If you’re reading this, you’re likely weighing up whether coaching is for you, or perhaps you’ve already decided it is, in which case congratulations! If you’ve done your research (which I bet you have), you’ll know that coaching and coaches generally don’t come cheap.
So firstly, I want to salute you for taking the time to investigate if investing in yourself is the right decision for you right now. I commend you for hanging in there despite any feelings of “Can I afford this?”, “Is it worth it?”, “Surely I can just do it myself without spending all that money?”.
Friend, I have been there!
As a data geek at heart (let’s blame the Economics degree & years in strategy for that), I’ve become comfortable doing extensive research & applying unshakeable logic to my decision making. So when a couple of years ago, I decided to explore coaching for myself, I did some hefty due diligence.
How did that go?
Well, coach number one (pre-research), let’s say, didn’t work out. However, the second (post-research) was a dream, and my life has transformed due to dedication of finding a great match and the coaching itself. The fact is that knowing what to look out for empowered me to decide with confidence.
So to support you in making the best choice for you (and hopefully save you our most precious resource, time), I’ve collated below the best advice that I found during my initial research. Of course, I’ll overlay a spattering of personal experience, but I will make that clear so you can discern for yourself what you need.
At the bottom of the post are links to my three favourite articles I explored in preparation, so if you’d prefer to dive straight into those sources, feel free.
Let’s get started; The seven critical considerations for choosing the right coach.
1. The Chemistry Test:
Find out if there’s chemistry.
Now, you are not looking for a new best friend or life partner here. An effective coaching relationship demands a healthy level of tension for it to be valuable to you (which is why your partner or friend can’t effectively help). Most coaches will offer an initial consultation call to understand each other and your specific needs. As shared in the Forbes article, “A good sign is if you feel really excited and inspired by your discussion, but a bit scared.” As stated previously, there’s tension needed to shift you outside of your comfort zone. If you’re committed to remaining there, then perhaps coaching isn’t right for you right now, but if you feel ready, you need to be confident there’s the potential to build the trust with your chosen coach to support you to step into discomfort.
2. The Experience Test:
Do you want someone who’s been and done what you want in the world?
There’s debate about this. Technically a coach, applying ICF (International coaching Federation) framework should not need any direct experience in your chosen area. In this pure coaching approach, the answers come from the individual and this it’s not a space for advice-giving.
This “pure” coaching approach is the one I identify with. Many “coaches” out in the market, particularly uncertified (we’ll come onto this), are readily doling out advice. Don’t get me wrong, advice has its place, but that’s not strictly coaching, more likely mentoring, consulting or even counselling, so be clear what you want. If you prefer answers versus venturing into the discomfort of leaning into your innate power and strength, be clear that’s what you’re seeking. I invest in both. Business mentoring I lean on for specific operational support, quick & clear answers. Coaching I use for expansion of my power and mindset/limiting patterns.
That said, any coach might not be suitable for your circumstance. For instance, a life coach is unlikely to be as astute at supporting senior executives as a certified executive leadership coach might be. The latter’s understanding of organisational dynamics & business principles supporting a shared understanding.
4. The Test Test:
Consider Certifications & Credentials
Coaching is currently a daily unregulated industry, and because of its continual growth, more and more coaches are popping up each day. As there are no entry criteria, however, as previously mentioned, there’s a lot of “support” provided by untrained individuals or those with questionable training.
Honestly, when I started my coach training, I thought coaching would be pretty straightforward. The fact was, after two levels of extensive leadership coach training, I can assure you it is far from easy. In fact, when done well it can be nothing short of miraculous.
Essentially, if this is a priority for you, understand from the coach what training & certification they have done and their previous career experience for confidence around point 2. Additionally, if you’re seeking company support for coaching you might need to consider their requirements.
5. The Social Proof Test:
Dig into the testimonials
Nothing gives more confidence than those who’ve experienced the coach. Most coaches will provide testimonials, invest some time in hearing from previous clients. It can give you an idea of the coaches energy, approach and some of the challenges/opportunities they’ve supported others overcome/seize.
6. The Self Assessment Test:
Decide what you are up for
Former ICF President and Leadership Coach Karen Tweedie advocates getting clear on what you want from your coach.
- Understanding – the coach to understand context & validate your thinking
- Challenge – the coach to focus on meaning & shake up your thinking.
She shares that both have roles, but getting clear on what you want and need can support you to get the most out of the experience.
My view on this (and this speaks to my style and preference, so choose your own) is a mix of both. It might be, however, that you have a leaning towards one or the other. For example, I have regular, short sessions with my coach to seek expansive growth, and so for me, a high level of tension suits me best. Helping your coach understand your preference might also be an option here and feedback to your coach is strongly encouraged. After all, this is your experience.
7. The Logistics Test:
Consider how you want to experience coaching
Post pandemic virtual coaching has become more common, theoretically lowering the cost to serve and saving both parties time and allowing for geographical freedom of choice.
Yet, if face-to-face is a priority for you, be clear on that from the outset. You’ll need to consider location in your decision of who you choose.
Bonus: Collection of other aspects to consider:
- Openness to feedback
- Looking beyond price
- Clarity on scope
Ultimately, coaching is a mix of science and art, and there’s no right (or wrong) answer here. So, my final recommendation is to do your homework (which, if you’ve read this far, you can tick that box). However, additionally and importantly, listen to your gut and heart. What do they say? Trust yourself to make the right choice for you right now.
I hope this has helped you on your journey. Any questions, thoughts, feedback, feel free to reach out directly. I’ll leave my contact details in the comments.