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Questions to Assist in Selecting a Potential Coach

  1. Have you ever worked with someone in a position similar to mine?

If the answer is “no”, you might want to ask yourself if you are willing to be the first.  If the answer is “yes”, then follow up with, “What was most challenging for you with this type of coachee?”, and “What were the most important results achieved by the coachee by the end of the coaching time?”

  1. What training have you had to prepare yourself to be a coach?

Unfortunately, some people have just re-done their business cards to indicate that they are an “Executive Coach”.  The individual should have had some specific training from such reputable organizations or programs as those offered by Universities, the International Coaching Federation, etc.  Find out what they had done prior to offering a coaching service – have they had any previous experience with your industry, or with your profession?

  1. What business experience have you had?

It is easy to give “advice” when you have never had to run a business yourself.  Some coaches have never worked as a manager in any organization of any size, or had to make payroll in an economic downturn, and while this does not disqualify them as being a potentially great coach for you, it may also mean that they have an incomplete understanding of the issues and constraints that managers face in their day-to-day operations.  If you are in a union environment, for example, have they ever had to work in such an environment, and are they aware of the challenges that may be present?

  1. Please describe the coaching process that you follow.

You want to identify whether the person has a process or whether they just “wing it”.  That is, do they mutually work out a plan with the coachee, including number of times and duration of sessions; how  coachee objectives are set and measured;  whether there are “assignments” and the obligations and responsibilities of the coachee to complete the assignments; what kind of assessment tools do they plan on using.

  1. Would you describe yourself as more “process oriented” or “results oriented”?

Results oriented coaches would generally be more appropriate for those individuals who wish to improve their business skills in a business setting, and results oriented coaches are more likely to be found in business environments.  Process oriented coaches may appear to be somewhat unfocused for some business people, and often have more comfort in discussing how things should be done.   Very experienced coaches, of course, will be able to incorporate both process and results.

  1. Please tell me about a coaching experience you had that you think did not work out as you had hoped.

Listen carefully for the reason, and be sceptical about the candidate who says that s/he has never had a coaching job that was not successful.  Listen to see if the reasons had more to do with the coach or with the coachee.  For example, was there an incompatibility of style between the two, unrealistic expectations on the part of the coachee, reluctance of the coachee to follow the advice of the coach, lack of relevant experience on the part of the coach, etc.  Where does the coach lay the blame?

What do you see as the difference between coaching, counselling and consulting?

Every coach will bring his/her background, training and experience to the coaching encounter.  This is natural, and of course helpful since it will ground the coach in both theory and in practice.  However a coach’s background will influence the approach taken – whether the focus is on psychological “issues”, results, personal growth, improved skills, etc.  At the very least a candidate coach should be able to distinguish between the three types of services, and understand the differences among them.

  1. Is the coach an independent or a member of a larger agency?

Neither situation is, de facto, a guarantee that the Coach will be someone who is perfect for your needs, but those who are working for large franchise operations will have a lot of very fancy marketing material, and may appear to be more qualified.  Check into references and ensure that any testimony materials they offer are indeed for personal clients and not from clients of the general franchise.

  1. What kind of feedback can you expect from the coach and how will s/he get and give that type of information?

You should expect confidentiality from the Coach with respect to the content of your sessions, but if the coach is to give meaningful feedback, it may be necessary to discuss some things with relevant others in the workplace (for example, your boss, or subordinates).  How will the Coach get information about your progress, and how will confidentiality be maintained?

  1. What are the terms of the coaching contract, and is there an opportunity to “try it out to determine fit?”

Many coaches (but not all) will offer a “free” introductory session to “test the waters”, to see if there is a good fit, especially from a relationship point of view.  Whether such a session is offered or not, however, the coach should be very clear about the terms of the contract including length of contract, length of session, price, what to do about cancelled sessions, cost for any additional instrumentation, books, videos, etc., meetings with others in the organizations, confidentiality policy, additional fees for telephone sessions, and whether payment is required in advance, and if so, if there is any refund if you feel you are not advancing and wish to terminate before the agreed upon number of sessions have been completed.