How to choose a Coach?

I hope you will not be discouraged if you hear that I will not directly answer the question "How to choose a coach?" However, I will write how I would choose a Coach or Mentor for myself, as well as describe what recognized authorities in the field of Coaching and Mentoring pay attention to.

If I decided that I know the best answer to the question "How to choose a coach?", it would, in my opinion, be contrary to the fundamental idea of coaching. And the idea is that Coach does not aspire to be omniscient. And, in particular, he humbly remembers that what is best for him does not have to be the best for the Client.
What's more, depending on the situation, the moment in the life of the Client and many extremely important nuances, the best solution for the same problem may be diametrically different for different people.

Therefore, I will describe what, in my opinion, it is worth paying attention to, what criteria to follow when choosing and, ultimately, what is the most important element determining the decision to choose a Coach.

Before we move on to this stage, however, I have a big request for you. Please ask yourself one important question.

What do you need a Coach for?

It is probably Albert Einstein who said that a good definition of a problem is already 50% of the solution. Socrates presented a similar approach in his critical thinking. The most important thing was to make sure we knew what we were talking about before starting the dispute.

Today, a lot is written about efficiency and productivity (I do not like this term very much, because I associate it with the world of machines and thinking of a human being as a machine that needs to be adjusted as much as possible). But very often we look for efficiency in unnecessary activities, and completely forget about what is really important. And very often, e.g. following the current fashion, we choose the wrong tools to solve a given problem.  

So why do you need a coach?

  • What do you want to achieve by working with Coach?

  • How will you know when you have achieved it?

  • How do you rate your understanding of the role and work of a Coach?

  • Have you considered any other options?

  • Do you, for example, know the most important differences between Coaching and Mentoring?

  • How urgent is your need?

  • Is Coach's gender important to you?

  • To what extent are you ready to undertake such cooperation?

A comprehensive comparison of Coaching and Mentoring, which also includes references to Therapy, Counseling and Training, can help you find answers to these questions. You can find them at the link below:

Coaching or Menoring - a comprehensive comparison

I decided to divide the process of choosing a Coach into 4 parts:

  1. Evaluation before the first personal meeting

  2. What to pay attention to during the first meeting and right after

  3. Tips from recognized authorities

  4. My reflections on the choice of a Coach

     

1. How to choose a coach - evaluation before the first meeting

Directional education of the Coach and possible certificates or accreditations

Pay attention to what school, studies, or coaching program has been completed by a given Coach as well as where and what certification has been obtained. How much effort he had to put in order to obtain the certificate. Is the organization that issued this certificate well known? Does it have an international scope?

Be careful with the accreditation "advertised" by the Coach. Accreditation means belonging to an organization or association and theoretically should mean confirmation of the Coach's competence. But in today's world full of information noise, this is not always the case. For example, ACC ICF accreditation in the honorable organization ICF (International Coaching Federation) means ASSOCIATE Certified Coach, i.e. a Coach at the beginning of his journey. Such certification can also be obtained by completing, for example, selected (paid) postgraduate studies in management, which does not necessarily mean achieving a high level of coaching skills.

 

I will also give other examples.

 

The Polish Chamber of Coaching, which operates on the principles of commercial law - associating business entities, also accredits, i.e. confirms the acquired competencies of the Coach. Thus, theoretically, every entrepreneur who pays the premium and meets the statutory requirements can be a member of this chamber, even if he is not involved in coaching practice.  

 

On the other hand, ICC (International Coaching Community) is not a professional association in the strict sense, but an association of coaches who have completed the same course, which is a franchise of Joseph O'Connor's idea. Thus, the ICC is an association of people who have completed the same training program.

 

To sum up: something else is a diploma or certification of a school, another thing is accreditation (which may be multi-level), and something else is participation in an association. They are three different things.

