Here are eight areas and questions to consider when looking to work one-on-one with a Coach… no matter what area of your life you’re keen to explore… plus these principles also apply whether you’re meeting in person or virtual.
Ten years ago, coaching was the second fastest growing career globally, nowadays it seems there are coaches for everything – career, parenting, confidence and doubts, start-ups, SEO, course creation, presenting, finding your voice… it must still rank in the top 10. I got slightly nervous over the pandemic as I also saw an influx of people calling themselves Coaches, as a stop-gap, to make a quick consulting buck, or they felt their wisdom was valuable to vulnerable people. On-on-one coaching is more than just a few conversations over coffee and offering up life advice. It’s no wonder anyone who is curious about working with a Coach is easily confused and overwhelmed.
Let’s start with distinctions, coaching is not consulting, mentoring, therapy or offering advice as often presumed. It’s an evidence-based discipline to help people navigate change with countless academic studies to prove its efficacy and validate it’s effectiveness. I would advise you to check that any Coach you aim to work with does know and follow the credential guidelines and ethical standards of the industry.
If you have time to delve deeper, I’ve shared some of my journey on becoming a Coach below, which raises a critical point, make sure a coach asks about you first, are they curious about what you’d like from coaching before sharing their way of working (or making a sale!)
1. Check they have done some legit training
Ask: Tell me about your coach training, and how this applies to how we work together?
A great course (and accreditation) will sift out the rescuers and advice monsters, and ensure they have had sufficient practice hours of coaching (not hours of drying a friend’s tears!). An effective Coach will tune into you, they will hold space and give you their attention, ask provoking questions that enable you to reflect, learn and act on. The process will help you take responsibility for the choices you make and cultivate your self-awareness. Make sure a Coach complies to a code of ethics, can set boundaries, and make an agreement (before commencing) so you’re both clear on the expectations of working together.
2. Enquire whether they walk their talk and aren’t advising from a pedestal
Most Coaches have an interesting story behind how they got into coaching or when a profound experience impacted their life. You want a Coach that’s experienced change in their own life, that is willing to get in the ring and get scrappy, not someone that is up in the stands advising and critiquing others from a textbook. Some people like to have a Coach who has worked in the same industry or role, I don’t think this is mandatory, rather you need someone who will listen to you, knows what coaching is, and will champion the change you’re after.
Ask: When have you made a change in your life, and how does that impact the way you coach?
3. Make sure you both understand what coaching is
This may seem super obvious. But… make sure you ask them to share their perspective on what coaching is (or isn’t). Make sure coaching is what you think you need, and you understand how it’s different to other modalities like training, mentoring, therapy and counselling. Be curious to ensure that coaching, and coaching with them, is the right choice (or modality) for you. As a starting point, the ICF defines coaching as, ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential.’ Get them to explain it to you.
Ask: Can you tell me what coaching is? And why it would be helpful for what I’d like to work on?
4. Ask about their process or approach
While coaching may seem like a series of conversations, it’s not that simple. There is both a methodology and an art to coaching behind the scenes. The goal or intention will be down to you, however a great Coach is like the guardrails that keep you on track, accountable and work with your resistance when that gets in the way (and it does!).
Ask: How does your coaching process work? What is a session with you like?
5. Ask about other clients who have achieved their outcomes
Check they have testimonials, it’s always lovely to hear what success or learnings other clients have experienced, especially if relevant to the type of shifts you’d like to make. A nice note here is that you’re not looking for them to name drop or share private information, it’s a nice way to test their discreetness.
Ask: What have other people achieved when working with you?
6. Check they are being transparent on the logistics
Most coaching isn’t cheap and you want to receive value for the time, effort and energy you invest. Ensure a potential Coach is upfront about the cost, time investment and frequency of sessions. If they are being unclear, going on the hard sell, or the package doesn’t suit what you need, they may not be the right fit for you.
Ask: How much does a session or package cost, and when do I need to pay you? What is the length of the sessions? How often do we meet?
7. Decide on whether you connect with them
This is the most critical question to reflect on after meeting a potential Coach. There must be chemistry like your friendships and relationships, because coaching is intimate. You need to feel safe and that you can trust this person will your inner world. I offer all new prospects a 20-30 minute introduction conversation to explore this very point, I say outright to them, “if I am not the right person for you, please be honest, I never want anyone to drag themselves to work with me.” It will often shock people, but if it doesn’t work for them or me, it won’t get the results. We usually can’t pick our colleagues or customers (and certainly not our family) but coaching is one of the rare partnerships where you can choose who champions you.
Ask yourself (during and afterwards): Do they feel like the right partner to have as my Coach?
So, how did I get into coaching?
To share openly, I didn’t start out to ‘be a Coach’. I was interested in self-exploration first. I wanted to go through a process of a transformation, or do the ‘work’ so I could then support others with their ‘work’. At the time I felt I needed this for myself, to have the integrity to work with others. What entailed was a career transition, a complete change of pace and priorities, a side-hustle that evolved into a business, then eventually moving cities, becoming a parent and losing a parent. So, that is a lot in 10 years, but I believe I am still doing the work to this day… I have my own Coach and a Mentor Coach to ensure I am on track.
I enrolled in a two year course to uncover what was next in my career and life as I was unsettled with its path in my late 20s. At the time, in Australia (fifteen years ago), I was looking for something holistic, that allowed me to explore deeply ‘who I am’, and that didn’t seem like a six week ‘you can change your life’ magic pill nor did I want something overly woo woo. I can still remember being scoffed out of one of Australia’s leading executive coach training institutes for asking if they explored mindfulness or meditation, and emotional resilience in their course (aka my own self-awareness and regulation in what I was bringing to the work). I wasn’t interested in memorising a formula, practicing with a partner for a couple of hours, and voila ‘You’re a Coach’ printed on a certificate.
I knew the transformative change I was after couldn’t happen in a few swift weeks. And two years later I can honestly say I was spat out, or for the positive spin, I was lovingly interrogated. Most importantly, I was given the skills to understand me, to unpick my beliefs, improve the relationship with myself and others, and know who I want to ‘be’ in this world. It was a truly amazing course that changed me profoundly and I still rely on the techniques in my own life as much as the work I do with clients. I believe the coaching industry attracts lifelong learners, make sure your Coach isn’t a set and forget. There are many layers to us humans, and Coaches need to have a commitment to their ongoing development to best champion your growth along the way.
As a final reflection, is this offering a quick fix or life skills?
I don’t believe coaching is a one-off conversation, that is more the place for mentoring. Yes, in a session you can get an ah-ha moment and be provoked to make change or reach a solution. However, to make lasting embedded change it takes time, reflection and effort to enquire on your thoughts, feelings and actions, and align them (or what I call a calibration). You need to build new habits and evoke new relationship with yourself. A great Coach respects the process of change and will re-contract with you along the way to ensure you’re still on track. During effective coaching moments people do tick off their goals, but they also connect deeply with their spirit and who they are.
If you’re keen to look at an area of your life you’d like to calibrate, let’s chat. I have space for more one-on-one coaching in the coming months. Contact me here for more info and set up a conversation on how to ‘be the change you wish to see’.