November 3, 2021

Extensive research over the past three decades has repeatedly confirmed the value of coaching as both a valuable add to support individual learning and development, as well as contribute to wider organizational success.

At the individual level, researchers find that organizational and executive coaching can increase employee confidence, goal attainment, and psychological well-being, among other benefits. And on the business side, many organizations experience improved retention, employee engagement, and increased revenue.

Unfortunately, although coaching is overwhelmingly successful, not all coaching relationships are created equal. What makes a coaching relationship work? And how can you find the perfect coach?

What creates a successful coaching relationship?

Research shows that the coaching relationship is a known predictor of coaching success. A 2019 study found a consistent relationship between a high-quality working alliance (i.e., coach-coachee relationship) and coaching outcomes for clients. 

Looking more closely at the coach-coachee relationship, studies show that coaching efficacy can be affected by different factors, including the following:

Coaching relationships are nuanced and can impact the effectiveness of the coaching. Want to develop a successful coaching relationship? Here’s an 8-step guide to help you find the perfect coach.

How to find the perfect coach: A proven 8-step guide

Finding a coach takes time and intention, but finding the right coach can make the difference between a good outcome and a great outcome . The process starts by outlining your goals, and it wraps up by assessing your fit and progress. Drawing on research, we have developed an 8-step process to help you get the best coach for you.

Step 1. Outline your goals: What do you want to accomplish with a coach?

Before navigating to Google and searching for ‘top business coaches,’ take a second to reflect on what you want to achieve from a coaching relationship. Beyond the general idea of professional growth and development, do you want to improve your work performance, improve your mental well-being in the workplace, build new habits, or something else? Recent CoachHub data shows that 89% of coachees report that coaching helps them achieve their goals. But what do you want to work on when you find your perfect coach?

Step 2. Outline your logistical requirements: What do you require in a coaching arrangement?

Although in-person business coaching exists, research by Henley Business School, has revealed one of the impacts of Covid-19 has been an acceleration of the trend towards online coaching. You will need to decide if you prefer an online relationship, to meet in-person, or a hybrid arrangement with your coach? Other logistical considerations include your preferred language, time zone, preferred start date, frequency of sessions, and identity-related preferences. For instance, depending on your identities, you may choose to work with a coach who supports high potential LGBTQ+ leaders in their careers or a black female coach with experience of leadership in the health sector.

Step 3. Determine what you are financially willing and able to invest in coaching.

With many companies investing in coaching for workers at all levels, coaching can feel like an employee benefit, but one which also delivers real organizational value. 

The CoachHub research revealed average fees for an hour of coaching ranged around the world from around $170 to $500 an hour, with an average of $240 an hour, with higher fees in more developed coaching markets such as the UK, US and lower rates in countries such as South Africa. Unlike a two-week professional development course or a weekend intensive, coaching is an ongoing relationship that often lasts six to nine months, depending on a coachee’s objectives. What is your budget for coaching? And are any coaching benefits offered or reimbursed by your employer?

Step 4. Outline your qualification for a coach: Do you want an accredited coach?

If you want to find the perfect coach, you need to outline what you require. Since coaching is an unregulated industry — meaning anyone can technically call themselves a coach — it’s essential to understand and recognize different coaching qualifications. If you want to find the perfect coach, here are a few factors to consider:

  • Coaching expertise: Is the coach accredited by a major organization like the International Coaching Federation or the EMCC.  Accreditation is not required to become a coach, but it’s a good sign that a coach has received robust training, has been assessed against a standard and also signed up to a code of ethics. Many coaches have gone beyond these standards, and hold a relevant degree like an Masters degree in Coaching or might be a licensed coaching psychologist.
  • Coaching experience: Another way to assess a coach’s qualifications is to see how long they have been a coach and how many hours of coaching they have completed. Coaching hours don’t automatically equate to someone being a better coach, but it does provide a measure of a coach’s experience. For reference, all CoachHub coaches have completed a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Industry experience: Outside of coaching, do they have industry-specific experience? For example, before coaching, some professionals hold senior roles at high-profile companies. If you want a coach who understands your unique industry, prioritizing this experience may be helpful.
  • Population specialties: Often, coaches will specialize in working with a particular population of employees: emerging leaders, mid-level managers, or executives. If this matters to you, add it to your list of preferred qualifications.

Step 5. Assess each coach’s style.

Two things to consider when it comes to coaching style are the coach’s methodologies or frameworks and mindset. Methods include positive psychology, a scientifically rooted approach to help clients increase well-being, enhance and apply strengths, improve performance, and achieve valued goals. Mindset relates to how someone approaches the coaching process. For example, CoachHub coaches bring a perspective that’s solution-oriented and rooted in resource activation. You coach should be able to clearly articulate their approach, and explain the science or research behind it.

Step 6. Evaluate and compare your list of potential coaches.

After you outline your goals and preferred coach qualifications, it’s time to meet your potential coaches. During this phase, you will conduct interviews or discovery calls with your shortlisted coaches. This gives you an opportunity to ask questions and evaluate the chemistry of the connection. A coach who looks like a solid option on paper, may still not be the right fit for you. During these initial calls, here are some recommended questions to ask:

  • What credentials do you have?
  • What’s your coaching experience with leaders like me?
  • How do you define and measure success in a coaching engagement?
  • What is your coaching process?
  • What is the cost of your service?

During these conversations, evaluate each coach against your goals and qualifications. Do they meet your logistical requirements and preferred qualifications? If they’re good on paper — and the vibe is good — you may have just found the perfect coach.

Step 7. Analyze your options and choose a coach.

As you consider your list of potential coaches, you may have a clear frontrunner, or your decision may be simplified based on a coach’s price or availability. If this isn’t the case —  and you’re struggling to choose a coach — ask your top two options if they offer a trial period. A trial period usually consists of a short session and gives you the opportunity to assess fit and decide whether or not they’re the right coach for you. Whether you start coaching with your top choice or begin a trial period to evaluate your options further, use your first few sessions to get a feel for your coach’s style, conversational flow, structure, and feedback approach.

Step 8. Continually assess fit and your progress to find the perfect coach.

After you commit to a coach, continue to evaluate your coach-coachee relationship and measure your progress against your initial goals. If at any point you have specific concerns about your coaching relationship, address them with your coach. “Sometimes all it takes to improve a coaching relationship is for the client and coach to have a frank discussion about how they are working together,” shares HBR. If you decide to replace your coach, that’s certainly acceptable, but this process should minimize the possibility of that occurring. Hopefully, given your due diligence, you’ll quickly find the perfect coach.

Finding the perfect coach for you

If you want to experience the benefits of coaching — outcomes like increased confidence, professional growth, improved job satisfaction, and psychological well-being — be intentional about your search, and leverage your coaching benefit or professional development budget. If your employer does not offer a corporate coaching program, start the conversation. Meet with HR or your L&D department to advocate for coaching within your organization.

And however you access coaching, invest a little time and intention into your search for a coach. Research shows that the coaching relationship is a predictor of coaching success. Start by defining what you want to work on, use your goals to outline your preferred qualifications in a coach, consider what type of coaching style and process you prefer, and make a shortlist of coaches. Incredible coaches are waiting to work with you, and you’re well on your way to finding the perfect coach.

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