coach and what they liked or didn’t like about their coach. If an acquaintance’s coach sounds as though she might be a good fit, don’t hesitate to set up a conversation to learn more. Any coach (that I know) will take the time to answer questions for someone who is curious about coaching.
After the conversation, it might not feel like a good fit for either you or the prospective coach; don’t be shy about asking the coach for a recommendation. I frequently refer people to coaches I know and admire, and also benefit from the referrals of other coaches.
Even if it feels like a great fit, don’t commit just yet! Interview at least three coaches before naming your perfect coach.
The pandemic has taught me that I don’t have to be in the same room to provide quality coaching. Previously, I thought that coaching had to be face-to-face. I like to say that I don’t listen to my clients through my ears, but instead listen to them between my shoulders. To truly hear a coaching client, the connection goes far deeper than the basic conversational level. I didn’t believe that connection could be replicated over the internet, but I was wrong. I have not noticed any loss of fidelity in coaching remotely.
The good news is that your coach can be located practically anywhere.
I mention this here, because it opens up a lot of non-geographically-specific options for your coaching search. The downside is that the search can quickly become overwhelming if you are open to pursuing coaches who are not necessarily in your area.
For this article I practiced finding coaches online for a few hours. These are my takeaways:
Don’t use Google – at least not at first. Google’s results are ad driven, and it appears that coaching schools and training programs are far more inclined to invest in Google advertising than most coaches. Either that, or there are actually more coaching training programs than coaches, which raises a lot of questions for me. Remember when I mentioned that a non-geographic search can be overwhelming? That is most true on Google, in my experience.
LinkedIn is your friend for your initial search – even then, it can be overwhelming, but much more manageable than Google or other search engines. I recommend using at least four search words to narrow down the field. What do you want from a coach? Include that in your search. Example: “Certified Developmental Business Coach”, or “Mind Body Somatic Coach” or “Corporate Executive Onboarding Coach” or “Certified Performance Success Coach”. Searches will typically yield pages of results; do not hesitate to play with the search words until you get consistent results that fit your interests.
As you review the search results click on a prospective coach’s LinkedIn page for any coaches that pique your interest. Why were you interested in that particular coach? What does your gut tell you?
If you are still curious, click on the prospective coach’s contact info. There should be a professional website listed. Visit the website and see if this further fuels your curiosity. If you would like to learn more, write down the coach’s name to revisit later. If there is no website listed, maybe move on, unless you are really interested. That becomes the time for your Google search.
At the end of this process, you should have a list of names of prospective coaches that you are interested in learning more about.
-The More the Merrier (to a point)-
At this point, I’d invite you to look over your list of names. It is time to prioritize your prospective coaches with a forced ranking. Review the LinkedIn pages and the websites (or Google searches) of every coach you have listed. What did you like? How strongly do you feel a connection based on the LinkedIn profile and professional website? Often, if you feel a strong connection, it is because the coach specializes in clients just like you and has tailored the language and imagery as a beacon for you to find. It can be a good thing.
Based on your ranking, narrow your list to at least three, but no more than five.
Reach out to the coaches on LinkedIn or on their website to set up interviews (I like to do 45 minutes “chemistry chats” with prospective clients, but 30 minutes tends to be the standard).
Do NOT select your coach until you have interviewed at least three!
-The Chemistry Chat-
You can learn a lot about a prospective coach in a 30 minute to one hour conversation. It is useful to create a list of questions (you deserve to have your questions answered before stepping into a coaching commitment), but it is my opinion that the coach should be asking you questions.
Notice what you notice:
-How did the prospective coach make you feel? Valued? Important? Worthy?
-Did you feel heard throughout the conversation?
-Did the prospective coach clearly understand and articulate your coaching objectives?
-How will your outcomes be achieved?
-Is this a one-size-fits-all program? If not, how will it be tailored specifically to you and your needs?
-Can you be truly authentic and vulnerable with this person?
-Take Time to Process-
After you have interviewed all of your prospective coaches take at least 24 hours to process your options. Who rises to the top? Why? Your gut can be a powerful indicator and it should be both trusted and challenged in such an important decision.
If you would like ask clarifying questions from one of your prospective coaches, don’t hesitate to reach out for more information. Again, you deserve to have your questions answered.
-Pricing and fees-
I’ve touched on this topic in other articles. As you consider your coach, your budget will invariably be part of your deliberation. Please remember that you are paying for outcomes, not the coach. The coach is the means to that end. How much is your stated objective worth to you? What is the impact if you do not achieve it?
-Choose Your Coach!-
I invite you to enter your program wholeheartedly with openness, willingness and vulnerability. Because choosing the right coach – someone who guides you on an important journey and advances your performance in the areas that are most important to you – is extremely important, but just as important is how you show up for your program. I wish you a fulfilling experience.