The Ultimate Guide To Hiring The Right Coach
James* seemed to be doing OK. When I met him at a business networking group, he appeared confident in himself and the small consultancy he owned.
As I got to know him, however, he shared with me the challenges he was facing. His business was feast or famine – he was either stressed out trying to find clients, or stressed out trying to service them. The pressure was taking its toll on his family life and his health. He wanted to stabilise the business so he could focus on what he liked best: Building a client pipeline while his network of collaborators provided the service.
He believed the answer was simple enough. He just needed to plan ahead a little more, get others involved earlier when he on-boarded a new client, and so on. Nirvana always seemed just around the corner, yet the cycles of stress had been going on for years.
While the surface problems seemed easy enough for him to fix by himself, he never could.
This is because he hadn’t focused on the underlying problem: He lacked a clear vision for himself.
He’d tried a few things, but he always reverted to the established ruts of thinking. There just never seemed to be time to the make changes stick.
When he came to me for help, he was losing hope that he would ever be free.
The first thing I asked him to do was to clarify what was important to him through an in-depth dialogue facility by me. He found the results startling. He discovered that many of the dreams he’d been chasing weren’t really what he wanted.
Yet it set him on the path to understanding the future he REALLY wanted for himself. We then looked at his strengths – the superpowers he could apply when crafting a new future. And we looked at the various trends that would shape the future environment he would find himself in. It was only then that we dived deep into the future, creating various scenarios and vivid images of what he could be in three years’ time.
By mentally trying each scenario on for size, he could get a feel for which ones felt off, and which felt right. By stimulating his imagination, he was able to generate surprising and more exciting possibilities for himself, possibilities he felt genuinely motivated to strive for. This made it much easier to build an actionable plan that could incorporate the challenges he would likely face.
The relief he felt at being crystal clear about what he wanted and how to get there meant he could keep focused on his long-term goals even when there were lots of fires to put out.
He later told me the most amazing part of the process for him was the fact I hadn’t told him to do anything. I’d simply provided the frameworks for him to think productively and clearly about the future, and pressed him to execute his plan.
*not his real name, but a real client I had.
Short: Coaching helps you design a more ambitious future for yourself.
Long: Coaching cultivates your own capacity for self-leadership so that you can more clearly imagine your future, analyse your current state, and create a more ambitious future for yourself. It is part self-exploration, part design, with the objective of executing a plan that will radically improve one or more areas of your life.
Career coaching for those who don't know what they want to do
What types of coaching are there?
The word “coach” is probably most commonly associated with sports, although those coaches are really training, because they are instructing someone how to do something.
Yet one of the most famous books in non-sport coaching comes from the world of tennis: The Inner Game by James Gallwey. Published in the mid-1970s, it explained how improvement in performance can often be achieved not through instruction but rather by helping the individual calm the chatter in their heads and let their body do what it needs to do. This is captured in the equation:
Performance = Potential – Interference
Most coaching follows this concept, that what holds us back from achieving what we want isn’t knowledge, but rather ourselves. This may be the result of doubt, fear, regret, uncertainty or any number of other emotions that can cloud our thinking.
If you want to change in some way, then a coach can help you figure out what you want and how to get there. They won’t tell you what to do, but they will stimulate the creative thinking you need to figure it out. The most common types of coaching are:
Life – A life coach can help you with pretty much any aspect of your life and their intersections, including health, finances, career, family, social relationships, and the spiritual side of your life.
Career – Specialized in helping individuals get jobs or even switch careers.
Wealth – For those who need to better manage their finances.
Relationships – From finding a boyfriend to avoiding a divorce.
Leadership/executive – In a corporate environment, for leaders to develop their communication, influencing, strategic thinking or any other leadership skills.
Business – For small business owners, this type of coaching combines confidence building with practical skills on how to operate and grow a company.
Group – For personal or corporate goals, when the coaching can be done in a group.
Anything else – I have a coach to help me write my book, for example.
So, what can life coaching do for me?
Anything you like, but common goals are:
- Getting fit
- Changing jobs
- Getting on top of your finances
- Being more strategic in running a small business
- Starting a new business
- Do a better job at work
- Writing a book
- Improving productivity
- Getting motivated
- Finding a partner
Sounds like I could do a lot of this myself.
You could, but you won’t.
As with James in the story, it seems possible to achieve what you want to, but if you’ve been thinking that for months or even years, there’s no reason to believe anything will change in the next months or years.
