10 to 15 years ago coaching was very much in its infancy. Now, however, I think that the word ‘coach’ is very much overused. More and more people are claiming to be coaches of one form or another so how do you know who or what is right for you?

To help you, the International Coaching Federation defines coaching as, “partnering with clients in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”.

However, I believe that the follow example gives an even clearer picture of the role of a coach:
‘Say, you want to ride a bike. If you went to a consultant, they would help you to figure out which bike to buy; if you went to a therapist, they would get you over the fear of riding and get you on the bike; if you went to a mentor, they would show you how they ride a bike in order to teach you to do it the same way. However, if you went to a coach, they will put you on the bike, help you to pedal, get you started and run alongside supporting you as you get the job done’.

You can improve almost any situation with the right coaching. So how do you choose? This is where it is important that you do your homework.

1. There are a lot of people out there claiming to be coaches who have had no formal training so I would suggest that you first check out their credentials and their background to see what experience they have and where they got it from - coaching isn't something that just anyone can do well. Qualified coaches will have had to complete specific training both general and in their specialist field and they will have had to complete a number of hours of practical training - it typically takes several hundred hours of practice to hone one’s skills as a professional coach. It is also worth looking for a coach with relevant coaching experiences to what you're hoping to achieve.

2. I also believe that it is important for a coach to be accountable to a code of standards and ethics as laid down by a reputable coaching body such as The International Federation of Coaches, The Association for Coaching (International) or Nederlands Orde van Beroepscoachs for example, so this would be the second thing for you to check out.

3. This is possibly the most important, you and the coach have to be able to ‘connect’ and have a rapport. A good coach will not take you on as a client unless they know that they can help you, they should not pressurize you into signing up for coaching unless you are sure that it is the right thing for you and you need to feel comfortable with the coach because I can guarantee that they will ask you lots of probing questions.

4. Find out what is expected of you. For example, how much work will you have to do between the sessions and are you able to commit that amount of time. This is really important to help you assess if you are ready for coaching as with everything in life, you get out of it what you are willing to put in.

5. Do you want someone who will really push you to your limits or someone who will be more supportive or something in between?

6. Try before you buy! Many coaches offer a free trial session, you don’t often get something for nothing so take them up on it but do some preparation first. Have an idea of what you want to discuss so that you can get the most out of this free session. Afterwards spend some time analysing how it went – did you find that you did most of the talking? If so great, a good coach should ask open ended questions and then really listen to your answers. You should also come away feeling motivated and ready to take action.

7. Price. Yes this should be a consideration however you need to realise that just because someone charges a lot of money it does not necessarily follow that they are the best or that if the price seems very low, they are inexperienced. If you find someone who you know you can work with, who inspires you, who makes you feel better about yourself and who you know will get you moving forward, then it will be worth the price difference.

‘What makes a good coach? Complete dedication.’ - George Halas

Author's Bio: 

Anne Galloway is a careers coach and small business consultant who believes that work can and should be creative, meaningful and enjoyable. Her specialties include assisting clients find the 'right' career for them and showing them how to sell themselves confidently on a CV and at interviews, and taking an independent view of business systems and procedures and developing strategies to increase sales and revenue. Anne is regularly sought out as valuable sounding board due to her ability to highlight risk in order to take control and reduce it. Her first book, 'Your Future - A practical guide to action' was published in 2011.