How to Choose the Right Coach

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I think I was 5 years old when I had my first piano lesson. That was the day I (ok, my mom) hired my first coach and I have had a coach in some form or another every day since then.

There are lots of names for coaches. Some people call them teachers others call them gurus, consultants, managers etc., but basically a coach is anyone who helps you improve or move forward in some area of your life. It could be a tennis coach, a golf pro, a spiritual mentor, even a birthing dula! It really doesn’t matter what the title is, what matters is the relationship between mentor and mentee.

Working with a good coach is one of the very best things you can do to move forward quickly in your business. They can guide you, push you, support you, give you outside perspective, keep you accountable and provide expert  information, tools and resources. Having the right coach can dramatically speed up both your learning curve and your earning curve!

Earlier in my career my coaches were in the form of voice teachers, directors and conductors, but now most of my mentors are business or self-development coaches. Some of these people have had a profoundly positive effect on my life and business and others, although not super-stars, have still been very helpful in getting me to the next level of development.  A  few, thankfully not many, have had a negative impact on me.

Choosing the right coach for you and your business is extremely important and it is a decision many entrepreneurs agonize over. Who is the right person? What is the right program? How much money should I spend? Will it be a good investment? What I have found from my very extensive experience working with a variety of different coaches and mentors from different fields is there are some good guidelines to follow to help you make the best decision.

Here are some things to consider when choosing your next coach.

1. Be clear about what kind of support you need right nowThere are many wonderful coaches out there who offer an extreme amount of good value, however, what they have to offer may not be what you need right now. Do you need clarity on your messaging, look for a brand strategist or copywriter? Do you need to massively grow your list? Look for someone who specializes in online marketing or Facebook ads. Do you need systems and accountability? Or perhaps support with a focused, positive mindset?

No one coach can be all things to all people, so it is your job to do some research about what you need and what potential coaches have to offer.

2. Understand the difference and benefits of one-on-one coaching vs. group programs. One-on-one coaching is having a pair of eyes and ears specifically tuned to you and your business development. A good coach will give customized strategies and feedback to specifically help you grow based on your individual needs. The benefit of this kind of attention is clear. The drawback, however, is only  getting the perspective of that one person. And unless that person is actively promoting you and connecting you with others, you are not expanding your reach as a direct result of your work together.

A group program usually offers a lot of very good content and instruction. A good program may also give you access to more than one coach at a time, so you get the benefit of many perspectives. You also get priceless feedback, support and exposure from the other people in the group. It is possible to find clients, potential jv partners and valuable resource suggestions saving you lots of time and energy.

However, do not mistake a group program as a substitute for one-on-one attention. If you want and need feedback on the next specific steps to take your business to the next level, a group program alone is probably not going to do that for you.

3. Do your research. Google is a wonderful tool. Use it to check out a potential coach before committing to them. Do you like what you see? Does their message resonate with you? Are they showing up the same way across different platforms? What kinds of testimonials do they have on their website? Then go beyond Google and ask around. Good coaches have reputations as do poor ones. Ask a past client what their experience was like working with the coach. What kinds of results did they get? What were the strengths and weaknesses of the coach? The more information you gather, the more informed decision you can make.

4. Trust your gut. Someone may look good on paper and they may sound great on the phone, but you still feel uneasy about moving forward. (I’m not talking here about getting nervous about the investment, because you will have to invest with whomever you choose.) But there are times we let our heads override our instincts because we want something very badly. We hear how this coach or that coach helped someone else make a ton of money in their business and we want the same result. However, that coach may not be the right person to help you get there. You don’t know what was said or done behind the scenes to make that revenue possible. Their tactics may not be a good match for your business.

On the other hand, there may be someone who is newer or maybe not a famous guru with whom you feel a great connection. Do not dismiss them out of hand because they don’t have the fanciest marketing materials or they don’t put on a 3-day live event. If you feel that person has the right information or the right kind of support you need in your business, your gut is probably telling you something very important.

5. Watch for warning signs. No coach is perfect, however, there are a few things to really watch out for. Your coach should always have your best interests in mind. Even though your success makes them look better as a coach, and what coach doesn’t take pride in the success of their students, you are not there to boost the reputation of your coach. They are there to serve you, not the other way around. You should never feel exploited in a coaching situation.

Your coach should never compete with you. Again, the job of the coach is to help their clients succeed. If you ever feel your coach is undermining your success, run don’t walk away.

Watch out for coaches who have nothing good to say about other coaches. We all have our opinions, but a coach who consistently puts down other coaches to build themselves up is not secure. More than likely they will not be willing to properly refer you to someone else if/when the time comes for you to move on.

Beware of coaches who tell you they can do everything. No one is good at everything. If they are good at everything, they are probably excellent at nothing. We do not go to the hair dresser to get our taxes done. A coach who tells you they can help you equally well with messaging, systems, SEO, public speaking and personal finances is a) delusional and b) blowing smoke up your skirt. Again run, don’t walk.

6. Just do it already! Now that I’ve scared you…I want to end by saying how fabulous life is with a good coach. You are most assuredly going to get where you want to go much faster and with greater ease with the support of a caring, savvy mentor.

From my first piano teacher, Mrs. Jacobson, to this day, I have always had a coach of some sort or another. I am sure I would not play as well as I play, sing as well as I sing or run my business as well as I do without their support. Hopefully, now that you have some guidelines, choosing your next mentor will be a little easier. Don’t worry, I got your back:):)

 I love to hear your voice!

What do you look for in a good coach or coaching program?

Post your answers below in the comments or find me on Facebook.

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Heather Poduska is a brand strategist, business coach and opera singer who helps entrepreneurs and small business owners create client attractive brands, polished brand images and brand communication strategies to increase their visibility and impact in the marketplace and grow their businesses.