How to find the right coach?
Updated: Jun 26
You’re thinking about working with a coach and are not sure where to start? Let me help you try to figure it out.
I have been working as a coach in helping women at crossroads in their lives and careers for a couple of years. When I meet someone new and I tell them I am a coach, the first question I get is “what kind?”. A simple, yet not so easy to answer, question.
Indeed, nowadays, there are coaches for everything. There are so many labels, it’s hard to understand who’s going to be really able to help.
To make matters worse, coaching is not a regulated profession, which means that anyone can wake up one morning and call themselves a coach.
So how do you find the right coach for you?
Let me share with you some insights that will help you navigate through your options.
The latter point is actually the easiest to solve: check the credentials of the coach to make sure they have proper coaching training, this will give you proof that they are well equipped to do their job well and to support you in a safe and healthy way.
An easy way to do that is to check if they are accredited by a recognised professional body, such as the Internal Coaching Federation (ICF). Accredited coaches will have gone through an extensive background check on their qualifications, skills and competencies as well as experience. In addition, accredited coaches pledge to abide by a code of ethics.
Now, how do you sort through the different types of coaches?
The Coaching industry encourages Coaches to define their own unique niche, which has the result of presenting every possible type of coach under the sun. We’re all unique to be sure, but that doesn’t help much.
The important question to ask yourself is what would you like to have achieved as a result of having worked with your coach. From there, identify the main topic that resonates the most with, for example:
Executive coach: helps you to thrive in the corporate environment
Life coach: helps you to have more clarity on what matters to you in life and live it more fully
Career coach: helps you to identify your next career step and achieve it
Empowerment coach: helps you to overcome internal and external challenges
Confidence coach: helps you to build up and strengthen your self-esteem and confidence
Transition coach: helps you to deal with change
These categories do not have hard boundaries, and they can involve very different styles of coaching. Some are more direct and action-oriented, others are more self-reflective. It’s important to have a connection conversation with your coach to identify how their styles resonate with you.
I would easily describe my particular blend of coaching as a mix of each of the above.
In my experience, they all blend together because, at the end of the day, we’re just one person. We have a work life, a family life, a social life, and we’re always the one person inside. What happens to us in one area of our life impacts all others, and to think that we can file things away in neat little boxes separate from each other is an illusion. I coach the human inside, not the circumstances.
Because everything is connected, we need to be able to talk about everything that is relevant to who we are. If not, we’re missing out on important information that may limit us. There are often parallels between our work life and our home life that we’re not seeing, and solving it in one area will solve it in the other. That is great, in view of the fact that it gives us multiple ways of approaching change.
One example is a coaching client of mine who came to me because she wanted more recognition in her role and to advance her career. What came up in our discussions, though, is that she was a very busy individual, a mother of 2, and just like her home life, her work life involved a lot of juggling different things at once. The result was that she was never anywhere fully, missed out on the priorities that mattered and felt like running around all the time.
We worked on getting clarity about what was important to her, on making time for it and setting boundaries. It seemed easier and more important to my client to first apply it to her personal life: she made time for the gym, she made time for family dinner. In one of our sessions, she shared that she got to spend some “real” time with her husband, which had not happened in a long time, and they joked together that they remembered that they actually liked each other. As she was trying on this new way of being, she radically — and effortlessly — changed her approach to managing her team and she was able to steer things in a much more meaningful way that did get noticed and recognised.
This is true of most clients I have. We talk about their work and we talk about their life, because they are living both, they are in both. And when you ask yourself the important questions, the ones that really matter, it is never really just about getting a promotion, changing jobs, careers or improving work relationships, productivity or networking. There is always a more wholesome objective attached, related to what kind of life you want to have and what kind of person you want to be.
So yes, you want a coach that can support you, guide you in a specific set of circumstances. But most importantly, you want a coach that is able to support the “whole” of you.
So what really matters is that:
You feel safe and comfortable opening up,
You feel heard and understood when you talk to your coach,
Also, it is important to remember, a coach’s role is not to advise you nor tell you what to do in a situation, so they do not need to be the exact expert in your situation. If what you want is advice or someone to tell you what to do, a consultant or a mentor might be a more appropriate choice.
Working with a Coach vs a Therapist?
If you have a mental health condition, it is better to go to a therapist and ask for their advice for your particular situation, on whether working with a coach is also an option.
I have a number of coaching clients that are simultaneously seeing a therapist and the combination can be helpful, the clients find the different approaches complement each other.
Typically, therapy tends to focus more on the past and resolve the trauma of a past issue, while coaching is focused on the present and the future, helping you achieve what you’d like to achieve, more action- and experiment- focused.
There isn’t a need for anything to be “wrong” to work with a coach, it’s about wanting something different for yourself, wanting to thrive.
Now it’s up to you!