Admitting that they might need a little help-—or coaching—is one of the smartest decisions a businessperson can make. However, for the investment of time and money to be worthwhile, taking the time to choose a coach who can deliver the assistance and support you require is critical. The first decision you’ll need to make is: Am I looking for a “life coach” to improve me as a person and assist me with my personal challenges? Or, am I looking for a “business coach” to focus on my skills as a leader and help me in running a highly profitable and successful business? Regardless of which you decide, there are five things to look for when hiring a coach.
Do they have abundant experience in the area in which I am seeking help? Why in the world would you hire a life coach who is in debt and on their third divorce or a business coach who has never run a highly successful business? Make sure they have walked their talk and walked it very successfully. (And if you ever have a coach tell you they do not need to have experience in what you want help in—run away quickly).
Do I like them as a person? If you do not enjoy their company, there is little chance you will have a successful coaching relationship. I always ask myself this simple question: Would I want to invite this person over to my house for a BBQ? If not, it is a no-go.
What is their coaching style? Are they going to assign you lots of reading? Or will they ask you to keep a detailed journal? Will they simply sit and chat with you and try to help you in that way? Or are they only going to give you a weekly one-hour phone consultation? When I coach executives, I let them know there will be a lot of reading involved. Having me as a coach is like signing up for an intensive MBA program—I am going to make you do a ton of studying. So make sure your coach’s style blends well with the way you like to work and the level of involvement you want from your coach.
Absolutely do your due diligence. Contact several people who have been coached by this person. Ask them very direct and clear questions. Did they achieve the goals they wanted to with this coach? Do they feel this coach will be able to successfully help with challenges (which are…)? What did they not like in their experience working with this coach? Would they enthusiastically recommend this coach to their friends and business colleagues? If you do not get wildly positive responses to these sorts of questions, keep looking for the right coach for you.
Ask and clearly understand all elements of the coach’s pricing schedule. Some coaches charge by the hour, some by the month, some for six months, and some charge only if you achieve the agreed upon goals you set together at the beginning of the relationship. One of the top business coaches in the world is my good friend Marshall Goldsmith, who charges upwards of $100,000 for a coaching assignment (he only coaches very top-level corporate executives)—but has an agreement that he gets paid nothing unless the client feels that they accomplished 100 percent of their agreed-upon goals together. Coaches can be very expensive, but they can also help you achieve major life and business goals, so take the time to understand what you will spend to get where you want to go.
If you can find a good coach (with lots of relevant experience who has a coaching style you find appealing and charges a reasonable fee), it can be a very positive and rewarding investment. A bad coach simply takes your money and leaves you off exactly where you were when you started—or worse. Choose wisely!