“Coaching is…partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity, and leadership.”
– International Coaching Federation definition of coaching
When looking for a good life coach, you will find no shortage of options. But how do you find the best life coach for you?
Seems like, during covid, a lot of people decided “hey, I’ll be a coach!” I’m sure many of them are great coaches, but how can you tell which one you should work with? There’s no instruction manual and people don’t look for coaches very often so there’s a learning curve for most people.
And it’s confusing! What are the different certifications? Do they matter? What’s more important – a good fit or the right expertise?
This article is to help you out.
Yes, I’m a coach and I’d be happy to have an introductory call with you, but coaches are like shoes – it’s important to get a good fit and it hurts if you don’t.
But how do you “try on” a coach? And what do you look for when you do?
#1: The most important thing is that you feel good about the coach
It’s all about the relationship.
Research in therapy shows that client/provider relationship matters at least as much and perhaps more than whatever techniques or methods are used. While coaching isn’t therapy, this rule still applies.
This means that if you find a coach you feel good about, chances are you should engage them, regardless of their credentials, experience, or methods.
This has another key point. SUPER important. If you dont click with your coach from the first session – move on. Don’t waste your time and money. Move on.
It’s up to the coach to do a good job of creating authentic rapport. If the coach doesn’t do that, or if you feel it’s “off” somehow – you’re better off going back to the well. There are a lot of great coaches out there. Don’t force yourself to muddle through average or less than average coaching.
So the answer to the question above ” What’s more important – a good fit or the right expertise?” is – a good fit is more important.
#2: Good coaches will offer an intro call
We are all different. One coach cannot be a good fit for everyone. But you can tell in advance? You can’t. So you shouldn’t be charged a full fee only to find out you don’t really like my style. I don’t think that’s fair and a lot of coaches agree with me. So look for coaches that are in business to have great results with their clients and that means offering a free “get acquainted” call so you can check it out.
Coaches that don’t offer this are either so well established they don’t need to provide this, or are counting on their resume to do the job for them.
#3: Be sure there is a coaching agreement that includes a code of ethics – including privacy
Any good coach has a coaching agreement.
In that agreement, there should be details that include important details such as how to reach them, reschedule sessions, and billing but importantly – how they treat privacy.
Remember that a coaching relationship is NOT legally protected like a doctor, therapist, or lawyer. So you need to have it in writing, that a coach will treat your personal details as private.
My coaching is aligned with the International Coaching Federation policies and practices and that alignment is in my coaching agreement.
Ask to review the coaching agreement in advance and check their privacy agreements. If they don’t have one or have one that is unprofessional, that’s a clue.
#4: Find a coach that’s been in practice a while with good reviews
Longevity matters. Coaches that have been in the business for several years are serious about coaching.
Look for coaches that have a history. They will often have credible testimonials as well.
#5: Credentials may matter, but may not
Coaching is an unregulated practice. You, just like you are right now, could put up a website and call yourself a coach and that would be perfectly legal.
So, it’s not surprising that there are coaching certification organizations out there in the business of training coaches and providing credentials. The idea is that if you see a coach with well known credentials, that helps ease your mind about the capabilities. But these certifications are also unregulated so vary greatly in what they require.
The most common credential that has value are those from the International Coaches Federation where I am a member. Their certifications are Associate Certified Coach (level 1), Professional Certified Coach (level 2), and Master Certified Coach (level 3). This certification path requires many hours of training, a review of your coaching by others, 100 or more coaching hours, and being mentored. So it has some teeth and takes some time to obtain. Contrast that to classes on Udemey that issue a certificate after a couple of hours of video.
There are other good certification paths as well. I’m not going to get into them all as it’s too technical and long, but the point is that if a coach says they are certified, look up what that means.
And I want to go on the record and say that certification does not mean the coach is any good. It only means the coach has met the requirements that are intended to help them be good. So don’t equate certification with quality. I started studying and practicing somatic, mindful methods of coaching years ago, and recently decided to obtain some certifications. Now I hold certifications from International Coaching Federation, Mindfulness Facilitator from the Insitute for Organizational Mindfulness, and a Mindful, Wellness, Somatic Coach from the Mindful Coaching School (mindfulnesscoachingschool.com). I can say this process helped me learn some useful techniques and did shape my practice. But the main thing I took away is exactly what I expected when I started it – they do not teach very well how to be mindful and present in sessions nor emply the incredibly useful somatic skills I had the good fortune to learn from some incredible teachers. This is a biiiig gap, so I created The Mindful Coach Method to help coaches learn how to use these important skills. If you’re a coach or work with helping people in some professional way, you may want to check it out. It’s unique and is more or less, my life’s work.
#6: Does their expertise fit you? Does it matter?
Coaches are under a lot of pressure to pick an expert. It’s difficult to offer general services as people don’t usually have a general problem in mind. As a result, coaches get specific in an effort to reach their key audience. For example, parents of at-risk kids, burned-out health care workers, or working with people who do mediation services. It can be useful to locate someone with a focus on what you’re intending to work with.
But remember rule #1?
It’s far more important that you have a great relationship with the coach than you find someone who only specializes in your thing. For example, I have a background in business and would be a good fit for many professional, and entrepreneurs. I was CTO of a startup as and owned my own corporation when I was 26 with five retail stores. In addition, I’m a public speaker as well as certified to teach in secondary school, and I worked for Microsoft and other tech companies. So there’s a lot of background there that makes for people going “exactly what’s he good at?” hard to communicate.
So if you find someone who feels great about but doesn’t specifically say “Hey, you – I’m a specialist in your specific life,” don’t hesitate to get started and see how it goes.
#7: Mindfulness experience
You may not be that interested in mindfulness, and that’s fine, but you should find a coach who is. Why? Because a coach that isn’t trained up in how to be fully present with you is 1/2 the coach they could be.
I see this all the time and is one of the reasons a lot of my clients are coaches.
Mindfulness makes coaching incredibly more powerful, and it’s no wonder why. The skill of deep listening is exactly the skill you want a coach to have. To listen not only to just the words you saying but to you as a person.
Mindfulness also helps a coach use words powerfully in a way that aligns with your specific personality. It helps a coach “tune in” to what’s going on with you in a deep way and use coaching skills in a more effective way.
That’s why you want someone whose got a background in mindfulness.
There are a lot REALLY talented new coaches and coaches in training. I recommend looking at longevity and maybe certifications as a way to help you navigate uncertain waters. However, don’t hesitate to connect with new or student coaches you encounter that you feel good about. Remember, that the relationship is more important than anything else. You can get great coaching for free or reduced rates from really smart, committed, caring, insightful, and skilled coaches in training.
Extra Extra Tips
Q: Do I need to have a local life coach?
A: It can be helpful but most coaching is remote these days. That opens up a world of coaches! If you haven’t done remote coaching but have concerns about it, do a trial run and see how it goes. Either it confirms you were right, in which case you get real world evidence to support your trust in your intuition, or you find out it actually works well, which expands your range of possibilities.
Q: Where do I find a life coach?
A: A well established coach works off referals for the most part. A coach only has so many slots in week to work, so once they reach a certain volume of clients, they can’t take more work. Coaches that are well established don’t do much outreach. So you are likely to encounter coaches who are growing their practice. You can use a service like Bark or Noomi or simply search for keywords. You’ll find a lot of coaches so there’s no shortage of choices. That’s why I wrote this, to help you sort out how to find a good coach from the many options.
Q: I have questions!
A: I’m happy to help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Doesn’t matter if you want to be a client or not, I like to be helful.