How to choose a life coach
Working with an executive or life coach could be one of the most important decisions you make. Taking the time to find the right life coach for you is then crucial. Here are a few things to consider during your search.
How important is the issue?
Whatever question or issue you want to explore with a life coach, it is essential that this is something important to you. Something whose resolution will have a meaningful impact on your life.
As a rough rule of thumb, it probably needs to be at least a 7 or above in importance to you, on a scale of 1 to 10. The more important the issue, the more likely you are to wholeheartedly engage with the coach. And, the more productive the coaching sessions will be.
The difficult to put your finger on feeling of “I can really work with this person” is one of the most important things to look for when choosing a life coach. Connecting is then about finding a coach who “gets you” and with whom you feel there is a meeting of minds. Connecting is less about the coach’s skill or experience and more about how you relate to them at a very human level.
This is why I always meet with my potential clients for a quick coffee before going ahead with coaching. Such an introductory “chemistry” meeting will quickly provide a sense for the style and approach of the coach. I firmly believe that no matter how skilled a life coach might be, not every coach is right for everyone!
Have an honest and open conversation
The usefulness of the chemistry meeting is very dependent on how open and honest this conversation is. It is partly the coach’s responsibility to facilitate such a conversation. It is also down to you to talk openly about where you currently are in your life and where you would like to get to with the coaching.
While you will get a sense for the style of the coach during the chemistry meeting, remember that it is not a full coaching session. Asking them how they like to work and what makes them different is a great way for getting more insight into what you may expect during sessions.
What about accreditations?
Since anyone can call themselves a coach, choosing a life coach can sometimes feel like navigating a mine field. The fact that a coach has undergone some sort of training or certification is good information. It is not a guarantee of quality though.
I know some coaches that appear very qualified on paper, but who I would struggle to recommend. On the other hand, I also know some excellent coaches who have never had a single day of formal training in their lives. Think of it like a college degree. Having a good degree does not necessarily mean you are smart. And, there are a lot of very smart people out there who have never been to college.
If you have not managed to satisfy yourself through the chemistry meeting, ask for references. Speaking to someone who has received coaching from the life coach you have in mind is probably the best way for getting a better feel for how they work. Remember though that what one client has experienced in their sessions might be entirely different to what unfolds with you. Every client is unique!
Industry specific experience
While some executive and life coaches specialise in certain industries, I don’t believe this is important. Coaching is not mentoring and is not founded on industry expertise. I do recognise though that you might feel more comfortable working with someone who better understands your work.
While there can be merits to the coach knowing your world, this also carries with it dangers. For example, a coach that is from your industry is probably more likely to unconsciously collude with you about “how things are done”, when what you really need is more challenge on your current thinking.
Meet more than just one life coach
Finally, meet with more than just one life coach before you decide. The time spent having a couple of chemistry meetings is well worth it!
Choosing a life coach is a two way street, where the coach and coachee both decide if a fruitful partnership can be established. Remember that your experience during the chemistry meeting is a glimpse into the future of that potential partnership. Approach it with curiosity, openness and honesty and you will quickly know if the coach is right for you.
Originally published at executivecoachinglondon.com on February 4, 2017.