Home > Coaching, Leadership > What should you look for in a coach?

What should you look for in a coach?

It seems to me that these days everyone is a coach – or being advised to have a coach. It’s one of those business ‘fads’ – or is it? It isn’t a fad in sports – people have been coached for decades and I suspect will continue to be for decades to come. The same in the arts – they tend to call them tutors or teachers, but it’s basically the same thing. Academia as well, they tend to call them professors. And that leads me to where, I suspect, the business world has gone wrong – or at least is being lead astray by the great mass of people wanting to make a living as coaches. You see, I think a coach should be a tutor, teacher, adviser of the best and most inspiring kind. The type who is an expert themselves, and is able to help their coachee develop expertise. Not by telling them what to do, but not by asking a few questions and leaving them to figure it out themselves either. The coach should know about up-to-date practices and research in all aspects of business, and be making sure the coachee has considered everything they should have considered, and has accessed the information they need to access. A great coach is a teacher, inspirer and supporter.

Would a sports player be happy with a coach that got to practice and said “Now what did we agree you would do last practice? How did that go? What did you learn? What would you like to do in the next month between our sessions?” I think they might be slightly miffed at how much they were paying to get that. And yet I have seen business coaching programs that are exactly that. Sports coaches are expected to be experts in their sport and managing practices, overseeing and consulting about player nutrition and fitness, and attending all the ‘matches’. What about college students? Would they be happy with a Professor who asked of their thesis “How do you think that went? Oh good, well all the best with that.” and then they fail because they haven’t followed correct research practices, and they haven’t found the right references for their topic etc etc. No, the fact of the matter is, sports people, artists and students expect far more from their ‘coaches’ than some business people have been lead to believe they should expect.

Now I know this view won’t make me all that popular with some coaches out there, but frankly that doesn’t bother me. I’m much more concerned about business people paying for coaching that won’t work, and will end them up not accessing the coaching they actually need. Because there are many fantastic coaches out there who can deliver what you need. So if you are thinking about getting a coach, or you already have one whom you would like to assess for value, what should you be looking for? Here’s a checklist to make sure you are getting a great coach –

  • Offers coaching in a specific industry or field in which they have considerable experience and expertise (beware generalist coaches who can supposedly coach anyone or whose only qualification is that of being a coach)
  • Has broad and in-depth experience in that industry or field rather than being a specialist in only one area (beware a coach aiming to secure your exec or CEOs as clients who has only ever worked in one type of role eg accounting)
  • Has significant business and life experience ie been around the block a few times and learnt from mistakes (beware the young, attractive and trendy coach straight from coaching school)
  • Offers a complimentary first session so you can assess whether this is a good fit for you (beware the coach sold by their superior or agent and whom you only meet at your first paid session)
  • Offers on-going contact between formal sessions so that you are never without support (beware the coaching programs that are simply a monthly session)
  • Is comfortable pushing you into taking action, and challenging your views (beware the ‘too nice’ coach who won’t really make you think, learn or grow)
  • Ensures you take responsibility for your decisions and actions (beware the coach who instructs you what to do)
  • Does not have ‘shelf’ products, systems or processes to sell (beware the coach who wants to provide you with other products and services related to issues that come up in coaching)

One of our coaching clients (a CEO) recently told me that she was renewing her coaching contract because “I can raise any topic, and you are able to understand, relate and ensure I get a good perspective on it.” That’s the type of feedback we expect from *Apex clients, but wouldn’t get if the coach had no significant relevant experience.

If you use the checklist you are much less likely to find a ‘lemon’ coach, and much more likely to find one of the many skilled, fantastic coaches out there who can really make a difference to your career and business.

Jenni is an Apex Coach providing coaching within the Professional and Services industries. *Apex is one of many excellent coaching programs available and is provided by Strategies Direct.  You can find out more at http://www.strategies-direct.com/apexcoaching.html

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Categories: Coaching, Leadership
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