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How to Choose the Right Coach for You

So you want to hire a coach but with so many choices it's easy to feel overwhelmed. How do you find the coach that is right for you? It can seem like a daunting task so here are some guidelines to help you make the right decision for you.

Step One Before you start interviewing coaches, here are some questions you might ask yourself. Your answers will give you a place to start your search.

1. Why do you want to hire a coach?

2. What kind of goals are you working on? Business? Personal? Creative? A combination?

3. What kind of background and experience do you want your coach to have? Do you want someone who has worked in large corporations or small businesses? Do you want someone with a spiritual background? Do you want someone who comes to coaching from therapy and counseling or not? Is it important that your coach have experience as an artist, writer, scientist, educator or something else?

4. Do you want a coach who provides structure and accountability or do you want someone who appreciates process as well?

5. How important are credentials to you? Be aware that credentials can tell you some things but not always what it is you need to know.

6. Do you want to work with a man or a woman? Does age matter to you? Are there ethnic or cultural issues that matter to you?

7. What values are most important to you? And which must your coach share?

8. Do you want a one on one relationship with your coach? Or would you prefer a group?

9. Do you want to meet with your coach in person? Or do you like the ease and efficiency of phone sessions? Maybe you would prefer coaching online, e-mail or instant messaging?

10. Do you want regularly scheduled appointments? Or do you want on call coaching just when you need it?

11. Do you want an experienced coach? Or are you open to working with a new coach? Most would assume that the experienced coach would be a better choice but in many cases the enthusiasm and the active learning of a newer coach can be of tremendous value.

12. How much are you willing to spend? This is the last question because it is the least relevant. And notice, I did not say how much can you afford? Hiring a coach is an investment in yourself and offers a very high return on investment. So the question becomes, how much are you willing to invest in yourself at this moment in time? My recommendation is to take money out of the equation, make a decision based on all other factors and then factor the money back in.

Take some time to think about these questions. Write down your answers and prioritize them. You may find a coach who has it all but chances are you will have to compromise on something so be clear about what is essential and what is not.

Step Two Once you are clear about what characteristics you want in a coach and what your priorities are, you are ready to start looking.

1. Ask for referrals. If you know a coach, someone who has a coach or someone who is familiar with the field, ask them to recommend some coaches. Discussion lists and networking groups may be places to put out your request.

2. Take classes. Most coaches teach classes in both live and teleclass formats. Find subjects that interest you or coaches who sound interesting and take their class.

3. Use referral websites. Coachville, the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the International Association of Coaches (IAC) all have directories of their member coaches.

4. Check out websites. Once you have some names, go to their websites and find out everything you can about them.

5. Subscribe to their newsletters. Read past issues that may be archived on their website.

6. Read their blog. Many coaches are now adding weblogs to their online presence. Read what they are writing about. Does it resonate with you or not?

7. Identify 3 coaches you might like to work with. By this time you have gathered a great deal of information, have eliminated many and are probably down to a relatively short list anyway. Honing it down to 3 gives you enough choices without sending you into overwhelm.

8. Make an appointment with your top 3 choices. Most coaches offer a free introductory session. Take advantage of this offer and talk with them. What is most important during this session is to pay attention to how you feel with this coach. Do you feel comfortable? Does the coach feel genuinely interested in you? Does the coach seem to "get" you? Does the coach's pace and style work well for you? What kind of value did you receive from this one session? Did the coach answer your questions completely? What is your intuitive sense about each coach? Your intuition may be the deciding factor and, in some cases, may override your objective criteria.

9. Make a decision and hire a coach.

Final Note It took me over a year to find my coach. In the end it came down to two possibilities. One was very experienced, highly regarded in the coaching community and exhibited excellent coaching skills in the many classes I took. The other was a relatively new coach who was just starting her business. I had taken one free teleclass and a 4 week group. I liked the material very much but didn't particularly like the group.

So who did I choose? I chose the newer coach. Was that the right decision? Absolutely! I had a strong intuitive pull to her which was the deciding factor. In retrospect, the more experienced coach has taken off in a direction that is totally incompatible with my values and I would be looking for another coach had I hired him.

Instead, I have an established relationship with a coach who knows me well, knows when and how to support me, knows how to challenge me effectively and has great insights. Best of all, she asks really, really great questions.

Having the right coach for you can make all the difference in achieving your goals. Take your time, explore your options and trust your judgment.

Good luck!

© 2004 Susan L. Fuller

Susan L. Fuller, "The Allergic to 9-5 Coach", coaches creative women who are allergic to 9-5. Working with creative business and artistic professionals, she provides an environment to inspire the development of new works, new markets and new businesses. To find out more visit her at http://www.allergicto9-5.com

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