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Coaching isn’t a one-size-fits-all relationship. In recent years, coaching has grown in popularity and expanded from the athletic world to the boardroom in the form of executive business coaching. Regardless of the niche, the value of coaching is versatile and powerful. If you’re considering working with a coach, there are several things you should know before committing to the process.

Approach a coaching relationship the same way you would treat remodeling your house. Coaches are like general contractors — they offer a range of capabilities, expertise and connections to specialists. But not every general contractor or coach is going to be a fit for every potential client.

Before you sign a contract or partner with a coach, assess, research and see if your needs align with their skills. It’s important to bring in someone who you’re confident can complete the job. Where you are and where you want to be are only two factors that play into finding the right fit. Ask yourself these six questions to help you choose the right coach.

1. What is your ultimate goal?

What do you want to achieve? Perhaps your business growth has been so healthy that it’s time to step back and analyze your operations and client experience to make sure those important pillars of the business haven’t been neglected. Or maybe you’re focused on growth and want to boost your business development skills to help serve more clients. Whatever your goal is, your coach should have the expertise to help you create an action plan and reach it.

2. Is coaching enough?

Coaching alone is powerful, but you might be looking for more than one partnership to grow your firm. Being the advisor-CEO of a business can be a lonely place sometimes, with only the company of important decisions you have to make.

Do you need more resources, processes, samples and client-facing content? Are you looking for a community of like-minded professionals to connect with? Step back and analyze where you’re lacking and what resources or groups would fill that void. You could benefit from the expertise of partnership with your peers or other organizations.

3. Are you open to change?

If we can guarantee one thing in this industry, it’s change. Some change we don’t have a choice but to accept — outside factors like technology and market performance fall into this category. Other change is within our control — and totally necessary.

A coach will help you navigate the changing tides of the industry and make adjustments yourself. They’ll uncover your blind spots to your potential, provide direct feedback and challenge you to change for the better. “What got you here won’t get you there,” is an important concept a coach helps you realize. You can read more about it in the book of the same name written by leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith.

4. Will you commit to working on the business?

Spoiler alert: Coaches aren’t magicians. Having a regular call with a coach will not get you the desired outcome you want. The magic happens in between calls.

Your first step with your coach might focus on your capacity and ways you can create time to work on and not in your business. Working in your business involves managing the daily duties that can pile up and distract you from the activities that will accelerate growth for your firm — business development, nurturing client/prospect relationships and implementing changes. A rule of thumb is to dedicate at least 5% of your time each week, about two hours, to working on the business.

5. What are you really looking for in a coach?

Coaching and consulting offer different levels of guidance and support. With the popularity of coaching in recent years, many coaches can and do wear both hats. Dare we call it coach-sulting?

Coaching is “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” as defined by the International Coaching Federation. Coaches work with you to find your answers, rather than hand over solutions.

Just as working alongside your clients in the planning experience uncovers motivations and aspirations, so too does working alongside a coach. This approach can create more significant and impactful change.

Before you decide on a coach, discuss with them their style, training and background to make sure you are on the same page and have clear expectations of working together.

6. What type of accountability do you need?

The type of accountability and support a coach provides can vary from coach to coach, and depends on your needs. Think about a time in your career when you were most effective. What type of accountability worked well for you then? Given your goals and plans, what level of accountability do you need now?

If you’re someone who thrives on structure, you might want a coach who identifies specific action steps during each call or who provides you with an overall coaching plan. You might prefer a coach who has a more hands-off approach. Or maybe you’re a big-picture thinker and need someone to hold you accountable to implementing changes. Understand the environment you work best in and the type of leader you work best with.

Deciding to work with a coach is an important decision, regardless of the level of change you want to bring to your business. But deciding which coach to work with is a critical decision and can be the difference between a successful partnership and a frustrating partnership.

Before you sign on the dotted line, schedule time to reflect on the six questions we outlined. Have a grasp on your goals and working style so you can select the right coach who’ll work alongside you on your path toward growth.


Jessica Harrington, Carson CoachingJessica Harrington is an executive business coach at Carson Group.