Selecting a Professional Coach

Written by Mission Next Consulting

In a previous blog, we discussed the value of professional coaching for former service members who are making the transition into the civilian workforce. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) explained the benefits, “Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life.” After reading about the value of coaching, you may be left with the question of how to select a coach that’s right for you. This article will help you learn where to start your search and how to evaluate coaches.

Where to Look

The coaching industry is unregulated so pretty much anyone can claim to be a coach. Be prepared to do some homework before choosing your coach. You can start by doing various online searches for coaches in your area, or coaches with military transition specialties. Check out LinkedIn too. Ultimately, the best way to find a professional coach is through word of mouth and referrals from friends, colleagues, or transition assistance programs.

The next section gives you some questions that you can ask to evaluate whether or not a particular coach is right for you. Be prepared to discuss the process and fees as you are looking for options. Keep in mind that it’s a major red flag if a professional coach asks for a large upfront fee. Most fee arrangements have a structure where you pay for the coach’s time by the hour.

Avoiding pre-payment of lump-sum fees ensures that you aren’t locked into a long-term relationship that isn’t meeting your needs and will protect you from inexperienced or unethical practitioners.

Finding the Right Match

It's critically important that you and your coach have a good personal fit. There needs to be trust between the two of you, and you need to feel comfortable so you can be honest during the sessions. Here are some good questions that you can ask to evaluate if the coach is going to be a good match for your specific needs:

  • What formal education do you have in coaching? Do you hold any certifications?
  • What is your coaching philosophy?
  • How do you handle confidentiality?
  • What is your sense of humor like?
  • How do you define success in the coaching relationship?
  • What have been some of your best coaching successes?
  • Do you have a defined process for how you work with clients? Please explain this process.
  • Tell me about a client coaching experience that didn’t go as well as you planned. What were the reasons for this result?
  • What will you expect of me during and between our sessions?
  • How will you hold me accountable?
  • How do you address resistance to change in your clients?
  • How much do coaching sessions cost?

Most coaches offer free sample sessions, which will give help you determine the type of coach and coaching style that works best for you. For example, you may want a coach who incorporates specialty techniques like meditation. You may also want to ponder whether or not you would benefit from a coach with prior military service or if you’d prefer to have a more external perspective. Consider trying sample sessions with more than one coach to find the right one for you.

Your Role in Making the Coaching Relationship Successful

To make the coaching relationship successful, you need to show up to your coaching sessions prepared and most importantly, to commit to doing what you say you’re going to do. To maintain this commitment, you need to understand your motivations for seeking coaching support. Imagine how ineffective your coaching experience will be if you were just there to please your spouse or parents. There will definitely be times in coaching where you feel stuck or get frustrated. While it may be tempting to just quit when this happens, your resolve to push forward will help you stay with the process at the very moment you need it most.

Your commitment to the process extends to the amount of time you are willing to set aside for coaching sessions – and the work that needs to be done in between sessions. It’s easy to make your coaching sessions into appointments that you just delay or put off. The problem with not maintaining a regular schedule is that it undercuts one of the essential ingredients for effective coaching – time for the process to work. Your transition to the civilian workforce is one of the most significant changes you will likely experience so don’t cut corners while trying to engage in meaningful coaching sessions.

Keep in mind that many of the issues that you discover during the coaching process will also be playing out in your personal life. You may want to talk to your coach about when and how to bring those personal issues to the sessions. Keep in mind that coaching is designed to help you transition to the civilian workplace, but it is not a replacement for professional mental health support. If you start having trouble coping with this transition, your coach may refer you to a therapist to address some of the deeper issues impacting your life.

Published: May 27, 2022

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