How To Find Your Coach

What’s driving your search for self-improvement? Are you seeking to transition to another company with a better culture? Looking to fine-tune your startup’s mission statement and marketing strategy? Striving to find your path as a millennial thought leader?

If you are familiar with these types of questions, you might think you would benefit from a mentor. While that’s not a bad idea, a more targeted and result-driven approach is to get a qualified coach who can help you level up.

Professional coaches are growing in popularity. Thankfully, there are many in the Bay Area who can help you address what you want to change in your personal or professional life. Since the GUILD is on a mission to connect the right women with the right resources, we decided to host an event to help women of all ages and career stages get an opportunity to “test-drive” a coach.

At the sleek DocuSign headquarters high above San Francisco, our Find Your Coach event gave women a chance to meet a range of coaches all in one place. There were executive coaches, millennial guides, style consultants — ten professionals in all — each bringing their own unique background, experience, and personal chemistry. After a few words from the GUILD’s founder, Anne, we broke off into mini speed-coaching sessions for targeted advice on how to frame our goals.

When the night had ended, women lingered behind to share one last glass of wine with their new connections and potential coaches. As the Bay Bridge lit up through the window, Susanna Camp checked in with the coaches to hear their best tips. If you missed the event, here are five steps to finding a coach of your own.

1. Where to start?

Coaches unanimously agreed on the following fundamentals: get a referral, take advantage of the complimentary session, and try two or three coaches to get a feel for what they offer. Then, trust your intuition. If you’re feeling pushed into it, that’s not a good sign.

“The bond you develop with your coach is one of the most intimate professional relationships you’ll ever have. It’s imperative to follow your gut instincts seriously on this.” — Yuki Graviet Knapp of Own Your Essence
Most clients really feel it in their heart if they’re supposed to come and see me.” After many years in design and strategy, Mary Spicer studied for a Master’s Certification in Intuition Medicine®, a 1000-hour program in energy medicine. She started her coaching practice, Mary Spicer Life Solutions, to empower and uplift women in work and life. The goal is to gently understand and shift unhelpful patterns so habits and behaviors work for you.
Yuki Graviet Knapp of Own Your Essence is a young, certified professional coach who helps millennials to navigate their own unique situations early in their careers. As millennials, she says, “we have a lot expected of us, and yet, we’re constantly being told we’ll never amount to anything because we’re too ‘lazy and entitled’.” This can make independent decision making hard.

2. Look at the coach’s background, experience and methodology.

Experience and credibility are key. So are certifications, and having expertise in a formal methodology that grounds a coach’s practice in a proven framework. It’s important to know what qualifications give them the authority to work with you.

“I always want to know: has someone gone through something similar? Either they’ve coached a lot of people like me before, or they’ve gone through what I’m going through.” — Denise Brosseau of Thought Leadership Lab
Denise Brosseau started her career in the tech industry, before co-founding and leading the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (now Watermark) and Springboard. For the last 8 years, she’s had her own company, Thought Leadership Lab, working as an executive coach primarily with senior women leaders. “I’ve done the journey. I went from leader to thought leader. I helped a bunch of other people, and then I wrote a book about it. Now I teach thought leadership at Stanford. Looking at the resume is a great first step.”
Betsy Davidson of Master Your Thrive is one of only 300 elite Certified High Performance Coaches in the world. “I help people assess where they are in life and figure out how to get to the next level.” Betsy follows a framework that draws on five areas of life: clarity, energy, courage, productivity, and influence. From these five areas, she is able to assess what parts of her clients’ lives need improvement. “More clarity on who you want to be as a person, and how you show up in the world. More energy so you have the physical and mental stamina to get through your day. More courage to ask for what you need in the world.”

Are you choosing a style coach? Someone who can help you shine in an interview setting, at a new job, or just in your daily life, to embody the person you want to be? In that case:

“The work of a coach gets to be very personal. You want to see a picture of the style coach. That image is going to convey a certain vibe, and tap into your innate intuition.” Susana Perczek of Dare to Wow is a style coach on a mission to give you an inner understanding of what clothes work best for you and help you create a wardrobe that empowers, inspires, and celebrates who you are today.

3. Build a bond with the coach.

Making a change in your professional life often means diving deep into your personal life, too. Assessing how the coach relates to you is key to a successful quest for self-improvement. Take note of how well your personalities jive.

