When it comes to coaching, I feel we are reliving the yoga-story all over again. Fifteen years ago, most people did not know what yoga was. It was hard to find. Most towns did not have a yoga studio. Today people now spend over $38 billion per year on yoga in the U.S. alone.
Like yoga, life and business coaching are going from obscure and complicated to something everybody wants. People are recognizing that they crave meaningful results in their life. Most, however, do not know how to find the right coach.
I, therefore, put together the top five mistakes – and how to avoid them when looking for a coach.
Hiring a coach to give your life and career a boost is a lot like dating. At first, you and your prospect coach both appear to be a whole lot nicer than you really are. Then one question makes it to the forefront of your mind: What’s the impact on my life? My personal growth? My career? My finances? My future?
It is scary, fun, revealing and exciting, and all at the same time. The key is to enjoy the process, recognising that with every interaction you learn more about yourself and that a friendly vibe won’t necessarily lead to a fulfilling relationship.
Here are the five most common mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Being unclear about your outcomes
At one point in our lives, we need help in moving forward. The highest performing athletes and executives know that. They are clear about what they want to achieve and what they need from a coach to get further than they could go alone.
Most of us do not have that level of clarity, especially when we are in a rut or crisis. All we know is that we have had enough and need a lasting change, not just a break. But how can you know what your best path to success is when you are in a fog?
That’s why the best coaches offer free, no-obligation strategy sessions. They want you to feel comfortable with them, and they also need to know if you are, in fact, coachable and that they can help.
For example, I am offering a free Perform-at-Peak Strategy Session before even discussing any coaching engagement. In this 55-minute conversation, I work with my potential client to identify which areas in their personal life, career or business need the most improvement. We will then focus on what outcomes he or she wants in each area of life management. The result is a map that outlines the best way forward.
Great coaches offer such a free consultation similar to what lawyers would do.
A coach that claims to help with everything is often a Jack of All Trades, Master of None – unless you are talking to Tony Robbins.
2. Not taking into account your natural strengths
This one is HUGE. Your best-laid plans will falter if they require you to work against your grain. Some people are talented organisers that love checklists. Others excel at finding shortcuts to get results. You cannot be naturally good at both.
Some of my clients need a lot of data and background information before they are ready to make a move. They are great strategizers. Others deal well with vague information and want to get right to the bottom line. Neither is good nor bad. For example, if your gut determines your decision-making, you may get results faster but you may miss essential details that will hurt you later. If your head rules, you may miss great opportunities because it takes you too long to make a decision.
That’s why all of my coaching clients take a Kolbe A Index, which measures what they WILL or WON’T do. This quick and easy 36-question instrument gives them a greater understanding of their natural instincts and allows them to begin the process of maximising their potential.
Throughout my entire coaching programs, I give all feedback and information in a way that my clients can naturally act. More importantly, I use the Kolbe A Index as a filter to help them clarify their commitments and decide which tasks they absolutely should take on and which ones they should dump or delegate.
This process alone serves as a tool for my clients to stay in flow, perform at peak, and deliver your best value all the time.
Great coaches offer personality assessment that helps them to give you most value.
3. Not understanding the process
Once your immediate needs for sharing your pains, goals and challenges have been satisfied, you will need a plan for reaching your destiny. You want to make sure that you know where you are on your journey at all times and how to get to the next step.
Without a defined process and a set of tools that facilitate your journey, your coaching session merely becomes an interesting and moderately useful conversation. You can quickly fall into the trap of believing that coaching is ‘hard to quantify.’
Having ‘a sounding board in your coach’ is not enough. Your friends, colleagues and peers are the people you talk about the things that keep you up at night. Your coach will need to offer you practical new skills, awareness and knowledge, and help you integrate what you have learned into your day-to-day life.
Skilled coaches will be able to walk you through their process. You will begin defining your core challenges, where you’re starting from, and where you want to go with a massive action plan.
Yes, like all plans, this too, is a living document that shifts as new possibilities and opportunities unfold, or your focus sharpens with the progress you make in the process.
When that happens, you will regain reassurance at the end of each coaching session with specific assignments and next steps in your development. I always make it a point that my coaching clients leave each session with clear ways of learning new skills and behaviours and how they can transfer those skills back to work and life.
4. Not checking the coach’s experience
Focusing solely on a coach’s certification is a grave mistake. Certification merely means a coach has mastered some techniques and tools of coaching. It doesn’t necessarily imply that he or she is skilled at using those tools.
Moreover, competency in coaching doesn’t reflect a coach’s experience in life or business. Real life experience and a compassion for people in your situation are a must, not a should. For example, an astute business person – schooled in coaching techniques – is more valuable to an executive than a certified coach lacking a strong business background.
If you have a struggling business, your best coach has proven turn-around experience. If you are dealing with overcoming childhood trauma, your coach should have mastered the same at one point in his or her life – or at least have some kind of personal connection to relatives or friends that have.
When choosing among a group of experienced coaches, pick one with the most varied, non-linear and richest background.
5. Not test-driving the coach
Like dating, in the end it is all about chemistry. We rarely end up marrying the person that checks all the boxes in our initial list of criteria. We pick the person with whom we have the most chemistry.
This is another reason why I am offering a free Perform-at-Peak Strategy Session – and great coaches provide similar avenues to get to know each other.
Check in with how you feel right after the talk. A good sign is if you feel excited and inspired by the discussion, but a bit scared. This typically means that you are stimulated to grow and ready to commit to the process.
A part of you should be ‘scared’ because you know that you will need to stretch yourself beyond normal.
That’s a good sign, indicating the coach will facilitate your moving beyond your comfort zone (which is where growth happens).
If what you observe and hear resonates with both your heart and your mind, then you’ve found your ideal coach.