How to avoid the biggest mistakes when hiring a coach

If you want your windows cleaned, do you call a mechanic? It stands to reason that hiring the wrong person for the wrong job is both frustrating and a waste of time and money. It’s no different in the field of personal or executive coaching.

There are three main mistakes people make when hiring a coach. Unfortunately people often don’t know who they actually need, so end up hiring the wrong person. This can prove disappointing and costly to you, and detrimental to the coach – and the whole field of coaching. This article clears up those mistakes and offers some questions to help you clarify exactly who you do need, so you don’t hire the wrong person.

coaching1So first of all, here’s a very brief definition of what a coach is and does; A coach is a trained professional who facilitates psychologically healthy clients to figure out their own path and to become problem solvers in their own right. A coach seeks to empower clients to become all they can be and to help them actualise real results in their world.

Mistakes people make when hiring a coach;

  1. They hire a therapist. A therapist helps people who are feeling hurt and vulnerable to feel ‘normal’ again. The trouble here is that there are a lot of people trained as therapists who don’t know what a coach actually does, but who promote themselves as coaches anyway. One of the things that makes me cringe is when I read the description “Mr X is a trained therapist/coach…” as if they are the same thing! There’s a huge difference in attitude and methodology between being a coach and being a therapist. Therapy is remedial, curative and aims for comfort and stasis. Therapy models have the potential for relapse built in. Coaching is generative, welcomes restlessness and discontent as a tools for growth and has continued development built in.
  2. They hire a consultant. Many years ago I hired a coach to help me build my business. But I was a newbie and ended up hiring a ‘coach’ who was actually a consultant. All he did was ask about the structure of my business and then told me what I needed to do with regards to marketing business plans and business models. There was a huge clash of personal values as he told me what to charge, to whom, and for what. He made it all about making money – not making a difference and adding value to people’s lives, which is my purpose for being in business. Sure I needed to make a living, but he just told me information and whenever I raised my ethical concerns, he’d just mumble and say that was “bad business”. Consultants are content-experts, they have great information that is highly valuable – if that’s what you need, hire a consultant.
  3. They hire a bad coach. They hire a coach who doesn’t understand the impact of language – coaching is a conversation. If the coach doesn’t understand the structure of language and the psychology of human behaviour, you’ll just get superficial coaching, behavioural goal setting, and remedial change that’s not really impactful on your life or business. Here too is the additional danger that if the coach doesn’t understand the impact and effect of the words and sentences they use, they may end up doing the client more harm than good.

So before you hire anyone, ask yourself a few questions;

  • Do I feel hurt, vulnerable and like I need to be fixed? – Hire a Therapist.
  • Do I feel ok and am frustrated because I want more from my life/business/relationships? – Hire a Coach.
  • Do I feel I want ‘saving’ (therapy) or ‘challenging’ (coaching)?
  • Do I want someone to just give me the answers? – Hire a consultant.

These three mistakes can be costly and damaging. Not to mention a waste of time. I once read a comment from an executive about a coach they had used which said, “She was useless, she just kept asking questions and didn’t tell me anything”. My immediate thought was that the executive got it wrong, they hired a coach when they wanted a consultant. So how do you avoid these kinds of mistakes? Here’s a quick check list to help put you on the right track;

  1. You must first be clear if you want a coach, consultant or a therapist. Answer the questions above.
  2. Ask to meet your prospective coach before you start to see if you can work together. Most good coaches will insist on this anyway as they’ll want to vet you to see if you’re up to the challenge of coaching. Coaching is a conversation; it’s also a relationship.
  3. Ask about their training. What coaching models do they use? (I once saw an interview on TV with a ‘life-coach’ who said they learned by watching the Dr. Phil show!) Do a bit of research into those models; are they robust, do they fit for your needs?
  4. Ask about their experience. Who else have they coached in the past? Have they successfully coached clients with similar outcomes as you?

Hiring the right coach can be an incredibly rewarding and powerful experience which has tremendous long term benefits for every aspect of your life. But these common confusions are sadly present on the professional side of the fence too. I know therapists who call themselves coaches but have no idea of how to actually coach. I also know of trained coaches who don’t know the distinctions and try to coach a person who needs therapy – that never lasts long either.

Yes, I’m trained in therapy and coaching, so I know the difference. Trust me, you’ll have a very different experience depending if we’re doing therapy or coaching! Being trained in both of these areas I’ll know which direction the session will take. But still, if you think its coaching you want, drop me a line for that first chat either over coffee or Skype. I look forward to meeting you.

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