How to choose a coach


When people ask me what I do, I have an ‘elevator pitch’ that goes something like:

I’m a coach. I work with people to achieve positive change in their lives – identifying what will make the biggest difference to their confidence, career, and/or wellbeing – or helping uncover their unique strengths and personal purpose so they can find their ‘mojo’ again.

In essence, coaching is helping someone to bring out their full potential.  When you pay for coaching yourself (often referred to as ‘life coaching’),  you set the agenda. Your coaching objective might be around your business, your leadership, your health, or your wellbeing… but when your organisation pays for coaching as part of leadership development, they are usually involved in driving the coaching agenda (this is more likely to be called ‘Executive’, ‘Leadership’, or ‘Organisational’ coaching).

Coaching is an unregulated industry where anyone can call themselves a coach. Unfortunately, many people do just that, without any coach training, often confusing consulting and training (or mentoring and advising) with coaching. Although some coaches also provide other services, coaching is a distinctly unique profession with its own competencies and standards of conduct.

Whether you (or your organisation) are paying the bill, the key thing when you engage a coach is to ensure you’re getting a real coach. The Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership (IECL) recently published an article Executive Coaching in Vogue that beautifully articulates how to find a real coach:

…make sure they are trained by a reputable coach training organisation, ideally one that is accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF) as an Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP).  And then ask them about their approach to coaching.  It should involve empowering and bringing out the full potential in their clients through challenging, holding them accountable and providing a sounding board (with  little to no “advising” or “subject matter expertise”).

When hiring an ICF credentialed coach – an Associate Certified Coach, Professional Certified Coach, or Master Certified Coach – you are hiring a professional coach who has agreed to uphold the ethics and standards set forth by the ICF. The ICF establishes and administers minimum standards for credentialing professional coaches and coach training agencies thus ensuring the credential holder has fulfilled rigorous education and experience requirements and demonstrated a strong commitment to excellence in coaching.

It’s all food for thought when you’re choosing the right coach.