John J. Simmons
So, you have decided you need a life coach. Now all you have to do is find one... but which one?
As you have discovered if you do a search for "life coach" on the internet, you have plenty to choose from... and the choices get wider every day. So how do you choose the right one?
First of all, let me reassure you that this is not a life-or-death matter and that even if you go wrong, you won't go far wrong... and you can always switch to another coach. Additionally, the benefits of coaching are so strong, that unless the coach is a very poor one, indeed, you will still get gains from the coaching.
With that in mind, let me suggest a few pointers for finding a coach that will help you get the greatest gains from coaching.
Start with the right category
Life coaches come in many different flavors. Most of them can handle general-purpose coaching, but are at their best in one or two sub-groups (the ones that hold the most interest for them or they have the most experience in.) Examples of subgroups are: relationship coach, business coach, career coach, success coach, personal development coach, spiritual coach, recovery coach, parenting coach, dating coach... and the list goes on and on.
What is your style (and the coach's)?
What's your style? Do you prefer someone who is direct and forthright or someone who considers your feelings first? Do you need someone to hear you out or someone who can "intuit" what you are trying to convey and shortcut the process?
Once you know your preferred style, you can make sure the coach is going to honor that.
How important are in-person sessions to you?
Most coaching is done by phone. If it is important for your coaching to be in person, then you need to focus your search locally. You will need to ask the coach if he/she does in-person coaching (many will not). Also, be prepared to pay more as it is outside the norm for coaching.
If you are wondering how effective coaching over the phone can be, most people find it just as effective as in-person coaching.
Ask for recommendations
If you have friends, associates, or colleagues who have a coach, ask them about their experiences with the coach. Your goal is to find out if their coach would be a match for you in style, price, and effectiveness.
Sometimes friends or business acquaintances will have coached with someone in the past, even though they may not currently be doing it. It pays to let people know you are looking for a coach and ask if anyone knows someone they can refer to you.
Where to find coaches
After you have checked with friends and associates, the next place to look is the internet.
One good place to find coaches is in the directories of the coaching schools and certifying groups. Search for "coach training" to find these.
On Google (or Bing or Yahoo, etc.) search for "life coach" + the subgroup that you are looking for (relationship, or parenting, or business, or whatever). If you are looking for someone local, you can do the search for "life coach" + (subgroup) + the name of your town.
Should the life coach be certified?
Let me say that I am a certified life coach. From that vantage point, I will tell you that AT THIS TIME, certification is not very important. Certification is not the same as licensing and there are no universally accepted standards for certification.
Because certification will grow more standardized, it is still a good thing and indicates that the individual has passed a minimum level of assessment. On the other hand, there are really great life coaches who have many years of experience with successful clients who are not certified.
If you like, you can use certification as a "tie-breaker" between two coaches that are strong candidates for you.
Narrow the field
Having collected your information from friends, the internet, and any other sources you encountered, pick up to three coaches that seem to meet the criteria we discussed in Part 1.
Call your picks and ask questions. (Note: oftentimes these questions can be answered just by looking at the coach's website. Even if most of the questions are answered that way, you will still want to talk to them to get a sense of who they are as a person.) If you like the answers you get, set up a sample appointment. This should be free. If it's not, then simply move on to the next coach on your list.
Note: do not set up more than one sample appointment at a time. You are not doing comparison shopping, you are trying to find someone who will partner with you to help you make the changes you want.
What questions do you ask?
Here are suggested questions to help you find out more about the coach and his/her program.
- Can you tell me a little bit about your coaching program and how you coach?
- How often do we "meet"? Is it by phone? Do I call you or do you call me?
- What kind of support would I get between sessions?
- Can you give me an idea of what you charge?
Remember, the goal of your questioning is to determine whether this person might be a good fit for you and your coaching needs.
Attend your sample appointment
The sample appointment will most likely not be like the "real" sessions. However, that doesn't mean that you won't get value from it or learn from it.
The coach will ask you questions about why you want a coach, what your goals are, and other questions to determine how serious you are about moving forward. At the same time, you will be evaluating this person's style, insights, and ability to help you achieve your goals.
Make your decision
By the end of the sample session, if the coach thinks the two of you are compatible enough, he/she will have explained his/her programs and you may be invited to become a client of the coach. If you agree that the two of you are compatible enough and you think the coach can help you get where you want to go AND you can afford the coach's rates, then sign up.
Since you most likely picked what you thought was a best-fit from your search for coaches, don't decline to work with the coach simply on the hope that the next one might offer a bit more or be a bit better. Your chances go downhill from here. But if you don't feel comfortable working with the coach, by all means decline. Coaching will result in stretching you and you need to feel comfortable with your coach and be able to trust him or her.
If you decline to work with the coach, then call the next one on your list and set up a sample appointment.
Now get coached
Once you have agreed to work with a coach, commit yourself to it. Coaching takes several months to gain the full benefit. Additionally, because of the effort you put into finding a suitable coach, you are likely to have a better experience, receive even more benefit, and achieve your goals faster than others who simply work with the first coach they run across.
After you have begun to see results, be sure and tell your friends about your coach. Referrals are the best way to help your coach help even more people.
Copyright 2010 John J. Simmons - all rights reserved worldwide