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Four Questions to Ask a Potential Coach

When leaders come to The Nebo Company looking for leadership coaching, they differ in many ways — from their career stages to their openness around the coaching process to what they want to accomplish and more.

Yet, the question I’m asked the most when they are selecting a coach is: What questions should I ask when I’m interviewing coaches?

Sometimes, what’s underneath that question is a deeper one: How do I make sure that coaching will make a difference in addressing the challenge I’m facing in my life, my work or both? 

For leaders, coaching is an investment of time, energy and attention, and they want to make sure they will get the best return.

So, here’s what I say: first, I assure them that they are in very good hands. Our coaches are used to guiding these conversations and will help them navigate. Then, I offer a few questions that they can ask themselves and the coaches they interview:

  1. What is your approach to coaching? 

By this I mean do coaches have processes or systems they typically take their clients through or are their approaches more organic ones that will unfold over time.

You want to be confident that your coach is applying her expertise and knowledge to her approach to working with you. While the coach does not need to be an expert in whatever your field or industry is, she will be an expert in the field of coaching and the coaching process. Your coach should be an observer, challenger, and champion who can help take you from being focused on a problem to finding creative new solutions and approaches that move you forward.

  1. Could you tell me about your experience working with a client facing a similar challenge as the one I’m facing?

Our coaches offer years of experience with coaching clients ranging from first-time managers to C-suite level executives. They also bring their own professional experience, as many of our coaches were leaders who navigated many of the same issues you are currently facing. All have been trained rigorously as professional coaches through programs certified by the International Coach Federation.  That being said, ask the coaches specifically about their successes helping clients navigate problems similar to yours. Listen to the responses to your questions and consider whether their approach gives you a sense of comfort and confidence.  How they tell you, as much as what they tell you, should inform you as to whether the coach is right for you.

  1. How do you help your clients when they get “stuck?” 

A well-trained leadership coach views each client as resilient and whole, not someone to be “fixed.”  With this mindset, the coach is not surprised when a client hits a plateau or feels uncertain of how to move forward.  Instead, the coach sees this as an opportunity to help the leader step back and explore what is holding him back.  The coach will support the client in identifying available resources to be called upon when needed. An experienced coach knows that where we are stuck is often where we have the most to learn.  For example, take a first-time father who has also been promoted to director of his division, and is feeling overwhelmed that he is not fully able to meet the demands of either his professional life or his work life. His coach might ask him questions that get him away from black-or-white thinking to envision the possibilities and opportunities inherent in both situations. The coach will encourage him to see his situation as areas to be managed rather than problems to be solved.

When a coach already sees the client as resilient, resourceful and whole, then he or she also knows that each client will be able to come to the solution that works best, even if it takes a bit of exploration to get there.  Sometimes, what can help a client get unstuck is having someone to remind her that she has the perspective, skills and life experience to find her way.

The fourth question is for you.  Ask yourself during and after the interview:

  1. Do I feel a fit or connection with this coach?

Your coach could be a perfect match on paper, could have numerous degrees and certifications, or have a personal style that you aspire towards, but none of that matters if you don’t feel a connection or rapport with the coach. Say you are working on being more direct and want to work with a coach who seems to have that style. However, if the coach expresses that directness to a greater degree than you prefer, you may be less likely to open up. Another client may feel most comfortable with a coach with a “straight, no chaser” approach, as my grandmother would say.

Above all, make sure this person seems like someone you are able to talk to, and the rest will follow.  We often say that, when you see an appointment with your coach coming up in your calendar, you should feel a sense of positive anticipation.  This is the litmus test of a good match.

At Nebo, we see coaching as a partnership. With the right partner, you can move toward what you really want with confidence and support. You just need to ask practical questions so that you can choose the best partner for you. While other questions may arise during the interview, these four questions will set you up to make a great match. Contact us to learn more about starting your coaching journey!

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