The Top Five Things to Look for in a Coach

July 30, 2018by cynthiabowkley

So, you’ve decided you want to get a coach. Good for you! It’s wonderful to have someone objective, who is outside of you, to help you get to the next level of success, to get you unstuck, or to help you accomplish your absolute best in that new project or endeavor. Maybe you’ve decided that it’s time to step into more of a leadership position at work, or perhaps you already are the leader and really want to get out of the stress, overwhelm and burnout so that you can continue leading effectively. Whatever the reason, a good coach can be your best ally in making forward movement, attaining your goals, and getting out of your own way so that the whole success process flows more smoothly! But, where to begin? What do you look for in a coach? Are there things that are important for coaches to have? You bet there are! Read on for the top five things to look for in a coach…

  1. Education. While there are probably lots of good coaches out there who never went to a school or an academy for their training, it wouldn’t typically be my first suggestion when looking for a coach. One of the great things about going through a reputable coaching program is that participants have the benefit of other seasoned coaches training them in how to show up for their clients, how to ask those powerful questions, how to tune in to what their clients are going through, and what the methodologies and theories behind these practices are. The other benefit is that the coach-in-training gets to practice! And, while practice may not always make perfect, it sure helps a coach learn her ropes. When interviewing potential coaches, you can always ask them where they got their training, what they learned during the training, how they apply it to their clients in session, and how they feel it might help you with your particular goals and aspirations.
  2. Resonance. Does this person resonate with you (or do you resonate with them)? When you’re doing coaching work, you’re sharing important dreams and goals, emotional experiences, and strategic planning. You want to do all of this with someone that you feel you connect with. Sometimes, something as simple as the sound of someone’s voice will turn you off so much that even though this person is a fabulous coach, they might not be the most fabulous coach for you. Pay attention to how you feel in your body when you have your first consultation with this new coach- either by phone or skype/zoom/facetime/etc. Do you feel comfortable enough to share details about your life? Notice whether you assess him or her as competent to be able to help you. And, finally, ask yourself directly- Do I, in my gut, really want to work with this coach?
  3. Research. Do a little bit of research. If they have a website or a blog, check that out. See what they have to say. This will make #2 above easier, too. When you take the time to research what a person is putting out there, you get your eyes on the goods before you buy!  Between websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and all of the rest of social media, you should have no shortage of information about a potential coach and what he or she is all about. Read their blog, check out their events on Facebook, click on a couple of posts on Instagram. You’re going to be investing time in this coaching relationship, so see what your new coach is investing their time in when they’re not in session with you!
  4. Industry. You don’t always necessarily need a coach that has worked in your industry, but there can be some powerful aspects to working with one who has. Most importantly, you have the same background of experience. Are you a professional? Executive? Attorney? Doctor? You want someone who has an understanding of the rigors of professional life. One of my colleagues recently explained what it’s like to be a managing director at a financial institution. He said, “You’re always on high alert. You can’t show vulnerability because you’re surrounded by predators!” I understood precisely what he was talking about because I have fifteen years’ worth of litigation experience, being surrounded by other lawyers trying to take my clients (or me) down! And, while it isn’t exactly the same industry, there is a shared understanding of some of the stresses of work, and how that impacts job performance, coping and success strategies on the job, and the rest of a person’s existence. So, my suggestion would be for you to ask your potential new coach what their background is, and decide for yourself whether it is important to you to have someone coaching you who understands your constellation of work and/or personal experiences.
  5. Domains. This is arguably one of the most important things to investigate when you’re looking for a coach. You want to ask them how they work and in which domains they have experience coaching people. Some coaches are mainly talk focused. Other coaches are mainly skill focused. You want a coach that has a facility for all of the domains in which you exist, because any challenges you want to work on are going to show up in ALL of those domains. For instance, imagine that you want to increase your sales, but every time you get the opportunity to land a big account, you freeze with fear. What’s happening here? Perhaps you notice that your thoughts start out with, “Oh, I could never land them. They’re too big and would never trust me. Who am I to them? Why would they want to work with me?” You have just entered the domain of language. Now, what does that language do to your experience of trying to approach Company X for the sale? It’s likely that you have an emotional response, such as shame or fear, perhaps defeat or anger. See how quickly you ended up in the domain of emotions? Finally, and most importantly, you notice that every time you think of approaching Company X, your palms start sweating, your breath becomes shallow, there is a constriction in your chest and you feel the all-too-familiar feeling of anxiety rising in your gut. You want to bolt, or maybe to vomit. How are you going to land this account from this physical space? The answer is that you’re not. See how important it is to work with a coach who understands the realm of the body, too? So, when we talk about domains, and you’re off to interview a new potential coach, make sure you ask them whether they can competently work in the realms of the language, the emotions AND the body. After all, we might not be really good at paying attention to what happens in our bodies, but there is an awful lot of information available there for us. And, if we ignore that, we’re only getting half of the picture!

So, to finish my thoughts on the five things you want to look for in a coach, I want to say this: You’re showing up in earnest, wanting to shift and change and you’re spending good money in order to do it. You should feel confident that the person you’re working with has the requisite skill set, the experience, the empathy, the awareness and the connection to you in order to help you reach your goals. Good luck in your search!



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