The professional coaching industry has exploded over the last decade. Today, I hear high-powered executives bragging at cocktail parties that they have not one but two or three coaches who help them with everything from leadership to public speaking to mindset.
As a leadership coach, I'm thrilled that so many people are hiring professional like me. However, like any trend, some people rush into hiring a coach who maybe shouldn't. Here are a few questions I ask people who approach me about coaching and questions I suggest you ask yourself before you hire a coach.
1. How self-aware are you?
While this is a difficult question to ask yourself, it's key to the coaching process. If you're not willing, or able, to objectively look at your own thinking, behavior, and actions, then coaching may have limited impact. Those who get a lot out of coaching are highly aware of how their behaviors impact others and situations.
Check the language in your thinking. When something bad happens, do you immediately start blaming other people and finding excuses of why the external world conspired against you and put you in a bad situation? If so, you might want to first work on seeing how you contributed to the outcomes, too.
2. Are you ambitious?
Coaches can help develop great strategies and paths to success, but they can't do the work for you. If you're not driven to make changes and not willing to put in the hard work to implement the action plans, you might not get much out of coaching. You need to want the outcomes enough to do the hard work. If not, you might be wasting your money.
3. Do you hold yourself accountable?
Many people come to me looking to be held accountable and for me to drive the process. I have to explain to them that I can't make them do anything. I can only help them get clarity on what they want, why they want it, and how they are going to get it. But they need to be in charge of doing the work.
If you're not willing or able to take personal accountability for your commitments, then even the best coach in the world will not be able to help you succeed. That doesn't mean you need to be perfect; failure is part of the process. But you need to "own it" and be willing to be self-critical. Don't blame your coach for not making you do your work.
4. Do you have a growth or fixed mindset?
A lot of research has been done in the last decade regarding how your thinking can impact your ability to create change. Carol Dweck's book Mindset presents this as the concept of fixed vs growth mindset. Which one you have will impact the effectiveness of your coaching considerably.
Put simply, a fixed mindset is one that believes your skills and abilities are innate and determined at birth. A growth mindset believes that while you have many natural gifts, you also have the ability to learn and grow through persistence and focused effort.
If you have a fixed mindset, you will not get much out of coaching. If you have a growth mindset, you will see change and improvement by working with a guide who can help you accelerate your learning process.
5. Are you curious to learn?
As a parent of four kids, I can say that one of the most difficult stages of parenting is going through the why phase. They want to know and understand everything. Ever answer is follow by the same question: ..."but why daddy?"
While exhausting to me as a parent, this attitude in the people and teams I coach is an augur of success. People who are willing to ask why, and then why again, and then why a few more times, are much more likely to find root causes and make fundamental changes to they way they behave and think.
6. Can you keep things in perspective?
A big part of the coaching and development process is getting feedback, often a lot of it. Some of it will certainly be critical, and at times it will be difficult to hear. Your ability to take things in stride will determine if you are able to gain insight or if you close up and get defensive.
While you don't need to answer all of the questions perfectly, know that you'll be challenged in many ways by a good coach and being prepared to do the hard work will help you get the most out of it.