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Choosing and Using the Right Coach

This article was written by Peggy Grall, executive coach and author of Just Change It.  The article was shared with me by Corry Robertson, a performance leadership coach who is participating in our upcoming Coach Buffet on Oct 15th in Montreal and November 17th in Toronto.

Choosing a coach is a lot like shopping for shoes, and can be almost as frustrating. You start out with an idea of what you want; pick a few stores, and the hunt begins. It’s relatively easy to tell the ones you don’t want, that becomes apparent as soon as you slip them on. But finding the perfect fit is important. 

 So, with the legions of coaches out there, how do you choose the right one for you? Most coaches offer 15 – 30 minute complementary sessions to help you both decide if it is a fit. Here are some factors to consider:

Chemistry: Coaching is like dating, there has to be chemistry. Oh, not the breathless variety, but the coach and coachee have to like, respect, value and be energized by each other. Chemistry also speaks to personal style. Some coaches hail from the ‘kick-butt’ school of coaching, while others have a more relaxed, ‘Zen’ quality about them.

Part of your initial conversation is about getting to know each other’s approach and style; look at the pace in the conversation, do you feel ‘heard’ and does this coach having something to offer you?

Credentials:  Not everyone who calls himself or herself a coach, is a coach.  Coaching has gained popularity as a tool for achieving stretch goals, both personally and professionally, and the need for coaches to be well-trained is taking centre stage.

Find out the training and background of your prospective coach. Ask if the coach is certified through the International Coaching Federation and find out what other academic qualifications the person brings to the coaching.

Clarity:  Find out if the coach has coached other clients like you.  Ask about their experiences with former clients.  You can also ask for references or testimonials; items which a professional coach should happily supply.

A coach is not a counselor or a consultant. This is an important distinction. Knowing the type of support you can expect will eliminate confusion and/or disappointment down the road for both of you.

Charges: Of course, no professional engagement is complete until the money question has been settled.  Coaches offer their services in all sorts of creative ways; you can hire a coach by the hour or session, the week or month or even by the project.

For example, you could sign up for  ‘just in time’ coaching services; that’s when a retainer is paid and you call the coach for brief, laser-like, mini-sessions.

Contract: Be prepared to sign a contract with your coach in which you will determine what your goals are, what you want to achieve through the collaboration and what success will look like to you.

How do you make the best use of their services once you find a coach?  Be clear on what you want to achieve and use the time together strategically. Throughout the sessions together, you will determine the agenda and when you have reached a goal or are satisfied with your progress, you can call the shots and take a breather.

Having a great coach in your corner is the best insurance for success I can think of, and there are coaches with a variety of backgrounds and experiences.  If you’re in the market for a coach, take your time, ask questions and then give it all you’ve got!

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