Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.Carl Jung
Hiring A Coach Is Like Dating
The moment you decide you want to hire a coach is an exciting one.
Like dating, you’re pumped for the possibilities.
But like dating, you soon realize it can be complicated and tricky to figure out what’s what. And depending on who you ask, you always get a different answer on the “rules of the game.” And just like dating, some people love it and have great stories of success that change lives for the better, while others get burned and traumatized.
So, if you’re in the process of hiring a coach, or if you might in the future, you’ll want to stick around, as what I’m about to share will save you time, money, and potential heartbreak (again, just like dating).
Congrats On Beginning Your Coaching Journey
It’s a big step to admit that you want more and you need help getting there.
It’s even cooler when you realize that there are people out there who exist to specifically help you in that particular area.
Maybe you heard about coaching through a friend who’s had great results with a coach. Or you’ve seen ads on social media and have always wondered what it’s like to work with a coach. Perhaps you’ve read enough self-development books to know that there are great coaches who can help level-up your life.
So you go out and look for a coach. How hard can it be, right?
But very quickly you find yourself muddled with confusion. A simple google search for “coaches near me” presents you with results that don’t speak to you and decisions you’re not ready to make, like:
- What do I look for to find a reputable coach?
- How do I know if my coach is “qualified”?
- What’s the difference between a coach, a mentor, and a therapist?
- Do I hire an executive coach, leadership coach, business coach, well-being coach, or life coach?
- Should I hire a coach who has a similar background, journey, and experience as mine?
- How does text-based coaching work?
- Do I want coaching or a retreat?
- Do I really need a course?
- Can this goddess-like Instagram celeb who quit her job to travel the world and work on the beach help me?
I get it, hiring a coach can be tricky. I’m a certified professional coach and it’s even tricky for me to cull through the options when I’m hiring a coach!
We’re going to dive into all of that right here. I’ll break it down bit by bit.
The Nitty Gritty (everything you should consider)
1. Coaching is still an unregulated industry around the world, but particularly in the US.
This means anyone can call themselves a coach.
In a world where standards don’t exist, the best thing you can do is to find a certified coach.
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the governing body for coaches.
This organization’s top priority is to uphold professional and ethical standards for coaching.
What is a certified coach?
Coaches are deemed certified after completing a rigorous coaching training program recognized by the ICF (more on that later).
Upon completing coaching school, coaches can obtain even higher levels of certification through ICF based on experience level.
It’s 100% up to the coach to either enroll in coaching school or to complete any levels of certification.
This isn’t to say that you can’t find a gifted coach who isn’t certified, because they do exist. But unless they come as a personal referral, vetting coaches who haven’t been certified is like mining for a gem – it’s time-consuming and risky.
I’ll give you an idea of the difference between a certified and a non-certified coach.
Take my coaching school, for example – it’s an ICF-recognized, reputable coaching school. Being certified means completing ~400 hours of training that includes weekly practice coaching and being coached in both one-on-one and group settings. It means receiving feedback from mentor coaches and peers, successfully coaching a Master Coach, and passing a written test. The training is a six-month process and you have up to a year to complete your final exam. Some people take the test multiple times until they pass. Needless to say, for most, coaching school is a transformative experience for any coach that pulls through.
In addition, in order to become a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) by ICF, coaches need to demonstrate a level of proficiency through a written exam and 500 hours of coaching. In order to keep the certification, coaches need to continually demonstrate proficiency through ongoing exams, mentorship, and thousands of coaching hours.
As I have a master’s degree in psychology, I thought going to coaching school was going to be a formality to check the box.
I was not expecting to be blown away, not to mention having my life transformed by the process. However, personally, I have gained so much through the certification process that it allows me to be a more powerful coach for my clients.
In comparison, a non-certified coach can be anyone who wakes up one day and decides to call him/herself a coach. It’s that simple.
Which is why you’ll get coaches of different flavors, with different credentials and business models.
Because of the huge spectrum of coaches, some people have transformative experiences with life coaches while others leave coaching feeling underwhelmed or slightly traumatized.
2. The burden is on the client to do the research before hiring a coach.
Because coaching is not regulated, the responsibility is on the client to get clear on her/himself and the coach before entering into a coaching relationship.
First and foremost, in order to select the right coach for you, you need to be crystal clear on what you need help with for two reasons.
One, it’s my opinion that the best coaches are specialized. A leadership coach versus a relationship coach versus a health coach will bring to focus different aspects of your life.
Number two, your coach is going to ask you what your goal is for coaching, meaning you’ll have to articulate your current challenges, what you hope to gain, and what success looks like for you.
The more you’re able to articulate what you need help with, the better you’re able to assess if the coach is the right fit for you during your initial consultation.
More on this later. I’ll show you exactly what to ask to determine fit.
3. Life Coaching or Coaching is a super broad term.
“Life Coach” or “Coach” are not protected titles.
This makes shopping for a coach difficult because there are many types of coaches, and you might be confused by which type of coach is best for you.
