1. What’s your understanding of ‘coaching’?
Maybe you know someone who’s worked with a professional coach; it may have been on an aspect of their personal life, or to focus on their performance and success at work. As the ‘coachee’ (clunky word, but we know what it means) told you how it was working for them you may have thought, “Hmmm… that sounds pretty good, I think I could do with someone like that”. Which is fine, but it’s not the whole story. Some people think coaching will ‘fix’ them, or be a bit like therapy – it’s not. So it’s well worth taking time to establish what coaching really is – and what it isn’t.
Tip: check out some coaching websites, specifically professional coaching bodies’ sites, and take a good look at their definition of coaching. Here’s the Association for Coaching’s explanation to get you started.
2. What goals do you want to work on with a coach?
What do you want to achieve – in your personal life, at work, in your career? How will you know when you’ve got it? Something that I often find with potential coachees is that they begin with vague goals, and we often spend time working on refining those goals so that they’re much clearer, compelling and achievable. You’ll get far more from working with a coach if you have some ideas about what you want to improve and/or change in your life. What major challenge do you want to overcome?
Tip: before you contact a coach, take some time to write down (or create a mood board of) your main goals and objectives. Need some ideas? See ICF’s ‘Benefits of Using a Coach’.
3. What are your expectations of coaching, and of your coach?
It’s common practice for coaches to agree to meet potential clients for a brief ‘chemistry’ meeting. This allows the coach to clarify what coaching is/isn’t, their typical client, and the process(es) they usually work through with coachees to support their success. I highly recommend this, and suggest that both parties share their expectations of each other – and themselves. For example, your coach may explain that if you don’t show up for a session, or cancel within 24 hours of the session, you forfeit that session with your coach. Your coach may have an expectation that you will arrive on time and prepared for your session. And it may turn out that the chemistry session reveals that your expectations of each other are incompatible, or that coaching isn’t right for you right now, or that you’d be better off with a different coach.
Tip: before you meet a coach it can be helpful to note your thoughts on expectations.
4. How committed are you to coaching?
Most coaches will seek to test your level of commitment to your own progress when you have the chemistry meeting. A coach can’t ‘run your race’ for you – they can help you prepare and even cheer you on from the side-lines, but what they can’t do is meet the goal for you. It’s your ‘race’ – you have the responsibility for your own development. Your coach may ask you to do ‘homework’ or complete assignments between sessions, from simply keeping a journal and reflecting, to taking more radical and challenging steps. Your coach will ask you to make a commitment to take action at the end of every session. And your coach will hold you accountable to check in at the next session on what you’ve done and how it’s worked for you. You do the work – your coach does the coaching.
Tip: ask yourself how committed you are to coaching to reach your goals – on a scale of 1 – 10 – and if your score is 6 or less, consider what would need to be true for you for that commitment level to be higher.
5. Who else do you want on ‘your team’?
As someone who works with a coach when I want to address a specific issue and is a coach to others, I’ve learned the importance of having a team, or ‘personal board’ of supporters. Yes, a coach can be one of these supporters, and there are others to consider as well. These can be professionals you hire to work with you, such as a personal trainer or accountant; an informal mentor from your professional network or association, a family member, someone within your community, former colleagues, a peer in another discipline at your employer, or influencers in your field.
Tip: think of the roles on a typical board of directors; how do they translate to a ‘personal board’? Before you approach potential ‘directors’, first identify the different roles you need on your team.
You may also find this post useful: ‘Differences between coaching and mentoring – what’s best for you?’
Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’, available now at bookstores and on Amazon.