Don’t lie, now. It’s happened to all of us.
And yet, after that bad haircut, you got your hair cut again, didn’t you? I’ll bet you found another stylist right away, maybe even hoping that s/he could fix the damage from that very, very bad haircut (seriously, I can’t look away from that photo).
So after that haircut disaster, you didn’t just assume that all hair stylists were bad stylists, right?
And after you had that bad dental experience, you didn’t stop going to the dentist, did you? When the plumber couldn’t fix the leak in your sink, you didn’t decide you just wouldn’t hire a plumber again, or you’d have a flood on your hands.
I could go on like this all day. The point is, one bad experience doesn’t mean that an entire profession is bad. And that there are so many people who have gotten so much out of coaching means that you can, too. You just need to find a good coach who is a good fit for you and your needs.
Caution, caution, caution. Just because all coaches aren’t bad, it doesn’t mean all coaches are good, either. A friend of mine, Steve Chandler, says that “coaching has a low barrier to entry, but a high barrier to success.” It’s quite simple to become a coach. All you have to do is decide, “I’m a coach.” That means anyone can jump in and try to coach people, without training, without any experience or expertise at all.
You can prevent coaching disasters by knowing how to hire a good coach that’s a good fit.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the very best way to hire a coach is by letting them coach you and seeing how they work. However, if the coach you want to work with doesn’t want to do that (see below), read whatever writing you can get your hands on to see if you can get a feel for their personality and integrity. But don’t stop there.
Do a legitimacy check. Investigate their LinkedIn profile – I typically think that if someone’s LinkedIn profile neglects to include information, it looks a little shady. For example, I once worked with a coach who was very convincing in his sales conversation, but who turned out to be a dud in the actual coaching department. It was in the early days of social media, so there wasn’t as much to go on as there is today. Years later, I happened to look up his LinkedIn profile, and quickly realized he’d done a great job of conning me, but had very little in the way of training or experience. Oops. Thankfully, the web today should have a ton of social proof about the coach you’re considering. If you can’t find much about your potential coach, you may want to think twice.
You can also check with former and existing clients, but be prepared – there are two ways to find former and existing clients. The first is to ask the coach for references; s/he will likely give you only the names and contact details of people who will say nice things. The second way to find former and existing clients is to check the testimonials and stalk the people who wrote them to ask them for more details. But the same problem exists: coaches don’t usually put testimonials on their websites unless those people will say nice things about them. Your mileage may very with all references and reviews, just as it does on Yelp or Amazon.
Referrals, referrals, referrals. It’s often useful to ask people you know and respect for a referral to a coach they like. Remember that every coach is different, and every client is different, and so the coach who was a perfect fit for your boss may not be the perfect fit for you. That’s why we end up circling back to let them coach you and see how they work.
Sometimes this is a challenge, because, as I mentioned in the first article in this series, coaches are often reluctant to do anything more than a simple sales conversation to sell their services to you. They often don’t want to coach you before they’ve locked you down, either because they’ve been told not to give anything away for free or because they’re afraid they can’t live up to the promise of coaching and you’ll discover the truth. Either way, this lack of transparency presents a real challenge, because most coaches require a lengthy contract.
When you’re looking for a new hair stylist, you don’t lock into a yearlong contract. You get to decide if you want to come back after the first cut. But I’ve even come across coaches who have their assistants or a salesperson to hold the sales conversation, so you don’t even get to speak to the actual coach until you’ve been locked down to a very expensive and lengthy contract that has little opportunity to escape. These are typically high-pressure sales tactic situations, and are generally best avoided.
Back to caution. Be wary of coaches who make big promises attached to dollar figures, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. It is important to find out what training and experience your coach has. A good coach should be a work in progress, continuously reading, learning, and studying to keep expanding his or her toolbox.
The first time you talk to your coach, pay attention to how you feel. Do you feel safe and comfortable? Do you find yourself sharing things you wouldn’t normally share? And as you work with your coach, notice how the coach responds. Does s/he ask you questions that make you think about things in a new way? Does s/he push back when you say something that sounds good, but might just be a story you’re telling yourself? Does s/he say things no one else says to you and provide you with truth and honesty that no one else in your life is willing to offer? These are the hallmarks of a good coach and things you should be looking for.
Tomorrow, as we continue the countdown, I’ll look at Reason #4 that Coaching Might Make You Nervous: You’re worried you won’t be a good coaching client.