How to Hire a Good Coach

My biggest hero? Possibly…

Let’s face it, not everyone really knows what to look for when they hire a coach. Most see some credentials and assume there is a level of expertise associated with those certifications. All certifications do, however, is establish a baseline of skill, not expertise or ideal fit with you and your situation.

Chances are, if you are thinking of hiring a coach you probably are feeling lost on a topic and need help now. Slow it down a notch and think of these things when you look for a one-on-one Coach:

1) Do I like this Coach? What is my first and second impression?

Like learning any new skill, I feel you have to give people a chance, even coaches, at least 3 strikes and keep an open mind.

People try not to, as hard as they can, go by their gut instinct when it comes to first impressions, but it’s really tough. Very often if something speaks to you in the first session and it won’t jive with you, don’t be shy, bring it up.

Is there a mutual respect present? You don’t necessarily have to love or really like your coach at first impression, so long as you respect them and what they do. This will no doubt evolve into liking your coach, and you’ll discover that you probably have similar values and beliefs.

2) Is the Coach empathetic to your situation?

Meaning, do they ram their way of dieting, and working out down your throat right of the bat or do they cater their approach around your needs?

Anyone who takes a ‘its my way or the highway’ approach will probably be a conflict at one point. They don’t care ‘why’ you are presently the way that you are, they only see you as being the way they think you should be.

These coaches either watched too much of The Biggest Loser or read too much about Vince Lombardi.

Remember a coach should be someone who takes into account, umm…YOU? When they are coaching, they should be looking for ‘how’ they can tie their philosophies into what you are doing, or like doing, right now?

Rome was not built in a day, you will not change every single bad habit you have in a day. Good coaches get this and are emphatic to your situation, they want to find the easiest things to change that will have the greatest impact on your life.

3) Does the Coach Care?

Sometimes admittedly I feel as though certain clients will not always be the greatest fits with me. There is nothing wrong with them and I hope nothing wrong with me, sometimes it is just a feeling, sometimes it is 6-12 months of work and little progress, other times we both tried our hardest to to make it work but we just don’t jive. As such, it is up to me to find good fits for them, and that often includes referring else where if it’s pointless for them to continue with me.

I view this as a sign that I care.

I care because if I’m that convinced that I cannot make a difference in this persons life and I know it, well I had better find the right person for the job for them because they need the help.

Good coaches will go the extra mile and do the darn-dest things for you when they care, including sending you to the competition if that is what they think is best for you.

We don’t have all the answers but I know that people who stay in the profession of coaching do so because we love helping people. I want everyone who walks through my door to succeed, even if they cross the finish line without me.

Coaches need to make a buck sure, but reputation is priceless and that means doing things in the best interests of your clients.

4) Does the Coach have a philosophy?

Contrary to pushing my own agenda on every client, I may not say anything outright to a new client but you can be sure I have a thought process in mind the minute they walk through the door.

If they have read this blog than they will also know what my philosophy is. There is a procedure I’m following, sometimes it’s in the paperwork, other times its in my interviewing and still other times it’s based on observations.

I have a philosophy when I work with clients and eventually I wear it on my sleeve, just not all at once — I try to stick to #2 first.

This was one of the first things I learned, from from one of my very first mentors. That was to develop my own philosophy.

Now there are tons of things I’ve learned from other mentors and experiences that have shaped my philosophy over the years but having one, should show that the coach you are working with has at least giving serious thought to his approach. Philosophy is adaptable, it’s a flexible system that lets us simplify things for our clients in manageable chunks.

Note: Beware cookie cutter ‘systems.’ 

5) Can the Coach demonstrate a thorough understanding of the topic at hand? 

Education is important, they should have some. Education like most things typically shows a baseline of understanding though, it shows that you are a thinker, you value learning. It’s just not the only thing, experience can weigh equally on your choosing of a coach, as can a great perspective and attitude.

Does this coach have the skill-set and experience to get you where you want to be?

Beware hiring the coach with a ton of experience in what you want to achieve but doesn’t meet the other criteria though.

Sometimes having success with something yourself doesn’t mean you’re good at coaching it, and there a lot of coaches out there who are terrible coaches that have a ton of experience doing whatever you are getting coached on.

A good test?

Ask questions, ask a lot of questions, you think that coaches get annoyed if you ask too many questions? Most people do, but great coaches don’t, we love to hear the sound of our own voice as we eagerly thrust our knowledge onto others.

6) Can this Coach adapt?

Flexible thinking is key in the field of coaching as a lot of it does get done on the fly. Flexible thinking is important for anyone really but a coach has to be able to adapt to the client.

Is that client in a good or bad mood today?

Do they have a lot of energy or are they flat?

Did they sleep well or poorly?

Yes they should have a game plan going into every situation but they also have to be able to adjust that plan to meet new needs when someone comes in, tight, sore, tired and unfocused. In my own practice I call this ‘Flexible Planning,’ the act of planning in advance, but having a plan B, C and D just in case the above scenarios occur.

The above are only a few things that can impact their ability to do a good job on any given day. A coach that doesn’t plan for adversity, cannot adapt to the situation, and is not going to be particularly effective as a coach.

Word of Caution: There are good coaches and bad coaches out there, just like good and bad doctors. Unfortunately coaching is mostly an unregulated field of practice, this doesn’t mean we can label all coaches as being one way or another. It just means be careful with your selection and take these thoughts into consideration. All of them. I believe very strongly that past the age of 18 (athletics…), picking a coach is a lot like dating.

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