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Insights: Choosing a Coach
August 26, 2009

Choosing a Coach

In this issue Bill offers a four step process for choosing the
life coach that's perfect for you.

With increasing regularity nowadays, I find myself getting enquiries from people asking how they should go about choosing a life coach.

Of course, being in the business of training people to be great life coaches, I find it very gratifying to know that the demand for personal coaching services is growing rapidly in South Africa. But it's hardly surprising, given the undoubted power that coaching has to transform lives.

A few years ago, while I was still in corporate life, the concept of executive coaching was gaining in popularity. Companies felt it entirely appropriate to hire coaches for their most senior executives and even some of their middle managers in important roles. After all, the benefits of even a small improvement in divisional performance would render the cost of coaching quite trivial.

The rise of personal coaching

Until comparatively recently, personal coaching - or life coaching - was largely the domain of wealthy celebrities in the US. Nowadays, many people around the world are enjoying the benefits of having their own personal coach assist them to achieve what might otherwise remain elusive goals and dreams.

How to choose?

The law of supply and demand dictates that as the demand for personal coaching services rises, so will the supply. The key question, then, for many individuals already convinced of the benefits of coaching, is: "How do I choose the coach that's just right for me?"

My advice would be to make your choice in four simple steps, applying four 'filters' to ensure you get the best match for you.

Demographic matching

The first and relatively easy step is what I call "matching the demographics".

If you're set on face-to-face coaching then you'll need someone who you can reach within a reasonable traveling distance. Now, before I move on, let me assure you that being coached by telephone (Skype is very popular for those with broadband internet because it is a free service) is an option that you should not discount lightly. Believe it or not there are actually a number of benefits to being coached by 'phone - but that's a topic for a separate newsletter.

If you work best with people of your own - or the opposite - gender, then this too will influence your choice.

There are many excellent and vibrant young coaches around, but you may feel uncomfortable with having a coach who is half your age. Alternatively, as a young person, you might prefer to have a coach that has extensive life experience to draw on; someone who's been there and done that!

Coaching fees come into the equation too, of course. But if possible, I would encourage you not to restrict the field by applying this filter right up front.

Look past the advertised fees if you can, find the ideal match using the steps I have outlined and then negotiate with your preferred coach if you need to, to fit your budget. Many coaches are negotiable and some will offer substantial discounts for payment in advance. My advice is to look at what you will pay over, say six months, and then consider how worthwhile that will be if you achieve one or two of your most desired goals.

Niche matching

The next step is more difficult. I call it "matching the niche".

Let me ask you this. If you own a house that is built out of timber on the side of a steep hill and you decide to add an extension with an overhanging deck, who would you be more likely to contract with, a general builder or a builder who specializes in timber homes and cantilevered decking?

When you hire a life coach, you generally have a good idea as to what issues or what part of your life you specifically want to focus on improving. And it may well be that you'll find a life coach whose specialist niche matches perfectly.

I recommend to all coaches who want to build substantial and self-sustaining practices that they choose a niche market based on their underlying skills and passionate interests. I know of life coaches who have been very successful focusing on niches like 'personal empowerment', 'intimate relationships', 'self-confidence', 'youth development', 'career building', 'retirement', 'financial freedom', 'childbirth', and so on.

Skills matching

OK, so once you’ve decided on a rough demographic profile of your ideal coach and the niche (if any) that you fall into, you can move on to step 3. I call this "matching the skills", although this is about more than skills.

Remember that there is, at least currently, no form of regulation governing the coaching 'profession'.

To my mind this is a good thing in that there are no barriers to entry into an industry where having a passion for people and a gift for helping others achieve their dreams is far more important than a raft of high-falluting academic qualifications. On the other hand it is also a bad thing in that any Tom, Dick or Harriet can write 'coach' on their business card and set themselves up in practice without having the necessary skills, techniques, experience and structure to back up their coaching.

Now, I firmly believe that good quality life coaches are self-selecting. As a life coach you won't survive long in business without word-of-mouth endorsements and client testimonials. You're either really effective at helping people transform their lives - or you're not!

And this is my point. Always ask any prospective coach for testimonials or references - and check them out. Ask the coach where and in what method they have been trained. Ask to see a certificate and do some research on the coach training provider to see if they are reputable. Check how passionate the coach is about their calling. Are they registered with any body that promotes ongoing coach development? Do they subscribe to any code of ethics?

Vibrational matching

The final step is, I think, the most important of all. I call it "matching the vibration".

Choosing the 'right' (as opposed to 'good') coach is, arguably, a more important decision than choosing the 'right' doctor or dentist. Whereas a 'good' doctor will make the correct diagnosis and prescribe effective medication without necessarily doing it in a way that has you warming to him or her, a 'good' coach (i.e. a well trained, equipped and ethical coach) with whom you are unable to build a great rapport, will be unlikely to do much for you.

Rapport is vital to the coaching relationship. Establishing an emotional bond with your coach based on mutual liking and respect, trust, and belief in each other is the foundation for the achievement of great things through coaching. Great coaches will have that something special that allows them to empower their clients to go well beyond the normal and yet still be compassionate and caring.

How do you establish whether there's a 'vibrational match' with your coach?

Great coaches worth their salt will offer a free first session that may range from a basic introduction to a client assessment to a full blown goal-setting session in some cases. This is a great opportunity to see if you and your coach are an ideal match.

Coaches need coaches

A final thought. If you've ever doubted the power of coaching think about this. Every great coach will tell you that the one thing crucial to their success is having their own personal coach!

So there you have it.

If you're interested in personal coaching or becoming a life coach yourself why not talk with one of our many certified New Insights coaches? You can find out more about them by clicking this link...


Till next time...

Warm Regards,


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