Choosing the Right Coach for You

When you are focussing on self-improvement, be it in sports, business, or personal development, a critical question often arises: "What should I expect from my coach's approach?"

A coach plays a pivotal role in guiding and empowering individuals to reach their goals and the nature of this guidance can vary significantly. While some coaches adopt a hands-on, directive style, providing specific instructions and feedback, others prefer a more facilitative, client-centred approach, fostering self-discovery and personal growth.

The key is to find a coach whose style aligns with your needs and preferences, as their approach can profoundly impact your success and satisfaction in the coaching relationship.

Ultimately, it's essential to open a dialogue with your prospective coach to ensure a mutual understanding of expectations and objectives, thus setting the stage for a productive and transformative coaching journey.

When working within organisations, a coach's approach should encompass a holistic understanding of the systemic, cultural, and environmental issues at play. The coach will recognise and appreciate the complexities of the organisation and the dynamics within the teams they work with. Additionally, a skilled coach maintains continual awareness of how the coaching process impacts everyone in the system and vice versa, fostering a harmonious and productive environment.

brown game pieces on white surface
brown game pieces on white surface

One of the key aspects of an effective coach's approach is encouraging a shift in viewpoint. This entails taking you from merely observing the bark on the tree to seeing the bigger picture from a helicopter's perspective.

By broadening perspective, you can better understand the interconnectedness of various factors as you begin to work through your options and next steps.

Additionally, a coach aids in helping you distinguish between high and low leverage changes, allowing for a more focused and strategic approach to personal and professional development.

Finally, a forward-thinking coach encourages the exploration of short- and long-term perspectives, plans, and actions. This enables you to set meaningful and achievable goals that align with your vision for the future, fostering a sense of purpose and direction.

Are you a qualified coach? Look for recognised qualifications and certifications. Bodies such as ILM, Association for Coaching (AC), CIPD, EMCC or ICF often indicate a coach's professionalism and commitment to best practices.

How many years of coaching experience do you have? Capture examples of clients they have worked with in the past and any specific industry or sector knowledge. They should be able to provide testimonials or references at your request.

How do you maintain your continual professional development? A good coach will be committed to their ongoing development and most have their own coach or group of coaches where they nurture their skillsets. Additionally, best practice includes attending Coaching Supervision, where they take coaching situations to a Coaching Supervisor for support and validation of their approach and application, in a continual improvement setting.

How would you describe your coaching style and approach? Coaches often utilise tools and techniques and hone skills in their preferred frameworks. As mentioned in the introduction to this article, they might be directive or experiential, holding space for you to think. Consider what style will work best for meeting your objectives and your own learning style.

How long are your sessions? Typically, coaching sessions are anywhere between one and two hours.

What are the boundaries and ethical guidelines you follow as a coach? Its important to establish trust and know that confidentiality is maintained throughout the coaching process.

Questions to Reflect and Clarify

Do I like and trust the coach? This is possibly the number one priority, as building a strong rapport and a trusted connection with your coach is foundational to a successful coaching relationship. It will impact your openness to suggestions, options and possibilities and how much you are willing to share of your inner most thoughts.

What are my expectations? Clarify your own expectations and desired outcomes from coaching. Knowing what you hope to achieve will guide you in selecting a coach who aligns with your objectives.

What are my goals and objectives? This is defined by a great quote from Bill Copeland “the trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score”. Goals can become clearly defined and explored in your early coaching sessions to ensure they are in fact the goals you want to achieve. You’d be amazed how many times initial goals make way for more pressing objectives, once you get started on your coaching journey. Ensure your coach is aligned with helping you achieve these goals.

How will I know this is working? Establish measurable indicators of success with your coach. This helps track progress and determine the effectiveness of the coaching process.

By considering these qualifiers alongside the principles of a coach's approach, you can make a well-informed decision when choosing a coach who best suits your needs, ultimately enhancing personal and professional growth.

How do you provide feedback and assess a client's progress during coaching? The coach may have tools or assessments to measure progress, such as pre-coaching and interim questionnaires. They may send follow up actions or ask you to maintain your notes, or leave this completely in your hands to manage. Either way, it is likely that they start each session with a review and a chance for you to reflect on your progress.

What are your fees and payment terms? Fees are highly variable, based on session length, experience and areas of specialism. Remember it’s about the value the coaching sessions hold to you and ultimately that they meet the objectives you set out to achieve.

What are your cancellation and rescheduling policies? Like all businesses, coaches will have terms and conditions, which may have cost implications to last minute changes and cancellations, particularly if they have had to pre book venues and travel arrangements.

What happens if I feel that coaching is not working for me? This will be captured in the coach's terms and conditions and ethical coaches would not want to continue working with someone if its not providing the support they seek. In extreme scenarios, you may also want to know the level of Professional Indemnity Insurance they have in place. Its important to discuss any miss-match of expectation and aim to move forward positively.

Are you available virtually or can you meet easily in person at a time that works for me? Consider your preferred mode of interaction – virtual or in-person – and ensure that the coach's availability aligns with your schedule and location.

Do you offer a free-of-charge discovery meeting? A reputable coach often provides an initial, no-cost discovery meeting. This introductory session allows you to get a sense of the coach's style, approach, and whether there is a mutual fit between your needs and their expertise. It's a valuable opportunity to gauge the potential of the coaching relationship without any financial commitment.

Questions to Ask the Coach

Things to consider when choosing your Coach/Mentor

To help you make an informed decision and find the right coach for you, I have outlined a set of questions to pose to potential coaches and use as qualifiers for your own thoughts. These qualifiers will be your compass and guide as you embark on working through your current situation.

Article: Choosing the Right Coach

Author: Tracy Filler

Date: October 2023

Helping you pay attention to what is possible