Coaching is the most powerful tool I’ve ever encountered in personal development (thus business development – for solopreneurs, authorpreneurs, freelancers and other entrepreneurs whose business depends solely on their performance).
It’s the more effective the better is your coach, assuming there is the right chemistry between the two of you. So, how to find a good coach?
Let’s go over some common sense tactics, guidelines of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), and secret practices of coaches to find a good coach for you.
Common Sense Tactics
Those are things any sane person would go over when hiring someone in any capacity. However, some of them can be misleading or not so obvious (see point #3)
If your friend, buddy or a workmate already “tested” a coach and recommended him/her, then half the job is done. Especially, if your coaching process will be somehow similar (for example, your buddy is a freelancer, like you, and needed help with managing himself in time, exactly like you).
First of all, if the coach has any of them at all. Just the existence of testimonials means two things:
-the coach is competent enough to procure results
-the coach takes their practice seriously enough to put some effort into collecting the testimonials
And both of those things mean the coach is rather good, than underwhelming.
3. Other Components
Of course, if you look for a coach, you would love to research them online and find something about them: their coaching profile, social media, their experience, credentials, even their fees.
Well, lack of the online presence is not a sign of bad coaching; it’s rather the sign of a poor business background, and you’d be surprised how many coaches are poor at doing business.
So, an impressive website is a sign that the coach takes his coaching career seriously; poor online presence is not necessarily the sign of a terrible coach.
International Coaching Federation Guidelines
ICF has its own ideas what it means to be a good coach, and most of them are quite valid. If you want to know them in detail, check out their website. I’ll just highlight a few things that may not be so obvious, or that aren’t exactly as valid as one would have thought.
Can you be a good coach without being accredited by a high-profile coaching institution? My answer is yes. Actually, it’s not only my answer. Coach.me is the habit-building platform with millions of users. They went through their vast vault of data, and they discovered that experience beats certification by a huge margin; by above 400%.
You have four times more chances for success when your coach has the relevant experience, at least in the habit development area. Oh, and those data were from the early days of Coach.me, when their coaching program was a pilot and “coaches” were just experienced users with successful habit streaks invited to the program.
So, not the certification per se is valuable, but what it implies. See below.
Part of the bragging right of the certified coaches is their education. As valuable as it is, education alone means nothing. It’s always the implementation of it that counts.
How to measure the ethical conduct of your to-be coach? Well, all accredited coaches by such bodies like ICF or EMCC need to adhere to strict ethical guidelines. That’s a huge ‘shortcut’ and advantage certified coaches have over uncertified ones.
Of course, ‘need to adhere’ doesn’t automatically mean they do adhere in reality. It also doesn’t automatically mean that an uncertified coach has no ethical standards too. But if a coach has to renew your accreditation every so often, it’s more likely the ethical conduct, indeed, is in accordance with the guidelines.
According to the ICF guidelines, you need to let your coaching be scrutinized by a mentor, period. The minimal requirement is 10 hours of such mentoring scrutiny.
The goal with this is to improve the coach’s competencies by giving them direct feedback about their actual work. It’s professional development 101.
Despite the name, coaching supervision is more like a coaching mastermind – you exchange experiences and advice with other coaches. It’s a coach’s way to get support and development. BTW, one of ICF requirements for the credential renewal is 40 hours of Continuing Coach Education, and Coaching Supervision is counted toward meeting this requirement.
It is professional development 201.
Those “secret” activities are only secrets for people outside of the coaching community. Most of them are somehow included in the ICF guidelines, but the general public has little to no clue about them. Let’s peek behind the curtain.
And mentoring. And supervision. Most people have no clue that in order to become a coach, and later to keep being certified, you need to learn and be constantly mentored – all the time!
So, the easiest trick to verify if someone is a good coach, is to ask them about their continuing coaching education, supervision and who their mentor is. That’s a simple test, and no “bad” coach can pass it.
My mastermind partner asked me early in my coaching career:
“How do you become a better coach (other than by practice)?”
I had no clue. For me, it was even the wrong question to ask. Putting the emphasis on my skills, on myself in the coaching process, felt like something counter-productive to do. The owner of the coaching process is the client and there is no wiggle room for a coach’s ego there.
Yet, obviously, one should be becoming better in their craft, in order to serve their clients better. So, I asked my coaching mentor the same question.
She said that the key to become a better coach is becoming a better person. Thus, not just your education should be continuing, but your personal development as well.
When I heard that, a light bulb went on in my mind. I’ve been a decent coach since day #1. Not great, mind you, but competent enough not to harm a client and get some results. How come? I dabbled very little with coaching up to my ICF-accredited training. However, I had done tons of personal development in the past decade.
What is more, I made my personal development a habit. Or rather, habits. I instilled multiple daily habits which help me to grow in every area of my life – from spiritual through fitness to education. And since your habits make you who you are, my personal development became an integral part of my identity.
How to Find a Good Business Coach?
Do the research. Compare notes with whomever referred the coach to you. Check the coach’s testimonials, website, track record, and professional credentials.
During the first call, ask the coach a few crucial questions:
• who is your coaching mentor?
• do you take an active part in Coaching Supervision?
• what do you do for Continuing Coach Education? (remember that mentoring and supervision may be included here)
• what do you do for your own personal development?
In fact, you can use the above questions as part of the initial process of setting up the first call to screen out not-so-good coaches before you even start the coaching process.