When you look closer, this umbrella term catches different types of services, including:
- Sports & Fitness
- Business & Entrepreneur
- Career & Resume
- Relationship & Marriage
- Corporate & Leadership
- Mental Health & well-being
- Child-raising & Family
And many more.
And within each area, there are even more eccentric niches.
Wondering if there is a coach to help you:
- Become a more empowering leader?
- Be a better communicator?
- Better manage your start-up?
- Transition from one career to another?
- Bring out your inner goddess?
- Do self-care as a single parent?
- Get keto-adapted?
- Practice intermittent fasting?
- Get more productive while only working four hours a day?
- Recover from adrenal fatigue?
- Heal from intergenerational trauma?
- Write the perfect copy for your new website?
- Write your first book?
Yes, yes, and yes!
There’s a type of coach for pretty much anything you need help with.
And you’ll find that many of these “coaches” aren’t operating in the coaching role as defined by ICF. More on this later.
4. Coaches can make up their own approach, process & methodology.
By now you’re starting to see a pattern. I keep referring back to #1!
Because coaching isn’t a regulated industry, it creates many down-stream impacts that you will want to consider, and approach is definitely one of them.
If you go to an accountant, a nail technician, or a therapist, here in the US, there is a standardized approach, methodology, or process that has to be followed based on the industry. Otherwise, service providers can get fined or sued.
In contrast, there is no such thing for coaches.
Certified coaches from a reputable coaching school learn effective, time-tested approaches, processes, and methodologies. Many of these approaches and tools are based on behavioral, cognitive, social science, and positive psychology. Coaches will layer on their own techniques, training, and intuition when working with clients.
Non-certified coaches are on their own to develop their own approach.
This isn’t necessarily bad if it’s an awesome approach. But it does open up the coaching experience to a lot of inconsistencies across different coaches.
5. Life Coaching is more than an expert sharing knowledge with you.
ICF defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
Coaching is a very specific skill to help you reflect inward and tap into your truth. The coaching process reframes and shifts your mindset so that you gain your own insights, solve your own problems, and pave your own unique journey with your own wisdom and brilliance.
Because of this philosophy, the coach does not assume the expert role of your life – you are the expert in your life. Your coach is there to guide you through what’s keeping you stuck and facilitate the process.
6. Coaches can take on various roles. It is your responsibility to find the right coach for what you need help with.
If you’re still reading, by now you know a coach’s role is to guide you through your process rather than give you the answers and tell you what to do. However, most people still believe that a coach will “give them the answers.”
Because the title “coach” isn’t regulated, it takes on various definitions, ranging from “sports coaching” to “motivational speakers” to a “career coach” who might be assigned to you at work. You can imagine each of these types of “coaches” assumes a very different role.
But I’ll simplify the different types of coaches into four models:
- Large-scale program
Most coaches are trained in or gravitate toward one of the four approaches. Some coaches work purely with one approach, other coaches use different approaches to achieve different results with different clients.
So what do these four major coaching approaches mean?
A. Mentorship Model
The mentorship model is based on passing on the coach’s personal experience to the client. Basically, it’s the model of, “I’ve been successful in this area before. I know the steps and what works and what doesn’t. So I’ll share my experience with you so you can do the same.” It’s very similar to a mentor you’ve had in your life – except you’re paying for this one.
B. Consulting Model
The consulting model takes on the role of the expert and will assess what you’re doing, then provide critique, feedback, and options to take your work to the next level. After you choose your preferred option, the consultant coach will help you get there, often giving you “answers” and doing the work for you.
The next approach is the true functional definition of coaching amongst certified coaches and coaching schools. But since it’s an unregulated field, many mentors or consultants are calling themselves coaches and no one’s the wiser. For the purpose of this discussion, I’ll call it the Whole-person Model.
C. Whole-person Model
Coaching is influenced by cognitive-behavioral theories and the philosophy of the psychologist Carl Jung.
This approach is grounded in three fundamental principles:
- Your beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected.
- Each person is meant to experience a unique journey and has a unique path to fulfillment.
- The coach isn’t the expert in your life – you are the expert.
This means the coach won’t ever impose her beliefs or agenda on you. And the coach will ask powerful questions that will allow you to explore your helpful and unhelpful beliefs and thoughts.
The coach’s role is to guide you to discover insights and bring out your inner wisdom to lead you to your personal truth. The goal is to empower you to solve current and future problems with the insights gained through coaching.
D. Large-scale Movement Model:
Your mind might have jumped straight here when you imagined a life coach because that’s what you see the most in the media. It makes sense because these coaches run large-scale business empires. It’s their job to get in your face if they’re trying to create a movement.
Most of these coaches run large-scale retreats, events, and programs that host tens of thousands of people from all around the world. While the coach with the name will appear in these large-scale events, generally, when it comes to one-on-one coaching, they employ an army of coaches that are assigned to those interactions.
Ok, so now you get an idea of the four different approaches to coaching (broadly speaking).
Keep in mind, within each of these four broad approaches, coaches will have individual philosophies and methods that further differentiate their practices.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “So which model’s the best?” Which model should I select if I’m looking to hire a coach?”
