Choosing The Perfect Coach

So, you're ready to start coaching. You either have some issues that you think a coach can help you overcome, or you just think it's time for a quality of life tune-up. You've reviewed your budget and set aside some money to cover the fees and you've ascertained that you are reasonably free of any serious mental or emotional issues that might interfere with the process. But now comes the big question: "How can I find a coach that's right for me?"

To Niche Or Not To Niche?

For starters, you need to know what kind of coach you want to work with. Do you want a generalist or someone who specializes in your issue or lifestyle? Some professionals hang out the shingle of a "life coach" and field anything and everything that comes their way, within their own personal standards and competencies. Others specialize so tightly that you wonder how they can find a big enough market to stay in business (and yet, they do!). A generalist can be great if you're not sure what your main issue is, or if you want the freedom to move around from one life issue to another over a wide range of areas and subjects, whereas a specialist is perfect for someone who wants to concentrate on a very specific segment of their life or activities. And for every possible niche, problem, situation or person there are at least a handful of coaches - parenting coaches, menopause coaches, family coaches, business coaches, family business coaches, custody coaches and coaches for single dad's who own their own business and who want to be better fathers and businessmen (see what I mean about a narrow market wedge?). If you live it, run it, do it or live through it there's a coach out there who works with people just like you.

Quack or Jack?

One thing you should know before setting off to find a coach is that as of this writing (9/04), there is no consistent or required certification process for coaches in America (or in many other countries, that I know of). However, that does not mean that the industry is full of fakes and fumblers. As in many professions, lack of credentials do not necessarily indicate a lack of skills and ability any more than a wall full of degrees guarantees them.

Currently, the International Coaching Federation and the International Association of Coaches are the top two certifying boards in America. However, since coach certification itself is so new, very few coaches have been certified to date. This means that there are thousands of perfectly competent and even gifted coaches out there with no "papers" to speak of. So how do you tell a good coach from a bad one? The only real way to tell is to do your homework. Ask for references from prior clients. Check to see if the coach in question is a registered member of any of the ethical regulating boards, such as the IAC or ICF. If your coach gets results, doesn't cross any ethical lines (diagnosing mental illness, offering guarantees of improvement, crossing personal/professional boundaries, etc) and fits well with your personality and way of being, then you are probably in good hands.

Be Vewwy Vewwy Quiet - I'm Hunting Coaches

Now that you've narrowed down your choice, it's time to go on the hunt for a few coaches who meet your requirements on availability, price and personality. Of course, word of mouth is always the best way to find any professional service provider, as they come prescreened and pre-approved by people you trust. If you don't know anyone who can recommend a coach, one of the easiest ways to find one is through a coach referral system. Be sure the referring site's requirements for listing submissions meet your personal guidelines for coaches - some sites require little more than a submission fee. A few of the more popular and reputable coach referral sites are Coachville, the International Association of Coaches, the International Coach Federation, and the European Coaching Institute.

Check out the prospective coach's profile and their website, if they have one. Do they inspire a feeling of competence and professionalism? Read through any articles or other material they have written to get a feel for what sort of person they are and if their views and outlook mesh with yours.

See if they offer a free initial interview - most do - and set up a call with your top picks. Come prepared with a list of questions you want to ask - don't forget to inquire about price, frequency of sessions, between session support such as emails and brief phone calls and anything else that you can think of that gives you pause. Share any fears and concerns you have with the coach and pay attention to how they answer as much as what they say. Are they evasive, or effusive? Do they make sure they understand your question completely before answering or do they give you a canned speech? Are they warm and inviting or brusque and fast-paced?

You'll have to decide for yourself who fits your personality best - ask about cancellation policies if you're worried about getting "stuck" in a coaching relationship - but if you follow these guidelines you'll have a sound start on your next great adventure - exploring you. Bon voyage!

(c) Soni Pitts


Soni Pitts is the Chief Visionary Butt-Kicker of SoniPitts.Com. She specializes in helping others reclaim "soul proprietorship" in their lives and to begin living the life their Creator always intended for them.

She is the author of the free e-book "50 Ways To Reach Your Goals" and over 100 self-help and inspirational articles, as well as other products and resources designed to facilitate this process of personal growth and spiritual development.

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