Are you in the market for a coach? I hope you are! Coaching has been found by far to be the most effective way to achieve sustainable and transformational change for your personal and professional life. For the business, it has been linked to such outcomes as increased team effectiveness, emotional intelligence and productivity. With the vast increase in popularity of coaching and the explosion of individuals calling themselves a coach, here is what you need to consider to be sure you will find true value in the experience.

Can I see myself opening up to this person?

The most important factor in selecting a coach is trust. You must be able to trust that your coach cares about you, wants you to realize your vision, and believes in you without judgement. This provides what we call “psychological safety”, which is the state of comfort in showing one’s self without fear of negative consequences. It is only in these conditions that you will be able to open up and share without concern about what your coach will think about you or what might happen to your image or career.

Do I feel heard and understood with this person?

It is also critical that you believe your coach is curious about your concerns, desires, insights, and ideas. There are many coaches out there who operate more as an advisor or consultant than a true coach. As an Organizational Psychologist myself, who previously “coached” as more of an advisor, I know this firsthand. During your sessions with these coaches, they will likely ask about your challenges and goals, but then spend much of the time providing you with suggestions, guidance and advice that may or may not hit the mark. Even very insightful suggestions are less likely to be internalized and acted upon than those you identify and create yourself, with some skillful guidance from your coach. So, the right coach for you is one who asks insightful questions, listens with curiosity, and helps you explore possibilities and impact given your unique situation, strengths and style.   

Will they encourage you to “dig deep” and “do the work”

While the right coach listens and focuses on your goals, challenges and ideas, they also know when to push you to places that are slightly uncomfortable, while doing so with care. Often that discomfort comes in two varieties. The first is to challenge you to be introspective and consider your patterns and tendencies that might be getting in the way of realizing your vision and goals. The second is to ask accountability questions regarding exactly what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, and by when, as well as following up regarding what you actually did. While a coach is not the one to hold you accountable, they do ask the questions regarding how you will hold yourself accountable, and what went wrong when that doesn’t happen.

Have they had success coaching others through similar challenges?

Many believe the best coach for them is one who has held a similar role or worked in the same industry. While it is helpful to have a coach who understands your world, it cuts out a huge proportion of coaches if you expect them to have that experience, and it is totally unnecessary. After all, do you expect your dentist, lawyer, or physician to have worked in the same field, or have held the same position as you? It is much more important to have a coach who has experience coaching others, with similar challenges, than expecting them to be an expert in your role or industry… you already know that!

What are their credentials?

Certification through a certified coach training program is important to demonstrate that your coach has the skills required to be effective, but also that they have done their own work to develop themselves (since that is what they are expecting from you). You also can be assured that your coach has experience with also being coached themselves, since that is a requirement to receive a coaching credential. Depending on the level of credential, you can also get a sense of their experience level. The International Coach Federation (ICF) is the most recognized credentialing organization in the world. The credential level for ICF starts at Associate Certified Coach (ACC) to Professional Certified Coach (PCC) to finally the Master Certified Coach (MCC). Be sure to notice these designations when choosing a coach. While it is certainly possible to be an outstanding coach without having gone through the credentialing process, there are so many out there who call themselves coaches who do not have training in coaching techniques and philosophy. In order to maximize the likelihood that coaching will be a meaningful experience, it is much safer to use only credentialled coaches.

Overall, it is important for you to find a coach that will both support and challenge you throughout the coaching relationship. Having both is critical to the relationship. Some coaches are highly empathetic and supportive but do not challenge your assumptions or provide insights. Other coaches only provide advice and challenge your assumptions without the open, exploratory and empathetic approach that is so critical for psychological safety and openness. A combination of all the factors above will allow you the ideal conditions to thrive in a coaching relationship.

Nicole Pulito, PhD, PCC

Founder & President

(262) 204-8302

[email protected]