How Do I Choose a Coach?
“When it comes to picking a coach, it’s buyer beware! Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there calling themselves professional coaches but lack knowledge and expertise in human dynamics, leadership theory and practices, teaching and mentoring, organizational development and business practices.” – Ray Williams, President, International Coach Federation, Vancouver
Okay, you now know what life coaching is, and you know why life coaching works. But you’ve come to the point of wanting a life coach but are not sure how to choose the right one. What criteria do you look for? What questions do you ask?
Let’s look at 5 main ways you can narrow the field and begin to choose a good coach.
1. Choose a coach who is credentialed with the International Coach Federation.
First question to any coach: are you credentialed with the ICF?
If the answer is anything other than “yes,” show them the door, or hang up the phone.
This is by far the most important criterion you must look for in evaluating a potential coach. The ICF, or the International Coach Federation, is by far the largest and most respected organization for credentialing and supporting professional life coaches. Since life coaches aren’t licensed in any particular state, they have less regulation and oversight than other professions (such as counselors or psychologists). This makes choosing a coach who has certification through the ICF all the more important, since any such coach agrees to follow a set of ethical guidelines and standards, and is held accountable for their actions to the ICF. They also have to go through extensive and ongoing educational study, log a significant number of coaching hours, and be coached themselves regularly by a mentor coach. An ICF credentialed coach knows how valuable coaching is since they regularly receive it themselves!
Likewise, you could go to a medical doctor who doesn’t have their medical license. They might even be very good at what they do, and could be very knowledgeable in their practice. Yet, without an MD after their name to show for it, how can they prove their knowledge? In much the same way, being credentialed with the ICF lends credibility and professionalism to the respective coach, as well as to the coaching field in general (not to mention your own peace of mind).
2. Keep an eye out for amateur coaches.
There is no doubt that there are some well-intentioned life coaches out there that aren’t exactly the best at what they do. Approximately 90% of life coaches become a coach because they feel that they are an “expert” on life, or because they are very good at giving advice (which professional coaches do little of). In addition, such amateur coaches usually have little to no training in proper life coaching, or if they are certified their certification is often from a school without proper accreditation. This has led to a stigma inside and outside the counseling world that life coaching isn’t a professional or worthwhile profession, even though that couldn’t be further from the truth. Seek out a good credentialed and certified coach and decide for yourself!
3. Choose a coach who also has knowledge in related areas.
While not necessarily a requirement for being a good coach, any coach with knowledge in related areas of coaching – such as psychology, human development or adult education – will be much more effective in their coaching practice. Why? Simply because the methodology behind life coaching draws upon a number of other worthwhile professions (like counseling, mentoring, consulting, etc.). Understanding the link that coaching has with these other fields helps to give the coach more tools for their “coaching toolbox.” And the more experience a coach has with other related disciplines, the better they will understand the coaching field, and the better they can relate to you, the client.
4. Choose a coach who has experience actually coaching.
The vast majority of individuals who would refer to themselves as a life coach practice their coaching on a part-time basis, with over half of coaches having less than 10 clients at any one time (ICF 2009 Global Coaching Client Study). As such, many amateur coaches do not approach a significant enough number of hours to propel them into the professional coaching field (ICF, for example, requires all Professional Certified Coaches to have over 750 coaching hours).
As with any profession, experience in one’s craft is of the upmost of importance. While a coach can be helpful when they’re just starting out, choosing a coach with experience means you’ll find someone who can help you get to where you want to go faster.
5. Finally, choose a coach who is authentic.
Many coaches will try to sell you on a special method that “only they” know about, and which you will only find out about if you buy what they’re selling. When asked what their coaching philosophy is, they’ll tell you about their “Five Ways to Become 53% Happier!,” or a “Seven-Step Plan to Achieve the Ultimate Life!,” or maybe even “Eight Ways in Which You Can Become More ‘You’!”
While methods like these might sell a lot of books, they don’t make for an authentic coach. Professional coaches realize that coaching is all about the client, not the coach. While all good coaches have an overall philosophy to how they approach coaching, so much of coaching is driven by the client’s needs, wishes, goals and desires. Trying to superimpose a rigid, impersonal method on a unique individual is both a disservice to the client, and the exact opposite of what life coaching is all about.
Also feel free to explore more of the site, such as finding out what life coaching is all about, as well as why life coaching works. There’s even frequently asked questions and common coaching concerns as well. Take your time, and thanks for visiting!