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How to find a coach that is right for you

Once you have decided coaching is for you the search for the right coach can begin. But how do you find a professional who suits your needs? Coaching is not regulated and that means anyone can call themselves a coach. The European Individual Accreditation for coaches does not guarantee a good match either: what may work for one person may be totally off-putting for another.

Organisations often advise meetings with at least three different coaches. But if all three meetings go well it will still be difficult to decide which approach suits you best. And besides, telling your personal story to three people you don’t know can be rather daunting. Here are some ways in which you can simplify the process.

Tip 1: do your homework
What do you expect your coach to help you with? Use the following questions to formulate what it is you need.
1. what skills do you want to learn or improve?
2. what do you want to get out of the coaching?
3. which theme or specialisation is relevant to your situation (e.g. work-life-balance)
4. do you want your coach to be familiar with a certain work context?
5. do you want a male or a female coach? Does the age of the coach matter to you?
6. how much experience should your coach have?
7. which qualities should your coach have, (a sense of humour, a confrontational or businesslike style or focused on how you experience things).

Tip 2: use your network
Perhaps you have trusted colleagues or friends who have been coached. Find out what  experiences they have and if they feel their coach could be right for you. If you ask your colleagues, your superior or the HR advisor, chances are that the coach they recommend is familiar with the organisational culture or a certain target group.

Tip 3: search by trade associations
If no one in your environment can help you find a coach the internet might help. Many coaches are members of trade associations, such as www.nobco.nl, www.noloc.nl, www.lvsc.eu and www.stir.nu.
The members of these associations are subject to a number of requirements. They have to regularly update their skills, for example, and keep to the code of conduct set by their organisation. Most of the associations’ websited also provide a list of affiliated coaches.  

Tip 4: search by place and theme
It might be that a trade association does not have a member coach near to where you live or work. And perhaps you have a preference for a coach who specialises in a certain approach or theme. Try googling on coach, place and what it is you want be coached on. It may also help to put in a specific target group (professionals, managers, academics).

Tip 5: study the website of the coach
A website may offer a host of information about the style and approach of a coach. If the pics of flowers and far horizons of the spiritual coach put you off then that is probably not the approach for you. A picture of the coach can also paint a thousand words. A positive or a neutral reaction increases the chance that you will be compatible. Sometimes a coach’s blog, columns or articles can give you an impression of the person, his way of working, or his area of expertise if any. You may also find references or comments from former clients on LinkedIn or Facebook. 

Tip 6: contact the coach
Select 3 coaches about whom you would like to know more. Coaches are often in meetings with clients and chances are they won’t pick up the phone straight away. Keep an eye on how quickly they react to a request to contact you. It shows how seriously they take new clients. Ask the questions which you didn’t find an answer to on their websites, for instance the cost or length of the training. Try to form an impression of the coach as you talk to him or her. Ask yourself if you would be comfortable telling your personal story to this coach and go with your gut feeling. Be strightforward and tell the coach you have other coaches to interview and that you will decide after you have spoken to them. 

Tip 7: evaluate and plan an initial meeting
When you have spoken to all three coaches you can start listing the pros and cons. Don’t forget to include those first impressions: did the coach strike you as professional? Which conversation left you feeling most positive? Which coach would be most likely to help you deal with your particular issue?
Arrange a meeting with one of the coaches. If at the end of the meeting you are still feeling positive about him or her then simply decide. Research has shown that an instant connection with a therapist or coach is an important success factor. If you are not sure approach coaches 2 and 3 for a meeting, or start another search. Don’t be afraid to take up people’s time, after all you are putting in time as well. 

Aletta Wubben
Coach and director of Aletta Wubben, Mens- en organisatieontwikkeling


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