Finding the Right Coach

By Katee Van Horn
Published on: January 8, 2021

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In my previous post, I shared a bit about who and why you might consider using an executive life coach. The next question is, how do you find the right coach? I have used a professional coach for various reasons throughout my career. There are a couple of things to consider when looking for a coach yourself:

Where do you look?

You can do a Google search to find a coach. Then do a bit more digging. Coaching doesn’t require specific licensing or qualifications, but there are resources and certifications that a coach might possess to build their knowledge base. A life coach may be certified through programs such as the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (SWIHA). Executive coaches may have an International Coaching Federation (ICF) endorsement.

Do your research. Are they published (this can be a blog or a book)? The writer Og Mandino told stories in his books that drive the reader to action. He didn’t get this skill by sitting on the sidelines. He did everything he could to learn and grow his leadership skills to be able to pass along these stories to help others.

Look at what your prospective coach has done professionally to enhance their skills. Have they taught classes or conducted seminars? Through my experience in Human Resources, I have been able to help leaders build great teams who achieved amazing success. This is a proven track record that can be shown to prospective clients. Make sure you are asking your coach how they learned their craft.

What is their approach to coaching?

Some coaches have a specific methodology that they follow with each client. Other coaches have a less structured approach and flow based on the client’s needs. Whoever you work with should be able to define the end point, so you can agree on what needs to be achieved in order to call the coaching a success.

Interview a few coaches. Most coaches offer an introductory meeting to gauge the chemistry and their ability to make an impact. There has to be mutual trust between you and your coach. You need to be able to share things with your coach that are pretty personal. Even if your coach is only working with you to improve your work performance, there is a vulnerability you need to have with the coach to give them the full picture of how they can help.

What if you are assigned a coach by your organization?

First, congratulations. If your leadership makes the commitment to help you improve by getting you a coach, they believe in you. Organizations sometimes assign coaches to folks who are preparing for a promotion, to make sure they are ready to operate at the next level. Others are assigned when there is a certain “showstopper” that the person needs to improve upon. A showstopper is a specific behavior that someone has that will limit their movement up the career ladder. Micro-managing is a great example of a “showstopper” behavior a coach might work on with a client.

If you are assigned a coach, try to build rapport quickly and remember your organization supports you and wants to help you improve. It is a little harder to build trust in this circumstance since there may be a feeling that everything you say to your coach will be reported back to your organization. However, this is not what an ethical coach would do. They will need to report your progress to solving the issue, but they should not be sharing every detail of your sessions. Make sure you feel comfortable and have that conversation with your coach prior to getting started.

Bottom line – you wouldn’t buy a car without researching the make, model, and features you want. Take the same approach to finding a coach. If they can help you achieve more success in your professional and personal life, what have you got to lose?

Katee Van Horn

Katee Van Horn

Katee is an HR strategist and international keynote speaker focused on global Inclusion, Diversity and Belonging (IDB). She is a former VP of Engagement & Inclusion for GoDaddy, a Fortune 500 company, where she helped build a truly special IDB culture. Her work there was featured in the NY Times and resulted in earning HRDive’s 2017 Executive of the Year Award. She now leads VH Included Consulting & Coaching, focusing on partnering with global organizations to strengthen their cultures. She sits on the Multicultural Advisory Board for One Community and is a board member of Firefly Education. She is particularly interested in moving underrepresented groups into leadership to achieve IDB goals.

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