A question was asked a while back on a Linked In discussion group, "How can you tell whether a coach is any good?" It was a fair question, because there is a huge variety in the coaching field, and from a number of different perspectives. So while this post won't claim to be a be-alland end-all reference to help you choose well, it will give you some starting criteria.
- The question that goes begging from the start is, "Why are you thinking about engaging a coach?" What are you looking for, and what are you trying to achieve? Until you know the answer to these questions, you're shooting darts with your eyes closed.
- Are you looking for answers, or are you looking for questions that will help you to come up with your own answers? Consultants are answer people - trained coaches are question people. As a matter of fact, coaches tend to come from the perspective that their job is to resist the urge to answer questions for you in your relationship with them. Their job is to help you determine the right action to take - and only you can define what "right" means to you.
- Does the coach have training or credentials? There are a variety of certifying organizations, and the best require both passage of an exam (body of knowledge) and a proficiency (coaching in action) test.
- Does the coach use a process? Sometimes your presenting (initial) issue is not the real issue, but rather a symptom of the real issue or a stand-in (proxy) when you haven't wanted to deal with the real issue. A process can help you go beneath the surface and figure out what the top priority is for your attention and action. The coach may use resource materials (books, assessments, action plans, etc.) to help you explore.
- Over what span of time does the engagement go? Some coaches will have a process that lasts for a specified number of sessions. Others will go session by session or month by month with you.
- What is your chemistry with the coach? Coaching is a relationship, and so personality, temperament, communication style, and even sometimes gender can play a part in how comfortable you feel. The best coach for you might not always be soothing - she or he might have to nudge you outside your comfort zone in order for you to take action that you haven't been willing to take on your own.
- Have your friends, colleagues or family members had experience with this coach? A coaching relationship is often established via referral, so inquire about whether they have a recommended name for you. This will narrow the field to a reasonable size, then you make the call.