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How to Choose a Coach


Choosing the right coach for can be a difficult process – but it's a decision that could make all the difference. The explosion of the coaching profession in the past ten years means there are now thousands of coaches to choose from. Noel Clerkin of Inspiring Potential offers some pointers to simplify the selection process for you.

Choosing to work with a coach to help you move beyond where you are right now, may be one of the best life decisions you could possibly make. Many people are reluctant to seek help and fail to recognise the value that a third party can bring to their lives. Those that do stand up and say that they require help are not usually coming from a position of helplessness or desperation. They are usually motivated by the possibility that things could be better.

These pointers are equally valid whether you are choosing a coach for yourself or whether you are planning to bring a team of coaches into your organisation. says it is essential to choose the right person for your needs.

Before you begin to search for a coach it is important to get clear on what you would like from the process. What is it you or your organisation are ultimately trying to achieve? How would you like to be feeling or in an organisational context, what changes are you seeking to make to the culture? If you are clear about the outcomes required then you will need to look for a coach who is capable of getting you there. Sometimes people come for coaching feeling so stuck that they are not actually sure what they want. This is normal and it’s ok. It just means that you will need a coach who is happy to spend some time helping you to explore what you want and who is comfortable to go with the flow.

Many coaches offer a ‘niche’ specialisation and their niche could be just what you are looking for. Some examples of this are; wealth coaching, executive coaching, parent coaching, retirement coaching, self-esteem coaching or life purpose coaching. If they have had a lot of experience in working with your type of issue then there is a greater likelihood of them being able to help you. The easiest way to find these is to type your specific requirement into a search engine and see what websites come up.

Covering the basics
In terms of selecting the right coach, you will need to get an understanding of the types of coaching programmes on offer. Are you happy for example to have the number of sessions defined in advance or would you rather it was open ended? Would you insist on face to face coaching as opposed to telephone coaching? Do you want to be able to have contact with your coach in between sessions? Does it make a difference to you whether the coach is male or female? Does the coach need to share your background i.e. if you are struggling to run a family, does your coach need to have a family? If you are hiring coaches to bring into a corporate workplace do the coaches need to have a corporate background themselves? And of course there is the issue of budget. How much is it worth to you to get help with your situation? Good coaching isn’t cheap but people are happy to pay on the basis that it will provide a significant return to a person’s quality of life or it will improve the productivity of a business.

Holistic vs specific focus
It is also useful to consider whether you require a coach to help you with a very specific issue or whether you would like to explore the wider issue of ‘Who am I?’. For example, at Inspiring Potential we offer ‘Transformational Coaching’. Effectively this is aimed at helping an individual to understand who they are in the wider scheme of things and transforming their sense of self. During this type of coaching, people will gain a better understanding of their values and the deeply held beliefs that impact how they show up in the world. Some coaches and organisations are not comfortable offering this type of holistic coaching but it may be useful for you to know that it exists.

Trust your first impressions
When you have followed some of the suggestions above and selected a coach to meet or speak with, it is important that you check your first feelings when you interact with them. Good rapport is essential for good coaching. After all you need to feel comfortable that you can share your deepest desires and vulnerabilities with this person in the months ahead. If the coach spends too much time talking about themselves and doesn’t display a deep interest in your situation, it may be best to look elsewhere. From the coach’s perspective, they too will be looking for rapport because without it the coaching process will be quite difficult.

Experience and credentials
Coaching is a relatively new profession in the UK and it will be normal for you to come across coaches who have recently trained and have been working in another career before now. The relative lack of experience does not mean that they do not make effective coaches but you need to ask enough questions to ascertain whether or not they have achieved results with the type of situation that you or your organisation is dealing with. Also there is a great variety in the types of training courses that are available for coaching. Again make sure to ask questions about the nature and rigour of their training and whether the coach is accredited by one of the governing bodies of coaching such as the International Coaching Federation (ICF).

Noel Clerkin is co-founder of coaching and leadership development firm Inspiring Potential.

This is the first in a two-part series. In his next article, Noel will examine the different styles of coaching available and when each is appropriate.


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