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This is one of the most asked questions in our industry: “What do I need to know in order to find the right coach for myself?”

Although the industry of professional coaching is becoming more mainstream, it is still in a formulation state and somewhat fragmented. There are some organizations, nationwide and even worldwide, that are attempting to put their stamp of approval on professional coaching.  However, we have found that their official recognition is not yet founded in rigorous practices. In addition, some coaching certification organizations are more interested in membership and financial gain than they are concerned with qualifications, standards of excellence and best practices, with no offence intended to any one of them; it is just the nature of business.

There are very distinct differences between the various kinds of coaching. Some forms of coaching focus on the results; many other forms of coaching focus on the experiences. Big difference!

We state that coaching is not a “one-size-fits-all” sensation. No one coach is the right coach for everyone.  And one isn’t the right client for every coach. The best way to discover if they are the right coach for you is to use the following guidelines:

  • Ask colleagues and friends who have used a coach to refer you to one – One of the best ways to find a qualified coach is to talk to people who have used a coach in the past in a similar circumstance.

  • Ask the person what results they’ve produced with the coaching – Ask them what results they produced out of the coaching – in specific and measurable terms (i.e., dollars and cents).

  • Ask the coach: “What do you have to offer that other coaches don’t?” – Interview the prospective coach on his/her qualifications, orientation, capabilities and credibility.

  • Ask the coach for case studies and testimonials from past clients – Do not be shy about asking the coach to provide you with case studies and testimonials from both past and current clients, especially ones that are relevant to you.

  • Ask the prospective coaches for a reference list of clients you may contact – Make sure that the prospective coach provides you with a list of references to call. It is very important to hear it from the “horse’s mouth” – the clients. After all, it is what they say that counts the most. “Tell me who your clients are, and I will tell you what kind of a coach you are.”

  • Ask the coach why he or she sees you as a potential client – In your interview process, make sure that you inquire into why they want you as a client. Remember, you are in control. After all, you are the one that will be writing the check! Have them enroll you; let them do the work.

  • Evaluate the coach’s capability and track record, not his or her personality – In the interview process, make sure you are focusing on their accomplishments and successes, and not so much on their personality and if you like them or not. You do not have to like the coach; you do need to respect who they are and what they provide.

  • Ask the coach how they will measure a successful coaching engagement – A coaching relationship is successful only if there is an increase in specific and measurable results. You want to know how the coach will measure their impact on your business or career and or your personal life. Anything can be measured, whether it is qualitative or quantitative. Do not be fooled by any other answer.

  • Find out what process or methodology they are using – In today’s business world there are so many professionals who claim to be coaches. Find out what process they are using and determine if it will work for you. Find out the time structure, the session format and how much time and work it will take on your part. We say that the best client is an educated client.

  • Ask for a sample coaching session – It will help you get a feel for their style and how they work with clients. Coaching is a very intimate and a personal relationship. Ask them to “test drive it before you buy it”. If they are confident in their service, they will do it.

There are many coaches that you would not want to spend time with even if they paid YOU to receive the coaching. There are many organizations and virtual universities producing “certified” coaches. We got an email from someone who wanted to coach managers. I asked that person if they had ever been a manager and the person answered – no. I asked if they had ever coached people and they answered – no. I respectfully responded, “You need to do some work before you should consider management coaching.”

Does a management or executive coach HAVE to have experience being a leader? We say so, but willing to include many other professional experiences – it’s a kind of leadership in and of itself. That said, if you were a leader looking for a coach, you would not select one who had not been in your shoes.

Does a coach need to be certified? No. In fact, the certification process often is misleading. We interview many certified people who are great coaches, but I say, they are great to begin with, not because of, the certification process.  The certification does not make the coach, the coach makes the certification.

Each and every high performer can benefit from coaching and should definitely have one. If you are looking for an extra edge, an objective view, attention and feedback, invest in yourself and your business or your life, and hire a great coach. Base your selection on style, the coach’s areas of emphasis, and references.

The coaching schools and various other organizations are producing way too many people who are trained to help you “find yourself”. This sort of fuzzy coaching is needed, but not in an environment of high performance. Most business leaders we have interviewed said need help being more effective results-producing machines who can also build their organization’s capacity and culture. Getting the job done – that’s an important focus and skill set. And, by the way, they will learn a few important things about themselves in the process of producing off the chart results!


If you are playing for the championship, what kind of coaching will get you there?