How Do You Find a Coach?
That’s a question a lot of people have asked me lately, and it’s a big topic! So big, in fact, that I’m starting a short series that will cover:
- Choosing a coach
- How much you should pay for a coach
- Getting the most out of working with a coach
- How to know when you’re “done” with coaching
But for today, we’re going to start with the basics. You know you want a coach, so how do you find one? And how do you make sure it’s the “right” one? Let’s get started.
Step 1: Clarify Your Goals.
What are you hoping to change? That’s usually the reason people are looking for a coach — there’s something in their life that they’re unsatisfied with.
This doesn’t necessarily mean something is “broken” — it means you want something to be different, usually better, than whatever the current state of a thing is.
That could even mean going from “good” to great.
For example, my clients usually already have a successful business, and now they are trying to figure out how to make it sustainable and create a fulfilling work/life balance around it.
A friend of mine who’s a wellness coach helps people go from feeling “meh” with their energy to vibrant by integrating a vital routine into their days.
What’s the thing you’re ready to uplevel? A relationship? Your business? Your life satisfaction? Your health? Your habits?
Think about what you want to achieve and how that outcome would change your life. Ultimately, this is what your coaching relationship will focus on, so feeling really clear about what you’re looking to change can help you guide your decision making.
Just a note: sometimes, if you’re feeling really overwhelmed and buried by whatever this area is you’re looking for coaching in, you might not be able to articulate a lot of specifics about your goals, and that’s okay.
I have a client right now who just said to me “I need to create more peace in my life”. He was so exhausted and overwhelmed, it was hard to even articulate specific outcomes. But week in and week out, we use that as a theme, and it’s the filter we run every decision through as he builds more peace into his life. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to find one word that encompasses what you’re seeking: peace, creativity, energy, sensuality, etc.
Step 2: What Qualities Are You Looking for in a Coach?
A coach can be many things, all aimed at bringing out your best.
For some people, that’s someone who constantly challenges their beliefs.
For others, that’s someone who will show up warmly with unwavering confidence.
Think back to those in your life (teachers, other kinds of coaches, mentors, bosses etc) who have inspired you to rise to the occasion and be your best. Are there any qualities they had in common? These might be things you could look for in a coach based on past experiences.
Another consideration: How structured would you like your coach to be? Some have a program with steps they take everyone through to reach a certain goal. Others are very bespoke and create a program for each person that is individualized.
Some are super unstructured, allowing you complete freedom to decide where to focus each and every session.
Most probably fall in the middle, but knowing how much structure you want will be a helpful guide.
Step 3: Start Your Search
Of course, you could just start Googling, but when it comes to looking for a coach, there are better ways. The three most common ways to find a coach of any type are recommendations, certification directories, or coaching agencies.
Coaching Finding Technique #1: Recommendations
Sometimes you imagine that you don’t know anyone who works with a coach, but then when you ask around, you’ll find out you do! Asking for a referral is a fantastic way to instantly vet a coach.
Because it’s an unregulated industry, quality varies wildly, so I would say a referral from a trusted source is the first choice to find a coach.
90% of my clients come from referrals. Referrals are a great way to find a coach because there’s some trust already built-in. You and the potential coach both have a relationship with the person making the recommendation, giving you a better chance that this will be a good fit.
So email your friends who are in the crowd who might have used the type of coach you’re looking for (friends interested in personal growth for a life coach, other parents for a relationship coach, other business owners for a business coach, etc.). The perfect coach could be just a few messages away!
Coach Finding Technique #2: Certification Directories
Not every coach is certified, but I firmly recommend looking for a coach who is.
That doesn’t mean that uncertified coaches aren’t great – I definitely know a few who are! But in an unregulated industry, certification is a good start.
Here’s why: any coach who is certified understands the difference between coaching, consulting, mentoring, giving advice, and therapy. They have been trained in a framework and their work was vetted by master coaches. They have pledged to adhere to a code of ethics.
Even with certification, there will still be MASSIVE variation in skill and approach from coach to coach. But certification with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) gives you at very least the assurance you are getting someone who has some training, real-world experience and adheres to a code of ethics.
(note – when I say certification, I’m talking about from the ICF specifically. There are lots of programs that you can just pay some money, register and after an hour of training online they send you a “certification”).
If you’re not getting a referral, start by looking for those who have a ICF certification.
