Up Your Game By Hiring A Professional Coach

When we curl up with a good book, or binge-watch our favorite TV series, we have focus a-plenty. But what happens when we’re thinking or talking about making a significant change in our lives—OOH! Must wash the dishes, take mother to the nail salon, organize the closets.

Oh, sure. We know to get in to action. But is it the type of action that produces the results we want?

Ever wonder what the high-performing, agile executive leader you admire knows about being a change agent that you don’t? How she gets going and keeps going, above distraction and onward to her next visible achievement?

Before you tell me she is blessed with perfect parentage and supernatural instincts for how to get priority shizzle done, I’ll ask you to reconsider.

Chances are, this person you admire has a coach. A mentor. A partner to help navigate the challenging passages of growth–her own and the people she leads and serves. Many companies and organizations provide coaching for their top people. Why do they do this?

Four words: shrink the learning curve.  

What’s important about shrinking the learning curve?

Whatever it is, making more meaning, money, connection–getting there faster than they could on their own, with more confidence, less stress and procrastination, is an investment worth making.

Adrift with indecision? Circling Dallas? Giving up on going for your dream? Optional, optional, optional.

So what’s the secret to hiring a coach who’s right for you?

Here’s the skinny on it.

You could just decide to google some names and specialties of coaches.

But there’s even a better way:

Ask better questions.

For most of us, identifying what we want to do next can be frustrating and elusive. Even if we know what it is we want to do, how we would possibly get there from here feels uncertain. Unknowable. I know it had been for me.

Want to know essential guidelines and considerations for hiring a coach?

I’ve been keeping copious notes about what people ask before they hire me, what they say when they complete coaching, and what I’ve asked of coaches I’ve hired.

The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Professional Coach

Guidelines For Hiring A Coach

Why hire a coach?

These are the most common reasons clients hire me as their coach:

  • conversations with friends and family about next direction are not leading to desired change
  • reading/research about the desired change is not leading to desired change
  • feelings of stuck, frustration and analysis paralysis are showing up as harsh self-judgement, sleeplessness, restlessness, and/or retreating from important relationships and opportunities
  • they are disheartened from going it alone
  • they want clarity about the big picture, next steps and confidence to make change happen
  • they’re tired of comparing themselves to others and coming up short

According to the ICF Global Coaching Client Study, individual clients reported a median return on investment of 3.44 times their investment. Companies that use professional coaching have a median return on investment of seven times their investment. The overwhelming majority of clients polled were highly satisfied with their coaching experience.

Where to Find Coaching Pros

Finding a coach who’s a good fit for you can be daunting. Do not let this stop you. Identifying and making your unique strengths VISIBLE are part of your responsibility as you evolve in your life and career.  Here are four strategies to use to find the right professional for you.

  • Search the professional coaching association site ICF (International Coaching Federation) credentialed coach finder
  • Conduct a search on Linked-In
  • Ask friends who have made progress you admire for their referrals
  • Ask your medical doctor or therapist for a referral

Keep at it. The key to finding a coach who’s a good fit for you, who will challenge you and help shrink the learning curve, is well worth the effort.

“Amid the pressures of our everyday routines it’s easy to forget what matters most. We yearn for lives of more energy, enthusiasm and connection – but where to start?” – Gretchen Rubin, New York Times Best-Selling Author of The Happiness Project

The Five C’s of Hiring a Coach

  1. Code of Ethics. Is the coach a member of the International Coaching Federation(ICF)? All ICF members pledge to uphold a set of ethical standards and are accountable to its standards. If the coach is not an ICF member, what ethical standards do they follow?
  2. Coach-specific training. Has the coach had coach-specific training? Or is the coach marketing herself as a coach based on other education/experience? Many who call themselves coaches have not been formally trained in specific coaching skills and instead are transferring skill sets from other professions into their coaching. This method often results in an ineffective coaching experience for clients. Look for someone who is well-trained by an ICF-approved coach training program.
  3. Credential. Is the coach ICF Credentialed? When hiring a coach, the ICF strongly recommends finding someone who holds an ICF Certification. The certification signifies a coach’s commitment to integrity and credibility; an deep understanding of coaching skills; a coach’s dependability to clients; a strong code of ethics; superior knowledge and skills; and a coach’s stance for professional rigor and continuing education.
  4. Context. What other specialized skills/degrees/experiences does the coach have? How important are experiences in specific areas to you? Think about the kinds of goals you want to create for your work and life. Is this coach able to address them effectively?
  5. Chemistry. Do you feel a connection with the coach? The coach-client relationship is very important; a connection between you and the coach is vital. If it does not “feel” right to you, consider choosing another coach to whom you feel more connected and trust.

The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Individuals who engage in a coaching relationship can expect to experience fresh perspectives on personal and professional challenges and opportunities, enhanced thinking and decision-making skills, enhanced interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence and ability to carry out their chosen work and life roles.

How to Get Highly Visible Results When You Hire a Coach. Ask Key Questions.

What do you need from the coach?

The clearer you are about your needs, what you want to feel, what you want to do, the better your coach will be able to help you.

Want things like a hard-stop when you get stuck in the mucky muck of doubt or an old story? Want no-excuses accountability in between sessions? Got a by-when date for changing jobs? Let your coach know early on so you’re on the same page and she can show up for you accordingly.

Other questions may include:

  • What is your availability and response time like?
  • What hours/days do you work?
  • What are you most talented at?
  • What do people like most about working with you?
  • What happens if you aren’t happy with the work they provide?
  • What types of assessments do they use to clarify the way forward?
  • What are some coaching success stories (specific examples of individuals who have succeeded as a result of coaching)?
  • Why are or aren’t you a good candidate for coaching?

How long is a coaching agreement?

How long the coaching goes varies with the coach and each client. Choices range from laser coaching to long-term coaching. I’ve had clients meet or exceed expectations in three sessions and others who seek ongoing sustainable support over several years. My coaching packages reflect what I know about behavior change and neuroscience; that change takes place by introducing desirable behavior repeatedly over time. The majority of my clients achieve what they came for within 2-3 months.

What about the coaching investment?

Many companies and associations have a budget set aside for coaching. If you are an independent professional or your company does not cover it, ask yourself with kind permission, what you are in position to pay for coaching. You need to have skin in the game to change behavior successfully and it’s okay to feel it’s a bit of a stretch. What do you stand to gain by going for it? What do you stand to lose by passing on it? Coaching is a service that sometimes appears like an indulgence until it is experienced as the KEY to professional and personal growth that may have stagnated or become invisible over time.

How is coaching different from therapy?

Coaching differs greatly from therapy, consulting, mentoring or training. As someone who holds coaching certification and has in-depth training in psychology, therapeutic, and organizational settings, I believe the major difference between therapy and coaching is that therapy is based on a medical model and delves into a person’s past and process. Coaching, on the other hand, starts with the assumption that each person is whole as-is and nothing about them needs to be fixed. The coaching focus is on closing the gap from where they are to where they want to be and gives them tools they need to create positive growth and sustainable change. I often partner with therapists who refer clients for actionable accountability and strategic goals.

Great freedom, vitality and visibility come when you trust and are comfortable with moving in the direction of your next calling.

For those of you already off on your next adventure, and have read this far, good luck. May it be a well-balanced season of achievements for you.

And for the many who are still waiting for the next phase of your life to reveal itself, I hope you find that part within that gives yourself kind permission to ask a key question and decisively take action on the answer: How will I shrink the learning curve?