Now is the season where many of us begin reviewing the progress of our year, closing out a past year, and begin goal setting for the coming year. Life in review and goal setting for the future always bring us to the great question, “What’s next?”
What have you learned this past year that you can carry with you into next year for greater fulfillment? Professional coaching is a partnership that equips, motivates, challenges, and brings accountability. I often share with clients that I am “the bridge” that helps them get from where they are today, to their future self. At times, we want someone to just “tell us” what to do. As a coach, I believe you know exactly what you need to do, and even how to do it; coaching is the discovery of these great resources you already possess. Consultants answer the client’s questions; coaches question the client’s answers.
What benefits does a professional coaching relationship have? There have been years of study conducted on this subject. The International Coach Federation (ICF), the world’s largest coaching organization that advances the science and art of coaching, has discovered there are multiple measurable results from a professional coach (the research is available on the ICF website). Some of these include:
- Improved work performance
- Improved business management
- Improved time management
- Improved team effectiveness
- Improved self-confidence
- Improved relationships
- Improved communication skills
- Improved life/work balance
Companies with coaches have said they have at least made their investment back (86%) on a professional coach and 99% of companies say they are somewhat or very satisfied with their overall coaching experience. Fast Company has said of coaching: “Coaching is product development and you’re the product.”
Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a coach:
1. Professional Qualifications
What certification and training does the coach have? There are many who consider themselves to be “coaches” but have no credentialing or certification, and no, or limited training. Someone may have great experience in industries that lend to caring assistance, but the training, and continuing education provided to professional coaches translates into a long-term investment into the client’s life. ICF is the only internationally recognized credentialing organization for coaches. It is well-worth looking for a coach that carries active credentials (ACC, PCC, MCC) with ICF, and is an active member of ICF. Through a coach’s active relationship with ICF, there is professional training, continued education, professional mastermind groups, chapter affiliations, and so many resources that will advance a coach’s skill and professional relationship with their client. There are many other organizations that provider certifications, but the ICF credential is a premium hallmark of a coach with experience, training, and continued education.
2. Coaching Style
Every coach has their own unique style—no matter their training or credential. A client must be comfortable with the coach’s style, and the only way this is determined is by participating in a coaching session. Most coaches will provide a free initial session in which the coaching relationship is established. Getting to know the coach and his/her style is important. Understanding the coach’s philosophy of coaching, and understanding the coaching agreement will also help the client understand how the coach will approach the partnership. Remember, professional coaching is a partnership—not consulting. A great coach will ask the hard questions, and reflect back to the client, the hard topics to facilitate the most beneficial opportunity for growth. It is also good to know if the coach does in-person sessions, virtual sessions, or both.
Each coach will have a unique background which will influence their style and experience. Is it required to have a coach that shares the same industry background or niche in which a potential client operates? No. If a coach is effective, he/she will be able to coach a client no matter the background differences; however, a coach with a similar industry or niche background will have an expertise and experience they bring to the coaching partnership which may prove beneficial. For example, if the client is a director for a non-profit organization, having a coach with background in non-profit coaching or the non-profit niche could be additionally beneficial.
Ultimately, a client needs to have a good energy and connection with the coach. This is developed through trust and the coach’s empathy; however, if a client finds it hard to connect, it will be a challenge to grow through the partnership. When a client feels the relationship is not a good connection, it is important to address it with the coach. A continued disconnect or not having a good initial session connection, may mean it is time to search for another coach or speak to the coach about the concern.
What is the desired outcome of coaching? Every good client has a specific goal to be accomplished through the coaching partnership. Whether developing a personal growth plan, improving business relationships, increasing communication skills, or becoming a better salesperson—the desired outcome should be clearly established with the coach. A great coach will keep that overall goal continually in view as each session is developed. At the end of the coaching relationship, the client will see great steps in the journey of achieving that goal.
A great client is looking for personal growth and is committed to change. The path ahead may seem dimly lit and personal goals may be on life support; however, the ideal client understands and is committed to achieving and succeeding in becoming their future self.