If you would like to better understand where this is coming from and start to distinguish between different associations and organizations, I invite you to the comprehensive summary that you can find here:

History of Coaching

Coach's professional experience, life maturity, regular practice

The longer the Coach's professional experience, the greater the chance of professional and effective support. The more experienced Coach is in life, the greater the chance of achieving the set coaching goals faster. As someone said nicely: Knowledge is information obtained. Wisdom is a deliberate experience. So if you are looking for depth - choose a Coach with more life experience. If you work in a corporation and your problems are related to this job - look for a Coach who also experienced it. Experience makes us notice certain patterns much faster, and at the same time teaches us humility and makes us really approach the metaphorical attitude of "I know that I don't know anything".

Also, check if the Coach has been practicing regularly and for how long. Conducting coaching "on demand" or as one of many activities is a risk.

Coach's specialization

Search for a Coach that best suits your defined needs. Pay attention to whether the Coach is clear about the areas where he or she feels best. For example, Life Coaching is one thing and Business is another. And in the area of Business Coaching, people who have just been promoted to a managerial role for the first time in their lives have completely different needs, and experienced managers have completely different needs. 
Opting for a Coach who "does it all" may not give you the quality you would find elsewhere.

Opinions of the Coach's existing clients

Invest time to search for and read the opinions of existing customers. The obvious source is the Coach's website or the LinkedIn platform. But you can also check out www.dobrycoach.pl  or websites of organizations and associations where the Coach is accredited.

If you have direct opinions from people you know and who have already benefited from the support of a given coach - this is an important advantage.

Supervision

Another element worth paying attention to is supervision. It is a practice in which the Coach uses the support of his Coach or Mentor in the area of his coaching. This practice is especially important in the early stages. A coach is also a human being and also struggles with difficulties and dilemmas. Thanks to the practice of supervision, he can talk about them and work on them. And thanks to this, he does not commit, and more importantly, does not perpetuate mistakes and unconscious habits. He also broadens his self-awareness and can constantly develop his skills.

Coach's activity in social media

I consciously write about the Coach's activity in social media, not about the presence on the Internet. A wise saying goes that "Shallow waters are noisy, deep ones are silent". We live in a world where form becomes more and more important than essence. In a world where whoever screams louder is liked (or hated) but noticed. Stands out!
For some time observe how a given Coach behaves in social media. What does he write about, what language does he use? Does it succumb to fashion indiscriminately? Does he contribute or copy others? Can he conduct a mature discussion and exchange of views? Is he open to a different point of view? Is he self-centered or is he supporting and sharing?

First free session available

And finally, the last criterion that should be taken into account in the evaluation phase before making a decision to meet with Coach. Does the Coach offer a full free session?
This real experience is always the ultimate verification of our truth, our ideas, and our assumptions. And the feelings and reflections you have experienced during such a session, as well as how you will feel right after it, will be the best indication for your final choice.

2. How to choose a coach - what to pay attention to during the first session

Clarity of roles

See if and how the Coach explains his understanding of coaching. In particular, see if he can clearly define what you are responsible for in the coaching relationship and what the Coach is responsible for. Listen to if he can tell you what to expect during the session and if he explains what he will not be doing. An example would be e.g. explaining what a coaching contract is.

Trust and Confidentiality

Feel if the Coach inspires your trust. Observe if during the sessions he works to build it. Trust is the foundation of the coaching relationship. Without it, you can only navigate the surface and the results will be shallow and short-lived.

See also if the Coach will guarantee you full confidentiality and will declare and explain the specific rules that guide him in his practice.

Can a Coach listen and hear?

Listening is a fundamental, absolutely critical Coach skill. So see if he is listening, if he is not interrupting you, if he can repeat what you have said. Is he focused on you with his whole being, not just his ears?

Can a Coach ask good questions?

Knowing how to ask the right questions at the right time is key to growth. So, see what the proportion is between the Coach's monologue and the questions he asks. If, in the first session, you experience questions that will open up for you a different perspective, and maybe even make you silent - this is a very good sign.

Can a Coach be neutral?

Observe if Coach remains "whiteboard". A good coach does not judge, evaluate, or aspire to know better than the Client what the client needs the most. See if you feel safely invited to be open and active instead. Do you have the impression that Coach is curious about you the way you are?

How does the coach close the coaching session?

