What to look for when looking for a professional coach?

What to look for when looking for a professional coach?

All leaders, professionals, founders, and employees can benefit from getting a professional business coach. But finding the right one might be difficult. In this article, the core qualities and characteristics of great coaches are highlighted.

Esther Marugan | Feb 28th, 2021

All leaders, professionals, founders, and employees can benefit from getting professional business coaching. But finding the right one might be difficult. It’s a jungle out there and unless you happen to know one or have someone you trust that can recommend one, you might not get exactly what you were hoping for.

What does help is knowing what to look for in a great coach. So, let me take you through a few things you should know about the field of coaching and a host of tips on how to find the right coach for you, your leadership team, and valued employees.

Why Look for a Professional Coach?

Every business and individual is on the lookout for new ways to achieve unprecedented levels of business success. Coaches provide the means and tools to unlock such opportunities.

Professional coaching has been proven to enhance the following professional skills:

  • Communication, listening, and empathy.
  • Investor pitching and negotiation.
  • Team growth, engagement, and development.
  • Time management, prioritization, and problem-solving.
  • Positive habit-building.
  • Decision making.
  • Strategy development and execution.

Skilled professional coaches engender a significant boost in performance from multiple angles. The trick is to set concrete goals with an awareness that people improve most within areas where they are already strong. It is commonly misunderstood that improvement in weaknesses is a necessity for development. In truth, we improve most by developing on our strengths and coaching expedites the process.

Beyond strengths, coaching prepares us for the challenges we will face. Today’s working world is rife with volatility, rapid change, hasty decisions, and ambiguity. Therefore, it is crucial that leaders and employees of forward-thinking organizations have somewhere to discuss business dilemmas, strategic issues, reflect on their leadership styles, and connect with the bigger picture. When this need is added to keeping up with industry trends and new practices, recruiting expert help becomes essential.

What qualities to look for in a Professional Coach?

Just as with anyone, coaches have their areas of expertise and uniquely valuable strengths. However, most successful coaches share a host of qualities that make coaching experiences worthwhile and relevant for each client.

The baseline qualities to look out for include:

  • Attentive listening skills – they hear what you do and don’t say.
  • Empathy and high-level emotional intelligence – they can read emotive indicators and body language even virtually.
  • Asks deep, evocative, relevant questions.
  • Opens your mind to new possibilities and perspectives.
  • Helps you identify, understand, appreciate, and apply your own as well as the strengths of others and how these can compensate for your weaknesses.
  • Supports and motivates you (when you need it) and brings you back to reality if your self-confidence becomes overinflated.
  • Holds you accountable - to promises, values, and strengths as well as limitations.
  • Maintains the balance between challenging, supporting, provoking, and motivating you.
  • Keeps appointments.
  • Keeps things confidential - and thus are trustworthy.
  • Structures and explains the coaching process for you.

If your coach does not excel in these qualities, I encourage you to offer feedback - or find another coach.

While these qualities provide an intrinsic foundation, there are notable extrinsic characteristics we suggest you research ahead of employing a new coach.

Is the Coach Well-Educated?

Professional coaches can steer and help with a steady, yet empathetic hand. In order to do this, the coach needs to have undergone extensive training. Formal training gives your coach guidance on their personality, style of interaction, psychological strengths, and barriers. Well-educated coaches benefit from the feedback and supervision of their styles from senior coaches who watch them in live client interactions.

“Weekend-course coaches” or those without formal education are easily found and while they may have amazing personalities and intuitive abilities to be great coaches, they are seldom the finished package. In order to become a world-class professional business coach, intense and years-long training and continuous supervision and feedback are needed.

To understand if your coach has undergone intense training, simply ask for his/her license or degree. Ask where they got their training, and, perhaps, Google the education to find out what others think about it.

Make sure the education is formal and recognized, based on more than just a few days of training. Is it highly ranked within the coaching world?

Among the most recognizable and trustworthy coaching institutions in the world are the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). Trained and Licensed Business Psychologists also have years of training and supervision behind their title.

Does the Coach have Elite Business Acumen and Organizational Experience?

