Choosing your Coach
It can be hard to choose your coach; for a start there are a lot of people out there marketing themselves as coaches and mentors. So how do you pick? And how do you know who’s any good? Here’s my quick guide.
1. Do you want a coach, a mentor or a consultant?
A mentor will probably have experience that’s relevant to you – they may have set up a business already, or started in the post room and ended up on the board. In any case they will want to advise and guide you, sharing their wisdom. A coach may not have relevant experience and will be reluctant to give advice; instead they will ask you questions and help you get to the answer that’s right for you. They’ll also be very interested in your goals and what you want to achieve and will help you to get there. A consultant will tell you what they think you need to do, and that may not be what you think you need to do!
2. Can you afford to pay?
Mentors are often volunteers. They may be a more senior manager in your company or an experienced person who gives a few hours a month pro bono. Business and executive coaches are usually (but not always) highly trained professionals with considerable business experience and they will want paying. Good coaches may charge £200 per hour or more so ask what their rate is before you get in too deeply. Don’t be afraid to ask for a reduction – it’s a very competitive market.
3. Do they know what they’re doing?
As a coach I know I’m in a position of great trust with my clients so knowing what I’m doing really matters to me, that’s why I’m studying for a MA in Coaching and Mentoring Practice at Oxford Brookes. However coaching is an unregulated profession and anyone can set themselves up as a coach with very little training or experience. So ask where they trained and for how long and check them, and whoever trained them, out. Ask what their coaching model is (ie how they coach). If they’re vague or evasive then it’s a fair bet that they’ve done a very short course or had some in-house training (if they’re with a big firm) and not much more. Always, always check their LinkedIn profile for testimonials and ask to speak to a current client or two about their experience of working with the coach.
4. Do you like and trust them?
You’ll spend some very intense time with your coach, you’ll share things you never imagined you would ever tell anyone. So can you trust them? Will they judge you, or gossip about you? If you think they will do either of those, run a mile. And do you like them? Is there any rapport between you? Can you imagine looking forward to spending time with them? If not, look for someone else. Go with your gut instinct on this one.
Once you’ve made your choice and appointed your coach, mentor or consultant remember that you may well outgrow them. If that happens don’t be afraid to move on to someone else who better meets your needs. Some coaches focus on holding on to clients as long as possible; good coaches will encourage you to make whatever change you need to.