How to Interview Your Coach

Coaching can be a powerful tool when used effectively and in conjunction with other development actions. Practitioners of the career-coaching sub-specialty will often highlight a series of potential benefits including increased performance, enhanced productivity, greater executive presence, personal brand identification and positioning, and better quality relationships in and outside the organization.

Attaining these results however, is largely dependent on two factors: your willingness to put in the work required and selecting the right coach in the first place. To help with the latter, keep the following guidelines in mind when interviewing potential coaches.

  1. Coaching Education: Coaching is a relatively new discipline and although certification bodies such as the IFC are working toward formalizing standards, the field is still akin to the Wild West. Some coaches have been trained via programs such as Coach University while others leverage practical experience and adopt a quasi-mentoring relationship. Before you sign on with a coach ensure you ask about their process, training, and credentials. You wouldn’t trust your car to someone who has never driven nor held a wrench. So don’t let the ill-informed tinker with your career.
  2. Coaching Process: Dig beyond the credentials to ensure you understand the coach’s preferred process. Helpful questions include: How will he/she collect data during intake? What assessments will be used? What is expected of you during the coaching program? What can you expect from your coach? What is the duration of the relationship? What are the expected outcomes? How will the relationship be concluded?
  3. Confidentiality: Make sure you understand the coach’s stance on data sharing. This is always important, but critical if the coaching is being sponsored by your employer. Make sure you know who will see what and how that information will be used i.e. is the coaching for development or performance monitoring purposes.
  4. Coaching Style: In order for coaching to be effective, it’s important that your style fits with that of your coach. This doesn’t mean you are mirror images. Sometimes you need a coach who is a little different. For example, if your issue involves procrastination, partnering with a laid-back coach will likely be unproductive. That said a taskmaster could be equally ineffective. Balance is usually best. Make sure you select someone who can help you grow.
  5. Trust: Coaching is an intimate process. Often times even those who have a strict career or business agenda end up discussing personal issues, feelings, and thoughts as they move through the process. This is not surprising given the reality of today’s work/life pace. The two sides of ourselves are linked to a greater degree than ever before. Selecting a coach that you connect with and can trust to navigate the divide is critical. It’s also helpful if they have the courage to call you out on any incongruences between your words and actions.

In addition to observing the guidelines above, it’s vital that you are candid, truthful and very specific about the results you want to achieve when vetting your potential coaches. You should also ensure you have the personal bandwidth to commit to the process. Finally it’s important to know when NOT to hire a coach. Sometimes your issue can be solved via a less expensive, time consuming and personally invasive medium.

A good coach will explore these alternative measures with you. If coaching is the ideal solution, he/she should encourage potential clients to speak with several individuals before making a selection. This process, while time consuming, will ensure you are matched with a professional that has the greatest chance of forming a productive, successful relationship.

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