I've been on both sides of the challenge of finding a business coach. As a founder and CEO of an Inc 500 technology consulting firm, I've hired several coaches to help me with leadership and strategy.
On the other hand, as an athlete, I've hired coaches to help me with conditioning and skill development. I even hired a coach to help with my divorce. After I sold my company in 2013, I became a full-time strategic coach myself. I've worked with dozens of teams and well over 100 business leaders over the years.
While coaching can speed up how quickly you make progress on your goals and can reduce the likelihood of missteps, it is not an easy decision to make. There are many types of coaches, each with different backgrounds and skill sets. Add to that the significant investment that coaching can require, and this can become a difficult task.
When people ask me how they should go about finding and hiring a good coach, I advise them to focus on five key questions to guide them in their process.
1. What type of coach should you hire?
First, look at your goals and situation and decide what kind of coach you need. There are many types of coaches that focus on different problems and objectives. Start by asking what goals you want to achieve and what challenges you're having. This will make it easier to choose the type of coach that best fits your needs.
2. What level of experience do you need?
If you are looking for someone to work with a new manager on leadership skills, you likely don't need a top-shelf coach. Whereas, if you are developing your company's overall business strategy and coaching your leadership team, investing in a seasoned expert with significant experience is a good investment.
3. What background will be most helpful?
This is a tricky one. While a solid understanding of your industry is good, I generally suggest that you don't hire a coach for their specific business insights. (For a consultant, yes, but that's a different type of hire). Instead, look for a coach who has worked with other clients in your situation and knows the common challenges and pitfalls. You are the industry expert. Your coach mainly needs to help you with the process and how to overcome your obstacles.
4. How much structure do you need?
Some coaches have a rigid system with predefined steps. This is great for people with a common set of challenges and for those who need structure.
I have a toolbox of standard exercises and techniques, and I diagnose each team to figure out which to apply and when. Other coaches work with a few basic principles and customize everything to each client.
5. What kind of personality would work best?
Finally, you need to choose a coach with whom you'll connect. You need to trust them enough to be vulnerable and explore deeper issues. Real change and improvement requires tackling tough questions and core beliefs. If you're not willing to open up to your coach, it is a waste of time and money. If you don't feel like you can establish a close connection and rapport quickly, it's probably not a good fit.
With the range and diversity of coaches in the market these days, choosing one is a hard job. These questions will help give you some criteria and path towards finding a coach that is right for you. Ultimately, there is rarely a perfect fit, but you can still find a good fit.
Finding the best candidate and starting the process sooner will generally get you closer to your goals faster than if you wait hoping to find perfection. As I like to say, done is always better than perfect.