See how the Coach controls time. And how he closes the session. Do specific arrangements result from the sessions? What is your level of motivation regarding these arrangements? Do you feel like the partner or owner of the arrangement, or do you have the feeling that something is being imposed? And since we are talking about the first free session, see how Coach talks about the financial conditions of a potential collaboration. Is everything clear, is the Coach making sure that nothing is left unintelligible.

Also, do not be surprised if, as a result of the first session, the Coach communicates that he does not want to cooperate. He has the right to do so. He is an adult and can choose. And don't take it personally.  

Your impressions right after the coaching session

I would like to present this aspect in two significantly different ways:

 

1. Possibly measurable, quantified,

2. About more than just rational thinking.

Regarding point 1, please ask yourself the following question: On a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is the maximum), how do I assess the benefits that I gained from this session?

With reference to point 2: What is my intuition telling me, my "stomach"? Has this man-Coach inspired me, made me curious, captivated me? Would I like to spend time with such a man? Can I trust him?

The ultimate selection criterion is the feeling that you are "on the same wavelength". That you meet in your communication and do not pass.  That you are drawn to this person. And it is absolutely OK if at this stage this "something" will be elusive, difficult to define.

 

Your contract is to be a dance of two people. How beautiful and advanced you dance the figures will very much depend on whether you are in harmony with each other. This is a very unique journey. In this journey you will reach out, get to know each other better, there will be difficult moments, there will be moments of joy. Therefore, it is all the more important that you choose someone who suits YOU.

So don't be surprised if the Coach recommended by your friends doesn't quite suit you. This choice is a very individual decision. Ultimately, trust your inner voice.

3. How to choose a coach - opinions of recognized authorities

Maciej Bennewicz , Coach and Mentor with many years of practice, author of many books on coaching, defines it like this:

 

"The effectiveness of coaching, apart from the specific interpersonal relationship between the coach and the coachee, depends on a number of factors that are relatively easy to identify and then indicate. Let us note the most important of them, and at the same time not difficult to specify. They are contained in the following questions:

  • What is the quality of the education completed by the coach, which means professional preparation?

  • Does he regularly undergo supervision?

  • What experience does he have, especially in the cases you want to entrust to him?

  • What recommendations and successes can he refer to as a professional?

  • How does he understand and define coaching and do you accept it as a client? "

source:  https://coachingdao.pl/jak-wybrac-coacha

Prof. David Clutterbuck , Coach and Mentor with many years of practice, co-founder of EMCC, author of many books on mentoring and coaching, sees it like this:

 

"For me, it would be a combination of 3 qualities: humility, curiosity and kindness. Humility allows us to look at our experiences, values and opinions from a certain perspective. Curiosity allows us to explore issues together and in a creative way. Kindness is caring - about ourselves and each other. "

source:  https://effecznycoaching.pl/wywiad-z-prof-davidem-clutterbuckiem-o-mentoringu/

Sir John Whitmore, a late coach with many years of practice, father of business coaching, co-founder of ICF and EMCC, author of the "bible of business coaching" Coaching for Performance tells about it like this:

 

"“ Whether we coach, advise, counsel, facilitate, or mentor, the effectiveness of what we do depends in large measure on our beliefs about human potential. The expressions “to get the best out of someone” and “your hidden potential” imply that more lies within the person waiting to be released. (...)  As with any new skill, attitude, style, or belief, adopting a coaching ethos requires commitment, practice, and some time before it flows naturally and its effectiveness is optimized. "

source: John Whitmore,  Coaching for Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose: The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership

4. How would I choose a Coach for myself?

It just so happens that I also have my Master, and as I was about to prepare the answer to the above question, I realized that it would actually be the answer to the following question:

 

What makes me want to benefit from my Master's support?

And my "Top 3" sounds like this:

  1. This is a person for whom I feel that he is genuinely and disinterestedly interested in the development of another person, has the gift and "soul of a teacher"

  2. This is a person of high ethics and integrity. I trust him and feel safe and comfortable in his company

  3. He is a person who has a great level of skills, can create intellectual and emotional challenges for me and I know that he can always positively surprise me