In some people’s minds, therapy conjures up the picture of Tony Soprano sitting on a couch wrestling with his ‘gangster-related’ demons with the fine Dr. Jennifer Melfi when they think of therapy. But it isn’t quite like that. Some people think business coaching is similar. There are specific questions that every person needs to ask of a potential business coach.
1. What is your specialty? It’s important to know what a coach has the most experience and training in. You may need someone for strategy but whose specialty is profitability. Even though several business needs are related or have some cross-over, it’s important to know up front. Note: Be wary of coaches who claim they do all things for all people.
2. How many people have you seen with the same problem/issue as mine? You are not asking them to divulge anything in confidence but rather a number. It is in your best interest to find a coach who has a history of coaching or dealing with the same or similar business obstacles. Ask about their success rate. Even though there is no accurate way to discern success rates you can tell a great deal by their response and reaction to that question.
3. What is your coaching philosophy? The quality of the coaching relationship is one of the biggest determinants of whether you will benefit from coaching. This ‘fit’ is far more valuable than what is in their ‘bag of tricks.’
4. What do you charge? Price is always something to know upfront. If your company is paying for the coaching, who has access to the coaches’ notes? What information will be divulged?
5. Do you have a confidentiality disclosure statement? Many coaches will have this readily available as a standard course of business. Part of coaching success is the comfort and assurance that what you reveal will not be shared with anyone – including supervisors, bosses, or peers.
6. What are your credentials? Where did the coach receive their training and certification? In the last several years, there has been a blurring of who is or is not purported to be a coach. Many people are hanging out their coaching shingle simply because they are retired, have experience in a particular field, or decide to cash in on the new trend. Although, these people may have something to offer, it is best to be aware of their credentials to practice.
7. How do you define the coaching relationship? This is a great question to ask. You’d be surprised at the convoluted answers I’ve heard. Anywhere from, “I decide what is best for you,” to “I will need at least 6 months to determine what is going on with you and your business.” Your decision to proceed with coaching should depend on how the coach answers this question. The answer should be, “I am here to help you understand and figure out what is keeping you stuck, causing worry or preventing you from enjoying your business and how you can move forward. Then, together, we will determine what the best course of action for you is.”
The ability to trust your coach, to work as an ally, is the key to coaching that works. Note: if your instincts, for whatever reason, tell you it’s not a fit, find a different coach.
8. When and how do you evaluate progress? Always expect that throughout the coaching process you will have defined periods of reflection and discussion about the progress you and your business are making. It’s important to do this as you are the best one to gage what is working or not working. It’s also a good time to ask questions about the process of coaching, not necessarily as related to your specific business issue but to help understand that you are on the right track.
9. Can I read my file at any time? Some coaches have policies against sharing their ‘notes’ with their clients. It’s usually not a matter of secrecy but one of the client not understanding the coaches’ thoughts as written. Some coaches will gladly share their impressions with the client when asked. They see it as another way to help the client reach greater understanding.
10. Will you make a referral if requested? If a coach balks at this question – beware. No respected professional would object to referring a client upon request. Of course, there should be a good reason which needs to be discussed in an open manner.
Coaching is a commitment and partnership between both the coach and the client. It’s a mutual agreement to listen to and share in honest, open and authentic communication. You are there to get the help you need and their job is to use all their training and experience to see that happen.