Shopping for a coach

I've never had anyone call me for coaching on trivial issues. People always call for help with something that really matters to them. So I urge you to take your shopping seriously and to...

Look for coaching chemistry,

Not just conversational chemistry.

Because coaching is not a casual conversation. Find someone who is ready to go as deep as you need to go. Find someone who is genuinely into being your advocate. Find someone who ignites your own desire to be an advocate for yourself.

How do you test for coaching chemistry? Here's what I recommend when you're checking out a prospective coach (including me)...


1.  Ask all your questions, including your hardest ones.
Nonprofit leaders can be such caretakers that they will toss softball questions to a prospective coach and not really find out what they need to find out. Please don't do that. Please don't do a polite interview. Ask all the questions you really want to ask, including all your most challenging and skeptical ones.


2.  Engage with the coach.
I encourage you to push on the coach to see what he's made of.

The best way to do this is to show up 100%. Be true to yourself. Keep it real. Put your heart into the conversation so you can see what this coach is like under actual coaching conditions.

Please bring two or three of your most challenging issues to the call. Sometimes people will only talk about an easy "starter" issue. But if you do that, you won't find out what this coach is like in the territory that you want to be working in.

Sometimes people call me with a list of ten interview questions they've gotten off the internet. It's not that these are bad questions, it's just that they're not primary. I recommend that first you find out if there is an enlivening coaching connection between you and this coach, because if not, why waste your time with the rest of it?

And if there is a connection, then go ahead and ask those internet questions, like: What's your training? What's your philosophy of coaching? What kind of clients are your favorites? How much do you charge? How do you do your billing?

I get that it's easier to ask your way through a scripted set questions. But the quality of information you get will not be nearly as good as being gutsy about engaging with the coach.

It's a professional standard in the coaching field to offer people a free sample session for 30 minutes, and this can wokr really well as long as you make it real and don't let yourself get into the mindset that this is role playing or something pretend. Also I recommend that you don't sit back and evaluate the session as you go. Instead, let yourself be in it, really in it, so you can experience it. Then evaluate when the session is done.

However, I personally like going beyond the formal sample session. So if you call me, I'll encourage you to jump into a real coaching conversation with me right from the start. Because then you get to spend the whole call in the coaching zone and you learn a lot more that way.

And please remember, you're looking for chemisty, so you want to be very active in the conversation. This is your coaching, you get to own it. Even in this first conversation.

So please don't sit back to see what the coach does to you...

See what you and this coach can do together.

Something I've learned from my years of coaching is this...

The more you show me who you are, the more you'll get to see who I am by how I respond to you. And the better your decision making will be.


3.  Make an initial game plan for your coaching.
Say you find yourself liking the coach you're talking with and you want move the conversation another step forward, you can ask him to make a plan with you for how you'll start your coaching.

For example, you could prioritize the issues you want to work on.

You could design your initial approach to each of those issues.

You could tell the coach how to work with you to bring out the best in you. What do you like when you're doing personal or professional development? What helps you most when you're taking on challenges. What's your growing edge?

Of course you'll discover new things about yourself over time during the course of coaching, but it's great to let your coach know where you're starting from.

And don't forget to tell the coach what you do not want. Some people love role playing, some people hate it. Some people like imagery work, some people can't stand it. Some people like lots of "homework" between sessions, other people have no time for that.


4.  See if the coach helps guide you through the initial conversation.
It's a gutsy thing to call up a stranger and dive into a fairly personal, or maybe very personal conversation. Most people feel a bit shy on the first call, or a lot shy, but we coaches are ready for that and welcome it and will set about making the conversation safe and inviting.

To help people get going with the conversation, I like to ask questions, serious ones, like:

What do you love about leading?

What are your talents and strengths?

Which ones do you call on most often?

Which ones do you want to call on more?

What are your ambitions for yourself?

Where are you headed in your life?

What would make your heart sing?

And then, once we're grounded in your talents and desires, I'll ask...

What are the challenges you're facing that you want to address in coaching?

If at any time during the initial conversation, you notice yourself holding back, I'd urge you to simply tell that truth out loud. Ask the coach to help you show up in the conversation the way you really want to. That's a perfect way to check out coaching chemistry—by addressing real feelings right there in the moment.


5.  Take the time you need. Don't rush through your decision making.
I talk with people for up to an hour for free so they can make the decision that's right for them. If a coach only offers you half an hour, and you are really interested in him, but you find you need more time, you can tell him you'd like to pay for an extra half hour so you can complete your decision making.


6.  Assume the coach wants the right match as much as you do.
Speaking for myself, I really don't want to work with someone if I'm the wrong coach for them. First, that violates my values, and second, it's not fun.

The joy I find in coaching comes from helping people make big progress in their lives on issues that really matter to them. It comes from seeing people develop their personal power and love themselves more deeply as a result.

I read a book once called, How to Coach Anyone Anytime on Anything. It struck me as more hype than substance.

I know I'm really the right coach for people I'm right for, but I'm not right for everyone, not by a long shot. For example, an ED once told me, "I want coaching, but I don't want it to be personal." Fair enough, but that's not me. The coaching I do is personal. I work in the context of the whole person. I'm intense. I like going deep. That's who I am.

So I told this ED, "That's not how I work, but I'll give you the names of three coaches who can do that kind of coaching with you and do a great job of it."

There are all kinds of different coaches out there with all kinds of different personalities and backgrounds, so no need to settle for less than a coach who is really a match for you.

And please always remember...

The only purpose of coaching is for you to get what you need.


Invitation to coaching

What's it cost?

How often, how long, how's it end?

Stories: The power of knowing yourself and loving yourself




© Rich Snowdon 2008