Choosing the right Coach

Although it is a relatively new profession, coaching has evolved tremendously in the past twenty years. New clients can choose from a wide pool of coaches — many of whom have completed extensive coach-specific training.

But with so many coaches available, how do you find the right coach for you?

Coaching can be a valuable addition to your personal growth or the growth of your team. However, what you really need might be a therapist, mentor, consultant or mediator.

Therapists have a specific certification to practice. They help identify and treat mental health issues. Unless they have specific training, coaches refer clients who have personal traumas to therapists.

Mentors share knowledge and experience. Although a mentor may use coaching skills, a mentor is typically a more experienced person who guides and passes on knowledge and experience to others.

Consultants are hired for their skill and experience. They give specific advice and often teach their clients how to do a process or task. In the context of coaching, advice giving may create client-coach codependency with the client looking to the coach for inspiration instead of looking within for ideas.

Mediators help resolve disputes between two or more parties. Mediators may use coaching skills, but their focus is on resolving the conflict.

Coaches don’t tell you what to do. They use purposeful conversations to facilitate deep awareness and change. It’s like one-on-one leadership or self-awareness training. Coaches help you to understand your current situation more clearly, guide you to explore options and take actions that are in line with your, and your organization’s, beliefs, values and vision, as well as the skills and abilities that you possess.

Coaching is ideal for common workplace issues such as: strategic planning, staff retention, and team building. It is particularly useful in developing self-awareness and communications skills.

When you meet with a potential coach, ask yourself:

Did the coach listen to, and truly understand, your needs?
Did the coach effectively communicate his or her philosophy and approach?
Did you understand how progress would be measured?
Did you feel that there was rapport between you and the coach?
Did your gut tell you that the coach could be trusted?
Did you feel like an equal partner in the discussion?

Your coach should push your boundaries, without pushing you over the cliff. A great coach will meet you where you are at, not where the coach wants you to be. Your coach should follow your lead regarding the intimacy and details of the discussions. Listen to your gut — you are in charge and get to choose the pace for the conversations.

Your ideal coach should:

Engage you in action-oriented and future-focused discussions with the aim of helping you determine and achieve your personal goals
Focus on awakening the resourcefulness and creativity within you, as opposed to being an advice-giving or teaching forum
Use questions in a skillful manner to help you become more resourceful in how you deal with present and future situations
Help you to develop new capabilities, opportunities and skills
Engage in a collaborative partnership with you
Connect you to your beliefs and values in a confidential and respectful environment
Help you to communicate in a way that allows emotions to rise without derailing the conversation

Don’t be afraid to ‘interview’ potential coaches. Tell them what you want and what you are looking for. If coaching is new for you, ask your coach to describe how s/he handles common coaching topics and his or her philosophies about coaching.

Original article written by Barb Pierce, BEng, MBA, PCC and author of Become a Coach Leader — One Conversation at a Time.

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