Coach Finding Technique #3: Use an Agency
BetterUp, CoachHub, GrowthHub, Achievers, a)Plan, and Sayge are a few examples of coaching agencies, meaning they pair you with a vetted coach. The benefit here is the agency has done the work for you of finding and sorting trained coaches.
Often particular agencies will specialize in coaches who have a particular background, so that can make it easier to compare coaches with similar specialty areas.
The downside here is that both coach and client are usually beholden to working within the system set up by the agency, which can be great it’s a great fit for you, but gives you and your coach a little less flexibility to customize your experience.
Step 4: Vetting the Candidates
Hopefully, now you’ve got a few names lined up, whether they’re recommendations or people you’ve found through a directory or agency. Now, it’s time to do the leg work to find the right fit.
You might be tempted just to sign up with the first person who appeals to you, but I’d urge a bit more caution here.
You’re usually committing to work with this person over several months on something that’s important to you. Spending a little more time and effort here will make a big difference.
First Time With Coaching? Set Up at Least Three Interviews
If this is your first time hiring a coach, you have no frame of reference for what it feels like, and that’s okay! That just means we want to build in a little frame of reference so you have something to compare it to.
Even though it will take a little more time, do talk to more than one coach. Ideally three.
Most coaches (including myself) offer a quick “getting to know you” call, just to see if you “click.”
In life, there are always going to be people for whom you feel an affinity for right away, and those who might make you bristle a bit. You are going to be doing some deep work with this person, so let’s make sure it’s someone you want to spend time with!
If you’re working off a referral and like the person right away, or you’ve worked with a coach before and have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking for, this step is less crucial.
Do a Sample Session with your Top 1 to 2 Coaches, If Possible
Not every coach offers a full, complimentary sample session.
Some are at a point in their career where they are just too in demand to do so. Others will do this no matter how busy they are because it helps both coach and client know if they are a good fit for each other. Neither method is right or wrong — it just depends on the coach.
If they DO offer a sample session, I recommend doing one, even if you’re pretty confident this is your coach.
Why? Because talking about working out with a personal trainer is different than actually working out with one. As of right now, I plan to offer sample sessions forever, because I love the confidence it gives both myself and the potential client about what our working relationship will be like. I’ll just become more and more selective about who I offer one to after our intro call.
How to Make the Final Decision
Once you’ve done all your introduction calls and sample sessions, it’s time to make a decision.
Sleep on it, but don’t wait too long or overthink it.
Here’s a good framework that one of my coaching faculty once shared with me: “Choose someone whose style will either open you up or who you know you can open up to.” If one of your candidates fits one of those descriptions, you’ll likely do some pretty great work with them.
But What About COST??!?
Cost is always a factor when making a decision, and cost can vary wildly from coach to coach!
How much should you spend on a coach? This is a really in-depth topic, so if you’d like to know more, hang in there for my article next week on how much you should pay for a coach.
But for now, here are a few guidelines to get you started: just because a coach is more expensive does not automatically make them better, and just because a coach is the cheapest of everyone you interview means they aren’t as good.
But as a rule, coaches who are experienced and certified will charge at least as much as a qualified professional therapist. You’re hiring a coach to help you achieve a particular result, and they tend to set the price of that result, rather than by the hour or session.
But in a nutshell, I would say pay enough money that it makes you think, “Shit, I’m showing up for this!” but not so much that it stresses you out to the point you’re constantly thinking “Am I getting my money’s worth?!?”
Even still, remember results can vary widely and are not pegged proportionally to the cost.
I once paid $13,000 for a six-month group coaching program from a very well-known and respected coach, and I didn’t feel like they delivered. I also spent $1200 for a YEAR of individual 1:1 coaching from a brand new coach that completely changed my life. You can’t always tell by the cost!
The Final Word: Go with Your Gut Feeling
Ultimately, there are no concrete criteria. It really comes down to what your gut feeling is about who you want to work with.
Some people might think going with your gut isn’t “valid” enough. But our “gut feelings” are more than just passing fancy – they’re often the result of millions of tiny pieces of information processed by our brain and body that we may not even be aware of! They’re not any less valid because they come in a different form than logical thought.
As my incredible friend Kelly says, sometimes you just “know in your knower.”
Trust your knower.
It will rarely lead you astray.