Ask the Workplace Psychologist: How Do I Select The Best Coach For Me?

Anyone can call themselves a coach and there are many different types of coaches, but how can you tell if someone is the right coach for you?

When choosing a professional leadership coach, it comes down to three key factors: caring, competence, and chemistry. Before deciding to work with a coach, you should try to determine whether (1) the person cares about your success, (2) he or she has the skills necessary to help you make real, lasting changes in your behavior, and (3) your work and personality styles will be compatible.

1. Caring

  • Does this person care about you and your success? The coach should make it clear that helping you to achieve your goals is the coach’s only objective and when you meet, 100% of his attention should be on you.
  • Does he use your time efficiently and respect your other commitments? During your time together, the focus should be on your needs and priorities, not on what the coach wants to work on.
  • Does she acknowledge your uniqueness? Are your individual needs, values, strengths, and motivations included when creating your coaching goals and discussing plans for your development? Or, do you get the feeling you are being treated like everyone else?

2. Competence

  • Does the person demonstrate the skills and abilities to facilitate significant, sustained behavioral change? What is the coach’s track record in helping people be more successful?
  • Is the person actively engaged in listening when you speak? Does he ask relevant, meaningful questions that encourage you to think and see things differently?
  • There are many resources that coaches can use. The best coaches are creative and able to adapt tools and customize their approach to help you with your specific situation.
  • Is she assertive enough to push back and challenge you? Will she give you straightforward feedback? Remember that you’re looking for an accountability partner, someone who will keep you focused and help you to follow thorough to make sure you achieve your goals. This requires the ability to be both supportive and tough in holding you to your commitments.

3. Chemistry

  • While you do want a coach who will be firm when necessary and provide an objective perspective, you also need someone who you’re comfortable with and can open up to. You want to be able to have in-depth conversations and talk freely about things that you can’t discuss with anyone else.
  • With long-term coaching, you end up spending a lot of time together, so you want that time to be enjoyable. Coaches who are positive and upbeat, and have a sense of humor and a passion for helping develop other people can make the hard work of personal growth a lot more fun.

Before you decide to work with a coach, you should ask these 7 questions:

  1. Is this person an active, engaged listener?
  2. Does his or her behavior demonstrate caring and concern
  3. Will s/he give me direct feedback that I can act on?
  4. Will s/he hold me accountable for achieving tasks that I have committed to achieve?
  5. Will s/he support and challenge me in equal measure?
  6. Will it be enjoyable to work with him or her?
  7. Will I be comfortable enough with this person to speak
Photo of Suzanne Origlio, Ph.D.

written by:

Suzanne Origlio, Ph.D.

Executive Coach