How to Find the Right Business Coach
Stakes seem high when looking for the right coach, but a little trial and error is expected (and even healthy). Your goal is to understand your own weaknesses and then find an expert in that skill set. Alternatively, you can find a generalist to help you learn your specific areas for improvement.
We put too much pressure on ourselves to find the perfect mentor or coach. Here are a few tried-and-true tips.
Step 1: Know what business coaching looks like in practice
Experts at the Association of Talent Management say that instead of all the above roles, an executive coach “provides a safe, structured, and trustworthy environment in which to offer support for the individual. The coach also helps the leader understand their current competencies, see how they’re perceived by others, and focus on identifying and clarifying current goals as well as the appropriate action steps to reach those goals.”
In practice, that means mental breakthroughs and perspective changes that perpetually get you and your business “unstuck.”
Experts at Wharton’s McNulty Leadership Program describe the rhythmic developmental growth of working with a business coach this way: a period of active experimentation (planning) is followed by concrete experience (doing), which is followed by reflective observation (reviewing), which is followed by abstract conceptualization (concluding), followed by more informed active experimentation, and so on.
Source: University of Pennsylvania Wharton McNulty Leadership Program
If you hire a coach who doesn’t help you achieve clarity using one or all of these tactics, then remember you’re free to fire them.
As you search for the right person, avoid entering into a long-term contract with a coach. A good coach should earn his or her keep each month. Their presence and commitment to you should be so strong that you want to keep them around.
(Back to Top)
Step 2: Start the search
Start by asking around within your network. Go to other business owners you know and ask them if they have a coach. If so, request an introduction.
If none of your professional peers have a recommendation, find a few (moderated) online Q&A forums full of business owners and make some inquiries. Another option is to “Find a Coach” on the International Coaching Federation’s website.
You can Google your way to a good business coach and mentor, but be careful of their hype. As the demand for good coaches has skyrocketed, so has the number of fraudulent suppliers.
The coaching industry isn’t regulated, so there are a lot of bad players who promise the world and deliver only snake oil.
In fact, some of them are downright thieves. So, yes, you have every right to be wary of them. I’ve seen people pay thousands of dollars to an “expert” and get no value in return. But this mainly happens when people start their research on a search engine rather than with a professional friend, fellow business leader referrals, or credible institutions.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn't explore getting a coach. I have one. I also have a degree in Accounting and an MBA. Despite my education and experience, I use my coach a lot. I rely on him heavily to help me navigate my company and work toward achieving my dreams. Just be sure your search starts with your network, and your shortlist only includes coaches with the right education and track record.
(Back to Top)
Step 3: Narrow down the possible candidates
After you’ve collected a handful of potential coaches, it’s time to weed out the good ones—to find the best one.
So, how do you know if a coach is going to be great? First, they need to have a track record, not just of helping other people succeed, but also of helping themselves succeed. If your coach is living in his mother’s basement and doing this on the side while he works his part-time day job as a pizza delivery guy, I would hesitate to pay him for his services. Again, look for a person with a proven track record.
Second, it helps if they’re part of a reputable system or company. My coach is one of the lead coaches in the Anthony Robbins Life Coaching Program. He helps manage the business mastery classes created by Anthony Robbins and has coached amazing brands around the country. There are a lot of coaching companies out there. Just make sure they have a good track record, and their clients are seeing success. And if they’re certified, be sure the certification is accredited by the International Coaching Federation.
Third, make sure your personality fits. It doesn’t matter who your coach is if you can’t get along. Your business coach or success coach isn’t meant to be your best friend. In fact, you don’t want to be friends at all. They need to have enough personal distance from you to call you on your crap. This person is responsible for holding you accountable to your goals and metrics. Buddy up with this person and emotions get in the way of that accountability. In terms of having a personality fit, make sure that your coach operates the way you do. Are you a fast-moving, energetic nut job like me? Or are you methodical and more subdued?
Just like a good mechanic, dentist, or tailor, you might go through three or four people until you find a great business coach. Moving on to the next one doesn’t mean the previous coach isn’t qualified or competent—and it doesn’t make you a difficult case. You simply need to find someone you’re comfortable with to truly accept their direction and advice.
(Back to Top)