If you’re interested in working with a coach, how would you go about choosing the best person for your goals?
Like all honest answers to most big questions: It’s a bit science, a bit art.
I had a call with a potential client this week. We had a connected, alive conversation. As we wrapped up, he point-blank said, “I’m not sure how to evaluate a coach.”
My immediate feedback was, “Well, I’m not too sure about a framework, but the quality of connection and chemistry you have with someone matters.” I wasn’t totally satisfied with my response to him in the moment (and I suspect it wasn’t helpful to him either!).
Chemistry matters, but it’s usually not enough.
I came by my coaches through serendipity and a bit of trust in my gut feel. Something along the lines of: “I believe this person will help me move forward in a big way.” I’ve written about that experience here.
Understandably, “gut feel” isn’t enough for everyone.
So, I spent the last couple of days considering what’s behind that gut feel.
The result is a light framework for people looking for a leadership coach. (I plan to retain a coach this year and these are the questions I’ll be using!)
I recommend talking with at least a couple of coaches before you make a decision, so that you can find the best fit.
Ask Big Questions (The Science)
Being coached, first and foremost, is a relationship. And relationships are built on conversations. So, in a first conversation with a potential coach, ask any of the following questions:
- What is your work experience and background? (You may want someone who is familiar with your industry, or you may want a coach with a very different background so you can benefit from differing perspectives.)
- What experience do you have coaching leaders like me? (Again, this could relate to your industry, your position of leadership, or your specific development goals)
- What type of coach training and education do you have?
- What is your approach to coaching? Do you like to use specific methods or frameworks?
- How do you think about measuring success in coaching?
- In what circumstance might you say no to working with a client?
- What is your experience with being coached?
- How do you handle confidentiality?
- Could you provide me references?
And perhaps the chief question of all questions:
Why do you coach?
Evaluate How You Feel (The Art)
A coach’s answers to the above questions should give you a great sense of who they are and how they’ll approach supporting you.
Some additional reflection questions:
- Do I have chemistry with this coach?
- Can this coach help me achieve my goals in a way that I’ll enjoy?
- Will the coach ask provocative questions, push me to work on growth edges, and challenge me—in a supportive way?
- Do I feel comfortable talking to this coach? Can I be candid? Vulnerable? Do I feel championed by them?
Working with a leadership coach has the potential to shape, change, grow, inspire, and develop you in all of the most important ways. Here’s to using a bit of art and a bit of science to choose your best coach.