When engaging with coaches for business professionals, it is important to find coaches who have a high business IQ and elite business acumen.

Business acumen can be defined as:

“keenness and quickness in understanding and dealing with a "business situation" in a manner that is likely to lead to a good outcome”.

It is important that the coach naturally understands organizational political dynamics and is knowledgeable in what it means to lead and work in modern organizations. This is typically personified with fluency in business jargon and organizational structures. What is equally critical is the ability of a coach to develop scenarios tailored to the lived experiences of their clients to empower them for the future realities they will encounter.

One way to test the potential coach’s business acumen is to ask them how they intend to help your leaders/employees (or yourself) solve real-life business issues and challenges.

Does the coach speak the language of strategy? What challenges do they foresee for your business? Do they know what it is like to work in a modern organization? Not to mention, what it is like to lead and bring an organization to the next level? Does the coach “get” what you are talking about when you share challenges and experiences?

If not, you might need to find a more suitable option.

Does the Coach Provide References and Recommendations?

Word-of-mouth referrals are great when it comes to finding professional coaches. Ask around for references in your network, and check whether the recommended coaches are the right fit for you and your organization. Remember, they might not be. What works for one person or organization might not necessarily work for another. And as we all know, chemistry and personal fit play a huge role when it comes to the effectiveness of the coaching journey.

Don’t be afraid to ask the coach for previous references. Without trust, you, your leaders, and your employees won’t get the most out of the journey. Furthermore, you might unwittingly hold things back hindering your opportunity for growth and challenge. Therefore, pay attention to the personal connection. Does this coach seem to be the right fit for you and your organization? Do you "click"?

Does the Coaching Methodology Fit Your Needs?

There are a lot of different ways to be coached. Methodologies span from short-term and solution-focused to introspective approaches, where you spend years discovering hidden dynamics that might prevent you from excelling in your career and achieving business excellence.

You might find a coach who dares you to try out things in front of them or online, or in front of an audience where they give you feedback based on direct experiences with you in concrete situations. You might find a coach where you only meet in a consultancy room (online or in real life). Ask the coach what kind of approach they use and why. Ask yourself whether this is a method that fits well with you and your organization.

It is also important to recognize that you might not know what you need. Stay open to different ways of working within the areas you seek help with.

Given the times we’re in, you should consider finding a coach who can do online coaching. Being able to do the coaching online is a resilient way of developing leaders and employees in a fast-paced world. It is time-efficient and safe. The coaching itself can be just as thought-provoking, challenging, real-world appropriate, and impactful as face-to-face coaching. This is something we know all about at Session :-).

Is the Coach Willing to Measure Concrete Goals and Track Success?

For you to evaluate whether the coaching helps or not, it is important to set goals at the beginning of the coaching journey. Revisiting and re-evaluating the goals as the coaching journey continues is also advisable.

Is the coach willing to measure progress and the impact of the coaching on the business? Do they follow an overall structure as you go along? If not, they might have a reason - don't hesitate to ask for it. But take it as a warning sign if the coach is unwilling or unable to explain their process.

Fluffy promises like “it will be great” or “it's hard to measure, but I know from experience that it works” won’t help you in the long run. The majority of clients, employees and businesses, need concrete and tangible ROI proof to maintain a coaching budget. Help yourself by pairing up with a coach who accommodates your request

Where to Find Great Coaches?

As mentioned, word-of-mouth and direct recommendations are great ways to find awesome coaches. However, not all are lucky enough to know someone in their network who knows someone who knows someone.

If this is the case for you, try this:

  1. Post on social media - ask for advice and recommendations.
  2. Search the web for great coaches in your neighborhood, including those working for coaching companies.
  3. Find a coaching website where licensed coaches are represented.
  4. Get in touch with Session. Session is connected with a host of the top coaches all over the world and facilitates a direct connection between ambitious clients and the best coaches in all time zones.

Good luck - and don't hesitate to reach out directly for recommendations!

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Meet the author

Esther Marugan

Esther Marugan

Executive Coach, Session

Expert within Innovation, Strategic and Transformational Leadership, Impulsup, Spain

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