Saturday, April 18, 2009

Six Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Coach

Industry experts estimate the number of business / personal / life / executive coaches to be in excess of 30,000 and growing daily. So how do you know that the Coach you have found (or more likely has found you) is the right one for you and your needs? How do you know if they are what they say they are? And how do you know if they will in fact be able to help you?

Unfortunately, in spite of the efforts of a couple organizations trying to "police" the industry, there is no single entity that governs the coaching industry and controls any form of certification process. So in many ways, the process is up to you.

To help you navigate through the fog, here are 6 questions to ask a perspective coach before you make any hiring decisions. It's important to note that there are no right answers to any of these questions. It is through the process of asking that you will gain invaluable insight into the person you will be building a very deep, trusting relationship with.

1. How do you coach / What is your coaching process? There are as many coaching processes and systems as there are search results for the word "Coach" in Google (150,000,000 last time I checked). Regardless of their process though, every coach should be able to walk you through what they will do, how they will do it and what you should expect to see as results.

Funny thing is that no matter who many methods of coaching there are, at their core, they all come down to the same things. All coaches provide the following services at some form or another:

- Cheerleader
- Confidant / Trusted Agent
- Coach / Mentor
- Teacher
- Accountability Partner
- Objective Observer
- Therapist (at the lowest levels)

Listen for these words and make sure your perspective client touches some, most or even all of them.

Additionally, Coaches will meet with their clients at different intervals - ranging from as often as daily to as infrequently as quarterly. These intervals should be flexible (to meet YOUR needs, not theirs). However, if their system provides for embedded flexibility in other ways, they may be somewhat strict on how often they want to meet with you.

Truth is though, you know yourself better than anyone else. You know your habits and your limitations. Don't set yourself up for failure, by signing up for daily / weekly sessions when you know you won't commit to doing the work. And don't sign up for monthly / quarterly sessions if you know you are a procrastinator that needs more daily / weekly accountability. Find someone that will stretch you, but it HAS to be in a way that you will actually enjoy (at some level) - or you won't do it.

2. Why did you decide to become a coach? One of the most telling questions you can ask anyone, is "why they have chosen to do what they do". Not only does it give you insight behind their motivations, but when it comes to coaching, it is extremely important - because of the level of passion and commitment you will need - when you struggle with your own passion and commitment.

Obviously, there is no perfect answer to this question, but the answer will perfectly give you insight as to whether you can work with them.

3. What is your training / experience with regard to coaching me to reach my goals? What are your core areas of expertise? Every coach is going to try to solve problems based on their own personal experience and training. Obviously the more tools they have in their toolbox, the more likely there will be one that is perfect for every situation you might encounter. However, no one is an expert in all areas - with all tools. So if they tell you they are, they probably aren't very good with any of them.

Bottomline, it is important that your coach be able to communicate what they are best at and how that is going to help you reach your goals. But it is equally important for you to recognize when a coach's experience and training are not a match for you - regardless of their past successes. Listen to what they say . . . and what they don't - both provide insight into their practice.

4. Do you have a list of past clients / referrals that I can contact? Both ones that have worked reached their goals and ones that haven't? Past performance is no indication of future success, however, it is an indicator. Get a list of clients that your perspective coach has worked with - both clients that reached their goals / dreams and those that didn't.

Contact at least one of each of the two categories - past successes and failures. Each will provide fantastic insights into the coach and how he will work with you. Ask them what worked for them as well as what didn't work. Ask them what they struggled with and how the coach helped them overcome their difficulties.

Finally, ask your soon to be coach, which client from their past is most like you. Ask if any one them match you at all. Truth is, it may be rare, but talking to this person will give you some great insight into what you will go through.

5. Do you use a coach yourself? Although not a necessity, having a coach or some form mentor / accountability partner is definitely a plus in everyone's life - including your coach. He will be asking you to do things that are going to be very tough for you to do - stretching you and helping you grow in ways that you have never experienced before.

Knowing that he is going through the same process both lends credibility to his requests, as well as gives him a uniquely qualified appreciation for what you are experiencing at each stage of the coaching process.

6. What is your billing process / contract length? Do you offer a trial period so that we can learn about each other - learn whether or not we are a match? Truth is, you aren't going to know if you are a good match after one meeting. I recommend 3-4 meetings before making any level of commitment to the process.

It comes down to the simple fact that, "You don't know what you don't know." Give yourself some time to think through what you want and whether or not this person is going to be able to help you reach your goals.

As far as billing is concerned, there are numerous ways that coaches bill for their services. Some bill hourly, some on retainer, while others bill based on the results they produce. Some require long term contracts, while others go session to session. Regardless of their methods, make sure it is a match for you - that you are comfortable with the process and you can commit to the contract.

The only warning I will make, is that coaching is not a short term fix. If you are unwilling to commit (at some level) to at least 3-6 months, don't waste your time.

If you have any other questions about the coach you are thinking about hiring, please feel free to contact me at or for the most non-biased support available, contact SCORE at

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