I have been asked the question a couple of times recently, “How should I go about choosing a coach?” It’s not a question I have previously given too much thought to, but I have thought to myself in the past as to how I can choose the most appropriate mechanic, electrician, chimney sweep, dentist, etc. And if two people ask me the question, perhaps I should think about it. So this is how I would recommend choosing a coach.
If at all possible, get some recommendations from friends or colleagues. Personal recommendations are generally the best. If that’s not possible, do some searches on the internet in your local area or perhaps contact your local Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) branch. Once you have the details of at least 3 potential coaches, consider the following approach with each of them.
Arrange to meet face to face with your prospective coach before you undertake any coaching. You need to feel comfortable with the person – and if you use your intuition, you should know within a few minutes as to whether there is the potential for the relationship to work. I say potential, as your selection process needs to be more thorough, but your intuition should tell you whether it’s worth progressing to that next stage. Trust your intuition.
Ask your prospective coach for some examples of people they have coached previously, or are coaching at the moment. If you are seeking something specific from the coaching – for example to improve your interview successes – ask what experience they have of coaching other individuals in such circumstances. And ask to speak to one of their current or past coachees. Not all coachees would be happy to do this, but any coach of any worth will have people they are coaching who will be more than happy to talk to other prospective coachees. If they are reluctant or unable to meet this request, I should be wary.
Enquire about their continuous professional development (CPD). In other words, how do they keep themselves up to date, how do they maintain and improve their skills? Good coaches will have a documented record of their CPD – ask to see a copy of it. Remember – it’s you who is in the driving seat as you are looking to employ this person’s services, so be as objectively intrusive as you need in order to satisfy yourself of the person’s coaching abilities. Some people ask coaches what their qualifications are – I think this is fairly pointless unless you are very well up to speed on coaching qualifications. There are some very good qualifications where there is much practical learning and there are others that are free to attend and last a day or less – both sets of attendees will call themselves ‘coaches’. Secondly, they may have gained their qualification this year, or 20 years ago – another reason to ask about their CPD.
Request a free coaching session – although the majority of good coaches will offer you this without you needing to ask for it. It could take place at your initial meeting or on a separate occasion. This will give you a better understanding of how well the two of you will be able to work together.
And what’s it all going to cost? Will the person charge per session, and if so how many sessions do you anticipate having? What will you get for your money? Is it just the session, or will the person make some notes for you? Will they offer you (free) email and phone support between sessions? Consider asking for an ‘outcome’ based fee as opposed to ‘output’ based. Let’s use the example I mentioned previously – wanting coaching in order to improve interview successes. If the person offers you six sessions at £Y each, suggest that you will pay them half that, but will give them a bonus (of more than 6 x £Y) if you are successful at interview within the next 12 months. This would cost you slightly more if you are successful (which is what you want) or slightly less if you are not successful. It will also test how confident they are in their own skills, and possibly how confident they are that you have the potential.
You might think that this is a rather detailed and perhaps too thorough a process – I guess your views will depend on how much you value the potential benefits. If you do follow these tips, however, you will find yourself a very good quality coach.
Are there any tips I have missed?