For those of us serious coaches, who have spent many years in training and experience creating real results for our clients, it is disheartening to see the trend that we all see where now it seems “everyone is a coach” of one thing or another. We have the full range from those who took a basic coaching course and now think themselves ready to practice (internally or externally), to those who are essentially consultants and trainers, peddling canned insights and models, or personal experiences, as now seemingly valid concepts applicable to all. And of course this is not ok, neither is it responsible, ethical or effective.
This is not to take away from the idea that these other practitioners may have useful insights to offer. Simply that coaching, in its essence, is something different. This post is dedicated to hopefully bringing some insight and clarity into the issue, so if and when you decide to hire a coach, for yourself or your organization, you know how to choose best.
1) What IS Coaching really?
I define it as “creating a secure, caring and rigorous space, with intelligent, relevant and expert guidance, so the person or team is able to honestly, thoughtfully and effectively find their own solutions and next steps”. Coaches exist on the same level as their clients (so we are not above you) and we follow the same rules of confidentiality as doctors. But the key to understand is that we are not here to “save you”, you always “save” or advance yourself. The objective is to accompany you in the process of working through your difficulties, as well as be the right sounding board for your ideas and hopes, to arrive to realistic, manageable, actionable and measureable progress in the fulfillment of your unique goals, be they personal or professional.
2) The Process of Coaching
There are purists who believe that a coach should only ask open questions and little more, to those who are very directive, bordering on the line of being mentors or consultants. This varies greatly on the particular styles of a given coach, to the particular style of the client, and then the nature of their circumstances and objectives. That said, in my opinion, here are certain principles that stand regardless:
- Your coach is not here to give you advice and certainly not here to force you to make changes you are not ready to make. We are here to challenge our coachees, guide them in putting structure and timing to their practices and decisions, and sometimes offer helpful insights and suggestions, but always with the respect of their unique challenges, priorities, and objectives.
- A coach may share, appropriately, their own experience or that of their clients (with confidentiality preserved), but only when they think this will truly add value to the coachee and process to help them unblock, strengthen the validity of their own experience, or give ideas for possible solutions and next steps.
- There are coaches, like myself, who may give some “homework” to their clients which are just personal reflections or actionable practices to apply the concepts discussed in the coaching sessions. This is to ensure that the coaching sessions are not just “therapeutic” and conversational but also lead to meaningful progress. In the beginning I may give you suggestions but later on, as you gain greater clarity and ownership of your process, we will ask you to do this yourself.
- Ultimately, the person responsible for your results is YOU. That doesn’t mean we don’t take active responsibility for the coaching process because we most certainly do, but the whole point of coaching is that you do not create a dependency on the process or on the coach, that you are empowered to move forward in the way that makes most sense for you, and that you are willing to do the work necessary to reflect, experiment, make the change and take ownership of those results. Your life is your own and no one will understand you the way you can understand yourself. Good coaches know that and will be dedicated to helping you prepare and advance this as best as possible.
3) So how DO you choose a coach?
As with any practitioner who will be working with you on the intimate details of your life, work and organization, it is important that there is true compatibility, rapport, care and alignment. But beyond that, also look for the following:
- Definitely always connect with at least 3 coaches for a consultation. And good coaches usually give one for free or for a reasonable price. Even if you really like one, just like with any good hiring process, give yourself the space and discovery to see a few more just so you know what is in the market and can choose one that truly makes you feel good and inspires confidence in the coaching process that is to come.
- A good coach should never PUSH you into working with them. It is understandable to follow up on a consultation or a proposal but you should never feel negatively pressured to choose one or the other.
- While any given coach will certainly use the breadth of their experience, training, models, etc. in providing you with the best guidance possible, the sessions themselves should feel fluid, natural, organic. You are not at a training course where you have to rigidly continue a set structure. A good coach should be able to flow with you, your team and your diverse and even unexpected circumstances (within reason) so that each session is truly relevant, meaningful and helpful.
- Good coaches should have legitimate testimonials from other clients, just so you can hear in greater detail the experience others have had with them. Due to the nature of the work, it may not be possible to call and consult previous clients of a given coach but if the coach is good, they should have those recommendations readily available on their website, LinkedIn, or the like.
- A good coach should have their own coach(es) or be regularly going through processes of coaching supervision. We are not above the rest. As I always say to my clients, even being a coach I am of course still human and if I am truly dedicated to advancing myself and giving the best I can to others, I need to regularly be working on my own challenges and objectives. This doesn’t mean that a given coach has to always be with their own coach or in supervision but regularly enough. So ask them about this.
- Trust your gut. This is an intimate, deep process based on mutual trust, care and the desire to help you achieve your success. You will know when the right person comes around.
If you have any questions about this or our other specialties, don’t hesitate to contact us. We always value your feedback and interest.