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Whether it’s an executive coach, leadership coach, some other business-related coach, or a life coach, the coaching profession has seen significant growth in recent years. It’s not difficult to find a coach online these days, but how do you know which one is right for you? There are certification programs for coaches, and national associations of coaches, but certification or membership is no guarantee of quality. There are coaches trained in psychology, and coaches of a more mystical variety. But finding a good coach can still be a challenge.

When looking for a coach, two questions need to be asked:

  1. Is a coach right for you?

  2. If so, how do you find a good coach?

This article will attempt to answer those questions.


There was a time in the business world when having a coach assigned to you was a sign of weakness or failure. It meant that you had a problem that needed to be fixed, and the problem was so big that an outside coach was hired by your boss. Having a coach assigned you was a sign that you were very likely on thin ice, and if you didn’t get your act together soon you would no longer have a job.

This was a curious perspective because we’ve never had any problem with coaches on athletic teams. We expect our pro football players, baseball players, hockey stars, and every other athlete to have a coach. An athlete without a coach would seem strange, and any professional athlete who refused to take a coach would be viewed as arrogant. Coaches who achieve results on these teams are highly respected, and often to become a coach is a sign of higher accomplishment in the sports world.

How times have changed. Now coaching in the business world is seen as a positive thing; in some organizations it is expected at all levels. Often an executive without a coach is seen as unusual. Leadership at every level is expected to have a coach and in many organizations every employee is also assigned a coach. Coaching is now mainstream. Many organizations have full-time coaches on their payroll. And where internal coaches are not available many executives hire an outside coach.

A freelance coach can provide a perspective on struggles from outside of your organization. Such a perspective is free from cultural bias, and free from the pressures of pleasing others within the organization. The client of the coach is not the organization, but the individual with whom they have a coaching relationship. A good coach will help you identify what you need help with and assist you on the journey to find a solution. Often it is the individual hiring the coach, or the client receiving the coaching, who dictates what will be worked on. At the very least this is negotiated with the coach at the very beginning and at the coaching relationship.

It is interesting to note here that the coaching as we are discussing it here grew out of the practice of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy itself is not about fixing the individual but helping them to understand themselves better and find solutions to the challenges of their lives. Just as good coaching helps a client to find a new perspective or a different lens through which to view their own challenges, good psychotherapy does the same thing. This is the reason that I am a strong advocate for a coach been trained and at least basic psychology.

I often take a slightly different approach to coaching than many in the field. The one thing that is often identified as the challenge to work on may not be the core issue that needs to be dealt with. It may merely be a symptom of the larger problem. So, the first step in any coaching relationship is getting to know the individual and setting the parameters of the relationship. Part of this initial process is reviewing how adults develop over time. From there it is vital to go through the process of determining what the one big thing is that the individual needs to work on. Through this process the client is often surprised at what turns out to be there one big thing.

From there begins to work off identifying which things may be working against the big goal. We often have things that we do that work against our goals as well as things that we don’t do that work against it, and underlying fears that we may not be aware of. Once all these items are analyzed and identified, with the client client doing the work guided by the coach, then solutions come into view.

Implementing solutions can be uncomfortable. Therefore, we perform smart tests. Test to determine if underlying assumptions are true or false. Test where nobody gets hurt. Tests that show us the truth of whether our underlying beliefs are true or not.

This system sounds easy. Rest assured it is sophisticated, and it takes a considerable amount of work to get through the process. It is not a quick fix. Therefore, the selection of coach is vital, because you need the right person helping to guide you through the process. It can be painful, it can be difficult, but it is always worthwhile in the end.

So how do you know if the coach is right for you? You should get an indication during your first meeting. It’s essential that the coach helps you to fill at ease and builds a sense of trust. If after the first meeting you don’t have that sense of trust it is possible that you may need to find a different coach. Coaching is a long-term relationship so you must feel comfortable. A word of caution here: trust may not come immediately especially if you’re nervous about the engagement. You may need to give it a few sessions. But if you have a very strong sense that this coach is not right for you feel free to move on. Remember they’re here to help you not the other way around.

Training is also important. Review the coach’s qualifications with them and ask any questions that might arise. What education qualifies them to be a coach? What experience has prepared them to be a coach? How many times have they successfully coached others? Do they have references?

Finding the right coach can be a challenge. Some suggestions you might explore could be asking others who have used coaches for referrals. Talk to others who have used a coach about their experience. LinkedIn is also a great resource. You can search for coaches with specific specialties and reviews their professional profiles. Send them an email or give them a call. Many coaches offer a free initial exploratory meeting, which is a chance for the both of you to determine if the engagement is a good fit. In the end you will be the best judge of which coach is right for you. But the benefits of a good coach are invaluable.

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