Partnering with the wrong coach is like being on a bad date that never ends.
I’ve been there!
I once worked (albeit briefly!) with a coach who was so antagonistic that I literally ran for cover, avoided calls, and eventually called the investment a “wash,” and moved on with my life. In retrospect, I realize that my coach saw it as her job to use shame (masquerading as “accountability coaching”) to create results. Ugh!
I’ve also partnered with friendly coaches who – while nice people – didn’t move the needle in my life or help me experience a more significant impact on my career or business.
On the bright side, I’ve had the pleasure of partnering with influential coaches I enjoyed and benefited from so much that I referred them to friends and re-hired them over the years.
If you are reading this, you might wonder:
“How can I find the best coach for me?“
This article is all about that.
I’ll share a few tips from my experience of having partnered with many coaches and communicating with almost a thousand professionals in search of coaching support since I became a professional coach in 2014.
You know rapport when you feel it.
Even in a coaching relationship, where it is sometimes essential for a coach to point out the reality of a situation (which might create loving disruption in a client’s life!), there must be a deep base of rapport on which the partnership is built.
Without rapport, a coaching partnership is a struggle. Every conversation will feel like a drag, or worse, like being pulled into a surprise meeting with your boss. Yikes!
Rapport is something all human beings can experience in their lives. As you are exploring a partnership with a coach, check in with yourself to see if that connection is present in your discussions with a potential coach. If not, move on!
This is one reason why I have a conversation (or two) with every client before jumping into a coaching partnership. Rapport can be felt. Pay attention to it when meeting with your potential coach.
Can you be open and honest with your potential coach?
You get out of a coaching process what you put into it. If you are guarded, not trusting or feel like you need to “impress” your coach with your successes and extreme positivity, you won’t get far in a coaching relationship.
Coaching is built on the strength of an open conversation about what you wish to create for your career and life while also exploring what might stand in the way. Be sure that whomever you partner with seems like the kind of person you feel comfortable sharing openly with while also being someone that respects the confidentiality and sanctity of those conversations.
Does your potential coach have enough expertise to grasp the context of your life and work?
I’m not saying that your coach needs to know all the nitty-gritty details of your job. It’s also not true that your coach needs to have been a higher-level (or more successful) performer than you are (or wish to be) in your work.
I’ve coached people in different industries and at higher levels in their careers than I was – including CEOs, Corporate Executive Leaders, etc. However, in all cases, I felt capable of understanding the essential context and functions of their role to facilitate our conversations.
What is needed is that your coach understands enough about your domain of work (or the area of life you are coaching on) that conversation can flow freely without needing to stop to define and explain the essential context to keep a conversation moving.
I coached a Medical Professional (a highly specialized M.D.) early in my coaching career. She was a physician overseeing a team of nurses and technicians dealing with acute care scenarios. She resonated with my approach and wanted to work with me, even though I focus on coaching professionals and founders in the technology industry.
Our partnership was successful, even though I have no medical expertise or training since we focused on elevating her leadership and productivity. However, when it came time to explore more specific aspects of her field of practice, it became clear that a healthcare-oriented coach would best serve her with more intimate knowledge of her situation (ideally a coach who was previously a Doctor!).
Great coaches understand this and tend to refer clients outside their zone of expertise to a provider who can better serve them by knowing the sufficient context. In part, this is why I focus on serving professionals in the technology industry. It’s a domain I know well through vast corporate experience. Further, having coached hundreds of tech-focused clients since 2014, I continue to understand what it’s like to perform well, change roles, adapt and progress in the industry.
Does your coach have (and continue to seek out) training and mentoring to improve and deepen their coaching skill? Do they have any certifications from reputable coach training organizations or are they winging it?
I’ll say that without exception:
Every outstanding coach I have ever encountered has heavily invested in their learning and development through coach-specific training and direct coaching for themselves.
While there are great coaches I’ve gotten to know who do not have formal certifications from the leading professional association for coaching, the International Coach Federation (ICF), in all cases, these individuals were coaching for decades before any such certifications were in existence. Further, even these masterful coaches continued (and still continue to) hire coaches and attend coaching-specific training to further their growth.
It’s a sad fact that anyone can call themselves a coach these days as it is an unregulated profession (unlike psychotherapy and many other service-oriented careers), but many “coaches” that I encounter online (and sometimes in real life!) are not actually coaching. Instead, they are consulting or simply selling a technique or process (often created by someone else) backed by limited training and experience.
Can your coach explain what they do and how they do it in simple language?
Humans are tricky. When dealing with human beings and the human mind, explaining precisely how results show up can be challenging. Even in my coaching practice, describing exactly how each coaching program unfolds can be challenging. In fact, by design, true coaching is spontaneous and unpredictable, and it’s in that uncertainty that insight and wisdom can arise!
That said, when I meet with a potential client, I take the time to describe the essence of what I do, how the process tends to unfold for most clients and the type of learning and impact that can be experienced.
Any coach, particularly those who have been in practice for a while, should be able to articulate clearly the essence of their coaching process and how it can unfold. The more simple the process, the better. A complex coaching process is a red flag.
If your potential coach says, “Just trust me!” or worse “I’ll tell you my process once you pay me!“- move on and find a coach with enough clarity and experience to describe how they do what they do in a way you can understand it and feel comfortable.
Does your coach give you the time and attention to support your decision process?
Coaching is an investment of time, money and energy. When hiring a coach, you enter into a relationship that can provide a transformative impact. Such a choice of coaching partner should not feel rushed (even if you make your decision quickly!).
Your potential coach should exhibit patience, balance and enough non-attachment in needing you to hire them to allow you to make a choice that makes sense for you. Your decision might be instant, whereby simply reading a coach’s website or blog makes you say “YES! I want to work with this person!“.
On the other hand, you might require a bit of conversation, exploration and thought before committing.
Either way, your coach should be patient to allow you to make your best choice. If your coach is pressuring a response, or worse, not allowing sufficient time for discussion to get your questions answered, you should really ask yourself if your experience working with the person as your coach will be any different.
Just get started
Above all, just get started!
I’ve learned a tremendous amount from the coaches I’ve partnered with, even those I would never hire again. My investment was never wasted.
If you want to create something special in your life or work, coaching is a powerful way to help you do that. Don’t overthink it, but do look for the qualities I’ve written about in this article as you search for the right coach for your needs. Then, with open eyes and lots of rapport, dive into it and see what your future has in store for you.
If you are curious about what coaching with me might create for your career as a technology professional, review this page to learn more.