Some people find it easy to go for a run every day, but they need a coach to help them stop procrastinating at work.
Some people find it easy to make money but need a coach to help keep their marriage from imploding.
You can do a lot of things well. Get a coach for the things you can’t.
What’s good about coaching?
- It forces you to think creatively. A good coach will get you to consider things you previously hadn’t thought about, or those you believed were impossible. I find this the most fun part, for me and the client.
- You will increase your awareness of everything to do with you.
- A good coach will hold you accountable for what you said you would do.
- Once you try it, you see how it can apply to all aspects of your life. I’ve used several coaches in the past for many things – from building friendships to getting more exercise – and continue to use coaches for important projects such as my business and my book.
What’s bad about coaching?
- It takes time. Traditional coaching can take months or even years, with the client and the coach meeting only once every month or two. This is why I created the 90-day challenge to make sure your desired change happens quickly.
- It takes money. Coaching can cost a lot of money. That’s why I keep my rates reasonable and will next year be launching a membership-based club that can further keep the costs down.
- It assumes you know what you want from your future. The problem is, most people thinkthey know what they want, but they have in fact only the vaguest idea. The result is that the individual continually changes their goals and they don’t make progress on any of them.
For example, I work a lot with investment bankers, who superficially want to keep rising up the bank’s corporate ladder. But when I press them, I find out they actually want to be art dealers, architects or surf shop owners.
That why I assume you don’t know what you really want from the future, and part of my job is to help you create a future vision of yourself that is compelling and motivating.
When coaching is right for you
- You want to change. Your current situation is unsatisfying, and you want your future to be different. Your future won’t change itself.
- You feel the urgency. You’ve waited a long time for the future to change itself, but you’ve realised that it’s up to you to take control.
- You’re ready to let go. Creating something new means getting rid of something old, in this case old ways of thinking and doing.
When coaching is wrong for you
- You genuinely can figure things out for yourself in every aspect of your life. There are few people like this. Even Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had coaches.
- You have serious mental health problems. No one has perfect mental health, but you’ll need to seek the help of medical professionals for serious problems. Nevertheless, you can still get coaching for other aspects of your life.
- You’re not committed to changing. If you’re happy coasting, then coaching won’t likely take you anywhere different.
Myths about coaching
Coaching is only for losers. If you’re perfect, you don’t need coaching. For the rest of us, coaching can take us from good to great by giving us greater control over our futures. In fact, those who are genuinely poor performers at work, for example, are unlikely to find redemption in coaching.
Coaches should be experts in what I’m doing. In some circumstances, specialist knowledge can be useful. You might find my experience running a small business, training people to take interviews or living abroad relevant to your situation, but I’ve also coached people on many other topics. Coaches aren’t teachers.
Coaching is expensive. Wasting your life comes with a cost too. The value created by coaching should easily outweigh the financial investment.
How to choose a coach
There are lots of coaches out there, but you want to find one that knows what they’re doing and will click with you.
Qualified: Coaching is unregulated, so anyone can call themselves a coach. You can get peace of mind by finding one who has taken a coaching qualification, especially one recognised by the International Coaching Federation.
Insured: Qualified or not, if the coach is serious about their business and the quality they provide, they will have insurance to be a coach.
Testimonials: They should be able to provide evidence that what they do has worked for other people.
Fit: If a coach offers to take you on without having talked to you about your situation, you should run away. Coaches shouldn’t take on clients unless they are sure they can help them, and so they should offer a free, no-obligation call to all potential clients to see if the coaching relationship can work.
Others: Depending on your situation, you may prefer a male or female coach, or one with a particular background relevant to you. Some coaches also offer money-back guarantees, although many don’t because the coaching process can be challenging and requires a high degree of commitment from the client.
How to make the most out of a coach
First, make time for it. Perhaps the single biggest reason people find themselves in a bad place is because they’re overwhelmed, chasing their tails trying to keep on top of things in the very short term. They would love to plan for the long term, but can’t find the time. Coaching is the process to lift you out of the BS of the present so you can think about your future, but you need to make that a priority for it to work.
Second, be as open as possible. All coaching should be completely confidential, and you will get the most out of it when you share with your coach everything that’s going on in your head, not matter how crazy, dark or fleeting. When people get comfortable with coaching, they can often tell the coach things they can’t tell anyone else.
Third, take time to reflect so you can understand what’s working and what’s not. Understanding yourself better is one of the main benefits of coaching, and often the most surprising for clients.
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