© 2009 – by Julie Mitchell. All rights reserved. (An earlier version of this article was published in the business section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, in 1996.)
In the business world, despite the economic crisis and layoffs, one-to-one coaching remains a popular option for people who seek change or professional development. Business publications and consultants advocate coaching services to help you survive downsizing, thrive in the midst of change or dive into self-employment.
The proliferation of leadership coaches, career coaches and executive coaches presents a dilemma. If you are clueless about how to find a coach, you are not alone. Anyone can claim to be a coach. How do you know whether you’re hiring a master or a flake?
A good coach has expertise in the subject, professional experience, and a passion for both teaching and learning. In addition, a coach must be an excellent communicator. Depending on your priorities, some coaching characteristics will be more important than others. Here are traits you should consider in selecting a coach:
Candid. Feedback is the coach’s main currency; effective feedback is honest, clear, tactful and prompt.
Careful. Thoroughness, thoughtfulness and attention to detail count. The competent coach is responsible, makes prudent suggestions and won’t lead you astray.
Celebratory. Learning is serious and fun. Your mentor should be an enthusiastic, supportive cheerleader, encouraging and praising you for your strengths.
Clear-sighted. A successful coach has a vision, stays on track and is committed to the outcomes you have agreed upon.
Collaborative. A good coach must seek feedback from key stakeholders, especially your boss and team members. Find someone who is an open and cooperative partner in support of your growth.
Communicative. Does your helper use clear, concise language? Is she a good listener, and open in sharing her knowledge? Interpersonal skills are essential to the caring coach.
Connected. One of the best-kept secrets of sought-after coaches is their network, including people, organizations and resources to help get the job done.
Convenient. Coaching is popular among busy executives because it offers flexibility. The wise professional is accessible and willing to work around your schedule.
Convincing. Persuasive arguments, real-world examples and inspiring anecdotes are among the coach’s favorite tools.
Creative. Inventiveness and adaptability facilitate results, especially when you are in a rut. Clever mentors can think on their feet and present new options.
Credible. Credibility is earned over time, based on good, reliable service. Is your coach worthy of confidence? Does she have a solid track record, excellent credentials and references who will attest to her abilities?
Curious. The savvy coach is inquisitive, right from the start. He listens and learns about your needs through a thorough interviewing process.
Current. Has your guide recommended any books, blogs, or articles lately? Does she know what’s going on in your field? The well-informed coach gives relevant, timely advice.
If your coach-to-be meets these criteria, congratulations – you have chosen well. The most important advice, however, is to trust your instincts. If you feel comfortable and have the right chemistry, your investment in a coach is likely to yield both short- and long-term dividends. Finally, remember that results come from self-motivation and taking personal responsibility. A professional coach can point you in a positive direction, but to reap the rewards you need to get off the bench, pick up the ball and play!