How to find a coach

In today’s post I’m answering a question from Janet Hipkiss of Corporate Angels . Janet has been thinking of working with a coach and asks:

“How do I choose? Why would I need one?  It’s a minefield out there!”

First of all, why would you want to work with a coach? Being a business owner can be lonely. A coach could help you if you’re looking for a sounding board, some direction, someone to help you clarify, define and reach your goals or to  get over any mental or emotional blocks that stand in your way.

If you’re looking for advice and information, then you’re probably better suited to a business consultant, adviser or mentor than to a coach. Although there is usually some overlap between these different roles.

And why does it feel like a minefield? There are just so many coaches out there, all offering something slightly different and using a variety of descriptions like ‘money coach’, ‘success coach’, ‘marketing coach’, ‘life coach’, ‘personal coach’. The coaching profession isn’t regulated in the UK, so anyone can call themselves a coach. Coach accreditation and training is very much available, but not everyone calling themselves a coach will be trained or accredited, plus the length and depth of the training varies a lot.

The word ‘coaching’ is now used to cover a huge range of support that includes the description I gave at the start of this post but is also used to cover things like  1-to-1 tuition, mentoring and training.

To make it more confusing, what you think you want from coaching isn’t always what you really want!

Let’s say you hire a coach because you want to earn more. A good coach won’t take that at face value, instead, she’ll ask you to explore what that money means to you. When it turns out that the reason you want more money is because it will bring you more recognition, the coach will help you to get the recognition you are seeking.

A good coach looks beneath the obvious to what you really want. Otherwise you end up working towards the wrong goal.

No wonder it feels like a minefield! So where do you go from here?

The first step is to have a think about why you might need a coach. Don’t worry about defining specific goals, that’s part of your coach’s job. Aim for something like:

  • Get more confidence
  • Take my business to the next level
  • Find work that has more meaning for me
  • Get through a major change in my life and come out of the other side happier and more successful
  • Have someone to keep me on track as I work through a big project

With that in mind, have a look around coaches that either specialise in your subject area (e.g. freelancers, mums, artists, accountants, entrepreneurs…) or help people with the particular challenges you’re facing (divorce, moving abroad…). You can find coaches in internet forums, speaking at business events, at networking events, even as the authors of books. It’s worth asking around for recommendations, too. You could also try the Life Coach Directory.

Once you’ve found some coaches who could be a good fit, try to find out a bit more about them. Most coaches are pretty active online, so you should be able to get a good feel for their style from their blog, website, Twitter feed, Facebook page or you might be able to download a free e-book, newsletter or e-course.

Deciding which coach is best for you often comes down to a gut feeling. You have to like them, feel a sense of connection with them. It’s a relationship, after all! If you find a coach who ticks all the right boxes in theory but who doesn’t ‘click’ with you, then move on.

That said, you may be surprised by who you actually connect with! The best coach I worked with was a retreat leading, slightly new-age young grandmother from Colorado with a charming habit of bursting into song! Not an obvious choice for a down-to-earth IT trainer from England, but she was just who I needed at the time.

Which reminds me, you can be coached 100% over the phone – there’s no need to live near your coach.

You don’t always have to work one-to-one, either. Many offer group coaching which has the benefits of being cheaper and having more people to ounce ideas around, but the flip side is that you won’t have the individual attention and confidentiality. Personally, I actually prefer the buzz of a group to individual coaching.

Once you’ve found a coach or two who could be a good match, try to get to talk to them. Many will offer you a half-hour free consultation and if they don’t, then feel free to ask.

Questions you might like to ask are:

  • How long have you been coaching? How many ‘coaching hours’ is that? (If they have been working very part-time for a year, that might not add up to much actual experience.)
  • Where did you train? What are your qualifications? (There’s a quick guide to qualifications on this FAQ page)
  • What types of clients do you usual work with?
  • How long do you typically work with clients? (6 months? several years?)
  • How would you approach working with me? Where would you start?
  • How much do you charge? (and is it a monthly flat fee or it could be a package e.g. 10 sessions over 6 months for £x)
  • Talk about why you’re thinking of getting a coach – what are their thoughts? Do they think they could help you with this?

Notice if they are they really listening to you. Do they want to know about you? Watch out for that ‘gut feeling’ –  is this a person you want to work with?

By that point you should have a really good idea if you’ve found the right coach for you!

If you have any questions or advice, please do leave a comment below 🙂

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Creative Commons License photo credit: paris_corrupted

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