How to Choose Your Coach

How to Choose Your Coach

When I’m telling people I’m a coach, I often see a puzzled expression on their faces. I can almost hear them thinking: “soooo… like a psychologist? a consultant? a private cheerleader?”

There are a lot of misconceptions about coaching. Nowadays everyone can call themselves a coach, even without any proper training. There are lots of popular motivational speakers, authors and celebrity coaches, each of them with their own style and approach. Some are calling themselves coaches, even if they are very pretty directive, more like mentors or advisors (while coaching by definition is mostly non-directive). Depending on who you’ve had contact with, this might be your expectation about coaching in general. 

As with everything in life, we are all prone to labeling and stereotyping everything around us, but I invite you to drop the preconceptions you might have, find a coach that you like working with and experience coaching with an open mind 🙂 


So what is coaching?


Coaching is a series of conversations aiming at transforming your life (as a whole, or a part of it, e.g. career, business etc.). It’s usually focused on helping you set and achieve your goals, raise your self-awareness and overcome limiting beliefs. It often results in more clarity and motivation for the client.

Image result for life coaches

A coach is your partner who is there to listen without being judgemental, but making you feel safe to explore your challenges, supporting you, but also challenging you whenever needed (in a loving way!).

A good coach will challenge you to help you grow, but you shouldn’t feel attacked, judged, threatened or hurt if it’s done properly.

Pure coaching is a skill of asking open, non-leading questions and making observations that help the client move forward. 

A coach shouldn’t be forcing you to do anything but it should be a collaborative process, empowering you to make your own decisions and take action. 

Staying non-directive is a common struggle for many coaches. Some clients ask for advice because they lack confidence in their own decisions, and this is exactly when a coach shouldn’t give advice but help the client build their confidence instead. But there are situations where the client simply lacks some knowledge, information or expertise, and the coach knows some things that can be helpful. In this kind of situation, withholding information from the client would actually be damaging to the coaching relationship, so the coach might ask for permission to offer some information or suggestions (that might be more directive).


What’s the difference between coaching and therapy?


Clients are often confused about whether they should get a coach or a psychotherapist, as the two are sometimes overlapping a little. Generally speaking, you might need a psychotherapist or other mental health professional if you need to deal with the past, unprocessed trauma, mental illness or addiction (or any serious mental health issue). 

Coaching, on the other hand, is usually focused on the present and future challenges. While it might be necessary to touch upon your past to understand and correct the source of certain beliefs or habits, the main focus of coaching wouldn’t normally be on processing your past, but rather on coming up with solutions that would help you move you forward in your present and the future. Coaching assumes clients are whole and capable and don’t need fixing. The client is treated as an expert in his life and the one responsible for making the change.

It all depends on your specific situation so feel free to talk this through with your coach (and your mental health professional, if you work with one) and see what would be the best solution for you. 


What kind of coaches are out there?


Every coach is different and works in a different way. It very much depends on what YOU need.

Some coaches might be very straightforward in their style, with a sort of practical, rational and goal-oriented approach which might work great for some business executives or the more rational personalities. Other coaches may have a much softer style, touching upon spirituality, going deeper into emotions and the mind-body connection which is great for the more sensitive, intuitive and creative people. Some are combining both approaches, or have their own signature coaching style.

Some coaches are specialised in a specific area coaching (e.g. career, business, health, etc.), while others prefer to coach across all of them (often simply offering life coaching). Each coach usually has some additional skills, expertise and personal experience they bring into their coaching.

Some coaches are qualified, others are not, but as with every profession, qualification doesn’t always guarantee high quality, and lack of qualification doesn’t necessarily mean someone is a bad coach. If you find a coach who doesn’t have a training or a certification but you love working with them and they help you achieve good results, I guess that’s all that matters.


How to choose the right coach for YOU?


One of the initial factors when choosing a coach is being clear on what you need from them, and what kind of coaching style works best for you. It might take a few sessions with several different coaches to find your perfect match.

The first step is to prepare your own checklist of expectations, so you can screen the coaches based on what you need. Are you looking for a rational, logical person who will tell you how it is straight away, without beating around the bush? Or do you prefer someone more subtle, intuitive, soft, to support you and motivate you? Do you look for an expert to give you tools on a specific topic? Or someone to get deep into your life, emotions, habits, etc. and transform your life, your mindset, your worldview?

It’s best to choose a coach based on three factors:

The first one is your gut instinct, how they make you feel when you talk to them; it’s critical you feel safe to open up, but also to feel you have a trustworthy sparring partner who will challenge you.

The second one is their experience, expertise or achievements in some specific area you’d like to work on. It’s great if they’ve been through something you’re going through now.

The third one is their skill in coaching itself and the coaching training they’ve got. You might want to check if your coach has a proper coaching training, preferably accredited by the International Coach Federation (which is a golden standard in the industry). It’s even better if a coach is ICF certified (however, not all coaches decide to do that, as it requires some additional time, effort and money spent).

Choosing the right coach is very personal, so it’s best to talk to a coach and get at least one session before you commit to working together. It’s important to remember that usually, it takes a few sessions to build the relationship between the client and a coach and start getting some results. However, if your sessions just don’t feel right, you might want to discuss it honestly and openly with your coach to check if there is something adjust in your coaching relationship, or maybe it’s simply not a good match.


What are the logistics of working with a coach?


Each coach has their own ways of working, structuring packages, refunds policy etc. Some coaches sell packages of a few sessions,  some work on ‘pay-per-session’ basis, some sell their own programmes with additional exercises, online courses etc., some offer a monthly/quarterly/yearly support… The options are limitless.

A pretty common practice for many coaches is offering 6 sessions, each lasting c.a. 1 hour, paid upfront, but again, this can be different for every coach and is not a standard. Some clients often prefer to pay upfront for a package of sessions, as it helps them stay committed and working on their challenges over time, others prefer the pay-per-session model. 

In general, your coach should tell you about the way they work, their qualifications, as well as some logistics: how and when you can book the sessions, where will they take place (in person, online etc.), how to pay them, what’s their cancellations and refunds policy, etc. Some coaches will send you a coaching contract (especially in the corporate environment), others might not do that (e.g. in less formal life coaching) and simply do the contracting in the conversation or as you go, but as long as you’re clear about how you will work together, that’s fine. 

Prices and packages are relative. You can have a very expensive, or a very cheap coach, but if there’s no ‘chemistry’ between you, you don’t trust them, and you don’t like their coaching style, it might be simply a bad match.

Some coaches do sessions via video calls, while others offer only face to face sessions (some offer both).

Don’t worry too much and just try someone!


If you’re really overwhelmed by choosing a coach, don’t worry too much!

There is is a funny metaphor in the coaching world, that even talking to a lamp post on the street for half an hour a day would be helpful to anyone 🙂 I know it sounds ridiculous, but talking to any coach will bring you some value and insight, so don’t stress too much over it! Hopefully, your coach will turn out to be more useful than a lamp post 🙂

After all, you can always change your mind and find another one. I had several coaches so far, some were a match, some weren’t… but each of them gave me some value and I’m grateful to all of them.

Like with everything in life, you won’t know until you try. So just book a session with a coach you like and see how it goes!

Good luck!

P.S. If you’re having trouble with making your decision, you may want to try my free Decision Making S.O.S Worksheet here!

What would you like to get from your coaching? How would you like you and your coach to show up for your work together?

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