“For me, it was important to align with someone who had a spiritual understanding, and also the practical, real-world experience of a corporate environment. I get excited about helping women be innovative, and courageous, intentional and purposeful. I needed someone who had a playful energy and communication style.” — Akanke Adefunmi of Claim Your Shero
“The coach should be interviewing you as well. It should be a two-way exchange. This is such a personal relationship, you need to find a good fit for both people, where there’s a rapport.” Jayne Hillman of True Equation is a business coach who partners with motivated entrepreneurs to help them create profitable businesses that can change others and the world. She uses a process of applying neuro-psychology, active listening, and highly tuned emotional intelligence to determine what rings true and alive for each of her clients.

As with any relationship, the feelings of trust and support should be mutual. Don’t rush into a decision before you’ve established that sense of that trust. Once you’ve identified a coach you feel can empathize with you, ask yourself a few more questions:

“Can they work with you on the emotional aspects and help you get a clear, linear plan to find your solution? Can they go into those sensitive aspects of your life and help support shifting those so you can turn around and start to move forward in your life again?” — Mary
“A coaching relationship is deep. We are going to get all into your stuff.” Akanke Adefunmi of Claim Your Shero supports clients to have an innovator’s approach to creative problem-solving whether in their personal or professional lives. She helps women access the places of courage inherent within themselves so that they break through external as well as self-imposed barriers.

4. Understand your commitment.

While your coach is your guide, it’s also important to hone your own intuition and gain trust in yourself. Spend time reflecting. If you know who you are and what you want to work on when you set out to find a coach, you’ll achieve greater success faster.

“Know what you need, what you want to change in your life, what is not working, and how to eliminate that. Be very clear about the change you are looking for, because every coach has a very specific niche. The more specific you are, the better the results.” — Svetlana Whitener of Inlight
“Learn to see your needs not as a weakness, but as a guide. We’re conditioned to believe having needs puts us in a vulnerable position, but on the contrary, identifying a need can give you a goal.” — Mary Spicer of Mary Spicer Life Solutions
“Ultimately, what you want to find is someone who can help you coach yourself and guide yourself.” — Liza Lichtinger of Mindful ExistenC
“Ultimately, what you want to find is someone who can help you coach yourself and guide yourself.” Liza Lichtinger of Mindful ExistenC is a Futurist, Psychologist and Wellness Tech Coach for thought leaders and senior executives. She has created workshops, led trainings and wellness retreats centered on the relationship at the intersection of human design and human (consumer) behavior both nationally and internationally.
Svetlana Whitener of Inlight is an executive coach helping individuals to get outside the noise and focus on what is next. She is a Forbes contributor with over twenty years of corporate leadership experience, and eighteen years of personal development experience.

5. Challenge yourself.

Thoughtfully probe the coach’s approach and methodology, and make sure the sessions are going to get deep enough to really shake things up. Keep in mind that the transformation occurs between sessions, as you consider and implement the discoveries you discuss with your coach.

“A coach can help you get through your superficial desires to the real issues that are holding you back. Not just ‘I need to find a job’ but one of the seven or so other unconscious aspects that are blocking us from getting the job we really want.” — Mary Spicer of Mary Spicer Life Solutions
“There is no such thing as a coach who can fix all your problems and make your life shiny, brand new, and perfect. The coach who will help you make real progress and achieve real success is the one who communicates with you in a style that works well with your own, listens more than advises, helps you to reach your own solutions, and understands that life is a journey and not something to be fixed.” — Yuki Graviet Knapp of Own Your Essence
“Is your coach having you reflect or journal? Are they challenging you to take on big, scary tasks? If not, they are selling you short.” Karishma Shah of Karishma Shah Coaching & Consulting specializes in helping clients with career transitions, developing clarity and confidence, and getting people out of their own ways to navigate through all areas of their life and work. She focuses on serving high-potential 20- to 30-something leaders.
“As partners, we collaborate on game plans to suit a business’s best interests.” Over the last four years, Sarah Schulweis of Anchor and Orbit has worked to help over fifty businesses reach their full potential. She offers one-on-one meetings, workshops, and project-based solutions that help clients not only improve their business, but enjoy the ride along the way.

Making the decision to hire a professional coach is one that takes time, thought, and personal reflection. Here is a summary of the coaches who attended the event — perhaps you’ll find someone with whom you’d like to schedule a session. Good luck in your search!

Learn more about the coaches that attended Find Your Coach: