How to find a coach and get the maximum benefit from the coaching relationship

How to find a coach and get the maximum benefit from the coaching relationship

17th September 2021, 10:30 am

Coaching is one of those words that seems to have an infinite number of meanings.  Unfortunately, this means that many professionals miss out on the benefits that the right coaching can bring to their career.

Often, they think it’s not for them, or they don’t know how to find the right coach and get the maximum benefit from working with them.

What follows is my attempt to address those issues in the hope that more people can access coaching that is right for them.


Firstly a disclaimer: there are probably as many coaching styles as there are definitions of coaching so there will even be coaches who disagree with my definition of coaching but that’s just another reason to make sure you find a coach that’s right for you.

My definition has to encompass what coaching isn’t:

It isn’t therapy, training, mentoring or magic.  Nor is it woo-woo. Or “performance management”.

But it is (although it isn’t just any of these things): a reflective space, supportive challenge, ongoing accountability, and a skilful conversation based on your agenda, not the coach’s.

In my definition the coach does not have the answers (so I can and do work with people in various fields).  The point is to help you find your own solutions and support you in implementing them.

Because it’s your agenda it isn’t limited to prescriptive list of topics. If you find yourself at a time where some sort of change is needed, then coaching is likely to help.

The coaching itself takes the form of a (hopefully skilful!) conversation in which the coach’s role is to question, listen, sometimes to challenge, and to provide accountability for the coachee (you!) so that you can achieve your goals, solve any problems and reach your full potential.

So coaching can happen anywhere.  Don’t imagine you will need to be in a soulless office.  Provided there is sufficient confidentiality, coaching can take place on a hillside, on the phone, or by video link – anywhere you can have a conversation.

Checking that any prospective coach works in a way (and place) that suits you is an important part of making the right choice.

In addition you will want to satisfy yourself about the coach’s experience and their “fit” with you – those things can be more important than qualifications or accreditations – do they have a coaching style that suits you, are they challenging enough? supportive enough? And able to provide coaching sessions in an environment you can trust, hillside or otherwise?

Ask for recommendations, have a good look at testimonials and make sure they are happy to offer you a free initial chat, or chemistry session.

After a chemistry session, you should expect to have a contracting session in which both coach and coachee can agree on how they will work together and agree on their boundaries.

You will want to be clear about what is and isn’t included, how flexible the coach can be regarding cancellations etc, and how they will deal with issues such as confidentiality and potential conflicts of interest.

After the contracting session you will be ready to start coaching.  You can maximise the chances of making that coaching a success by following these tips:

  1. Prepare well – you will get much more out of your coaching if you know what it is that you want to work on, both overall and in any individual session.
  2. Be honest and open to challenge – it can be tricky to say out loud what you have been holding in for months or years but you now have someone who will really listen so take advantage.
  3. Do the work between the sessions – the coach can’t make the changes for you. But they will hold you accountable (if that’s what you’ve contracted for).  So ask a lot of the coach but also of yourself.

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