How to find a good coach?

Finding a good coach is almost as hard as finding Mr. (or Mrs.) Right. Here, our ten-point plan advises on what to pay attention to

Coaching has long been established for personal development and is high in demand as a service. After all, it is all about one’s own wishes and goals, one’s own personality, one’s own life. A good coach can give valuable feedback as a sparring partner – he acts differently from friends, family, and colleagues, without an agenda of his own and unbiased, but with effective questioning techniques that avoid drama and dead ends but lead to solutions.

But how can you recognize a good coach and why can’t your boss or partner coach you, the person who knows you and your situation best?

Even though the concept of coaching as a method is not yet appreciated or legally defined in some countries (not even in Germany, but in some other European and EU countries), quality standards and ethical guidelines have been established for decades, comparable to a preliminary stage of professional law. These standards have been developed by experts, professional associations and universities, lawyers, psychologists, personnel developers, and administrators to ensure a minimum level of transparency for the client – the coachee.

Here is a short list of the key points by importance:

1. The professional background

A professional coach should have learned the basics of the coaching method and various communication techniques and tools in at least 60 hours. Special training courses that are solely dedicated to learning a technique – such as classic NLP training courses – are not suitable for this purpose, but are offered as further training for already trained coaches. Part of the training is to recognize dangers such as serious mental illnesses, trauma and depression, advanced burnout symptoms, or risk of suicidal behavior and to hand them over to specialists in a professional manner.

2. Life experience

Since a certain degree of maturity is required as a coach, a minimum age of 30 is usually recommended, depending on one’s personal life situation (experience abroad, cultural diversity, family status, personal strokes of fate mastered, etc.).

3. Field of expertise

In addition, the coach should have completed vocational training or have a degree and already gained professional experience. Field expertise refers to relevant professional experience in the industry and the life situation of the coachee. Therefore personal experience in family situations helps in family coaching. In executive coaching, you should have experience as a manager in a business enterprise.

4. Matching

Seeing if the coach is suitable for the job requires a so-called “matching”. This is the chemistry check between coach and coachee. Since coaching requires very trusting, open cooperation, both coach and coachee should be agreeable to each other. In some companies, HR pre-selects coaches according to the first three points and then offers them to an internal coach database. Meanwhile, there are also coachfinder functions through professional associations or online platforms such as Xing.Coaches, Coachimo, Coachfox or BetterCoach – possibilities of filtering and selecting coaches with search machines. More and more professional coaches on these platforms are verified by professional associations.

Last but not least, a meeting by telephone or face to face, which should always take place free of charge, confidentially, and without obligation is the most important part of the matching process before starting coaching.

5. Certification

A coach only receives certification from a neutral body, such as a professional association. The coach association checks whether the training of the coach actually meets the requirements, whether the coach has practical experience in coaching (at least 100 hours), whether their coaching is carried out correctly (on the basis of two examination coachings), and whether they have been regularly trained and are committed to ethical standards. As a rule, certificates must be renewed every three years in order to guarantee continuous quality for customers. Certified coaches regularly present their certification unsolicited in order to identify themselves, whereas “would-be coaches” try to find reasons why they don’t need a certificate.

6. Ethics and compliance

A professional coach agrees to commit themselves to the quality standards and ethical guidelines for coaching by membership in a professional association for coaches or within the scope of certification. The German professional associations for coaches partnership is the so-called Roundtable-Coaching.eu. The International Coach Federation (ICF – www.coachfederation.org) has been standing for internationally uniform standards for nearly 30 years. This also gives the coachee the opportunity to appeal to an arbitration board in the form of an ethics committee in the event of violations by the coach or to report a compliance violation, which gives the greatest possible protection as a client.

7. Contract, confidentiality, and cost transparency

An important aspect of good coaching is the conclusion of a written coaching agreement. This should include all substantial details such as the possibility of termination, time frame, confidentiality and conflicts of interest, data security, and costs. Especially in the case of the assignment/payment of the coach by the employer but also in the case of internal coaches it could easily lead to delicate situations. Mixed products should also be made transparent, i.e. if the coach’s expertise as a consultant is purchased in addition to the coaching, or if a training/workshop precedes the coaching.

8. Clear goal definition

Good coaching needs a clear definition of objectives. Developing these will be the first big task for coach and coachee. The coachee is the sole determinant of content, tempo, and diversions. The coach is responsible for the setting, the ideal process, the general conditions, goal orientation, and time management.

9. Evaluation

It is recommended to evaluate the process at the end of every case. This can be done in the form of simple feedback (direct or anonymous), or software supported. The evaluation provides insight on what the coaching and the associated investment have achieved what can be improved and whether a continuation is required for sustainable implementation.

10. Professional association

Ultimately, membership in a professional association can already provide information about the coach’s working methods and professional understanding. If they are not a member, they work very freely and unbound. If they are a member of a national association, they are certainly more likely to work in the private customer sector or are just starting out. If, on the other hand, they are involved in a so-called mixed association, which apart from coaches mainly represents trainers or supervisors, in the vast majority of cases they are more likely to act as trainers and supervisors etc. and coaching is only a minor matter to them. If they are members of a European or international association exclusively for coaches, they are experienced in business enterprises and work with an open and intercultural mindset. Continuing education and a strong and diverse network are important to them.



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