Making a Choice
Part 1 set the context and identified the challenges in the coaching marketplace.
Part 2 provides four guidelines for assessing a coaching referral, the common mistakes that leaders make when selecting coaches, and how to assess the first meeting with coach candidates.
How to Get Yours – Four Guidelines
A mentor once told me, “98% of my coaching relationships have come through word of mouth; if I have to start ‘marketing’ myself, something’s gone wrong.”
Conversations with clients indicate that the formula works on their side, as well. They found their best coaches through a referral from a professional friend. What is the nature of those conversations that led to a good referral? Whose opinion should you trust? Here are some guidelines:
- Transparency of process: If the referrer can tell you what the coach did that was effective. Coaching shouldn’t be mysterious, and while there is a certain degree of the unfathomable in human chemistry, there should be a lot more than that to the coaching process.
- Comfort with Disclosure, Part One: If the referrer is comfortable telling you generally what they worked on in the coaching relationship.
A good coach should make topics that are uncomfortable and/or embarrassing into issues that feel normal and typically human. It’s like finding out that your friends have a medical condition that you thought only you suffered from.
- Comfort with Disclosure, Part Two: If you can tell the referrer the truth about why you want a coach.
Your ability to feel comfortable with self-disclosure is an indication that you have something in common with the referrer, which is an indication that the coach that worked for them might work for you. And, the referrer can then tell you if they think the coach will be good for that purpose (yes, it can be that simple and straightforward!).
- Personal Interest: As the referrer talks about the coach, there is a palpable respect and appreciation.
Your interest in getting to know the coach goes up as the conversation progresses.
What Doesn’t Matter
There are a number of selection criteria that are less predictive than others, including:
- Academic degrees from prestigious institutions. (Perhaps more useful for technical consulting?)
- Industry expertise can provide some context to a coach, but is a minor success factor.
- If magazine cover grooming and polished presentations are primary sales tools of the coach, look elsewhere.
- Early, enthusiastic presentation of the latest books and most popular leadership theories.
Three principles for the First Encounter
Each comes with a warning.
Trust your intuition.
Chemistry matters. On the other hand, be mindful of the criteria you are using to evaluate.
Remember, you are the customer.
You get to decide. On the other hand, an extended decision can mean you aren’t committed.
Do you feel heard?
Is the coach comfortable with you and your needs/issues? On the other hand, does the coach offer more than listening empathetically? Do you get a sense of substance?