Well, as a certified coach, you might think I’d say it’s the whole-person model or the official “coaching model” is the best.
But I won’t. Because I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.
Here’s what I think.
It depends on what you’re looking to accomplish.
When to hire a Mentor Coach:
- You want to mimic a similar journey as your coach (e.g. chef)
- You want to break into an industry (e.g. entrepreneurship)
- You want to learn something new (e.g. intermittent fasting)
When to hire a Consultant Coach:
- You want to create or improve on an output (e.g. website)
- You want to fill a skill/speciality gap (e.g. SEO)
- You need someone to give you a plan or a roadmap (e.g. fitness)
When to hire a Whole-person Coach:
- You want to experience more clarity and peace
- You want to work on your inner self
- You believe in taking your own unique path to live your truth
- You like making your own decisions rather than being told what to do
When to hire a Large-scale Movement Coach:
- You want a fully immersive experience or event to “wow” you
- You’ve been admiring their work from a distance and want more
- Working with a celebrity-status name is important to you
Your ideal coach is dependent on what you’re trying to achieve.
For example, if going keto is your goal, my suggestion would be to hire a keto/nutrition coach that will likely use a blend of mentor and consultant approach. They will assess your current macros, tell you what’s worked for them and their clients, and maybe even give you a three-month plan.
Whereas if you’re looking to experience more confidence, meaning, or connection in your life, I’d suggest hiring a life coach who uses a whole-person approach that will guide your exploration into your life on a deeper level. Your coach will establish a safe space for you to explore your beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and actions that impact your happiness.
Regardless of the type of coach you hire, coaching is action-oriented. Unlike traditional therapy, you’ll likely get some “assignments” for you to play with in between sessions.
7. Coaching can be delivered in different modes
- Individual versus. Group
In-person coaching is when your coach meets with you face-to-face.
This mode is great for mentor- or consulting-based coaching, particularly if a demonstration or workshop is required.
This mode limits you to local coaches in your city, unless you want to travel to your coach or pay for your coach to travel to you.
Video coaching is particularly popular because it provides flexibility for both the coach and client.
The coach and the client are able to build a rapport and interact verbally and nonverbally.
However, this mode isn’t always necessary and can be distracting when diving into deep topics. This is mainly because technology is still not like real life, which leaves room for interpretation and may interfere with deep sharing.
I’ll show you what I mean.
We’re programmed to build trust when we can look into someone’s eyes and feel that they’re mirroring back our emotions and looking at us in a safe way (however we interpret safe). Well, depending on how the devices are positioned, it may not always seem like the body language is on point on the screen. This interferes with a safe environment that we all need in order to become vulnerable, which is where real insights come from.
If you’re someone who prefers to see your coach, this can be overcome by speaking about the technology openly. For example, when I’m on a video call with a client, I’ll err on the side of over-communicating about anything that the screen cuts off. But this could impact how my client interprets my attention, if for example an animal wanders into the room, if I’m taking notes, or keeping track of time.
I’ve found that some people actually prefer not to have the visual aspect when in a whole-person model coaching, as that allows their most authentic self to shine through.
Whatever your preference – it’s totally acceptable. You should let your coach know upfront when you first begin, and your coach should accommodate what works best for you. Professional coaches understand and don’t take this personally.
As I alluded to already, the audio-only mode is great for deep discovery sessions.
It’s similar to how we sometimes close our eyes when we’re trying to recall something or gather our thoughts.
We’re limiting the data coming into our brain so that we can focus more energy and attention on the thing we’re trying to dig up.
So having audio-only coaching allows you to fully focus on your thoughts and what’s in your heart.
In fact, when I get coached, I’ll frequently close my eyes for portions of the conversation to be completely in the moment and in tune with my body.
Some coaching calls can get emotional, so if you’re not comfortable shedding tears and dripping snot in front of another person, having audio-only could keep you in that safe environment.
Keep in mind that you get out of the session as much as you put in. So without seeing you visually, your coach is fully going on what you share with your words and intonation. If your coach is intuitive, s/he can pick up on your energy and read in between the lines of what you say.
But know that if you’re an expert at hiding your true thoughts and emotions, then you could miss opportunities by not sharing what’s on your heart with your coach.
As a coach, there are some clients I prefer to have a video call with over audio, and they are:
- Someone who has difficulty expressing himself/herself with words and needs more prompting and thinking space. The visual cues are helpful to determine if the person is still thinking and processing or complete with their thought.
- Anyone who prefers video over just audio.
Either way, the client has the ultimate say in what s/he prefers. That’s the start of building a safe and trusting relationship.
In the last few years, there’s been a growing trend with text-based coaching.
Technology seems to be disrupting every other industry, so why not coaching, right?
Text-based coaching has been a fast-growing trend.
The biggest value of text-based coaching is that it’s accessible to many people, both from a time and cost perspective.
Because of the wider reach, more people can benefit from having a personal coach “in their pocket” to win their day or to lean on when they experience a setback.
Text coaching value:
- Easy and convenient
- Best for creating new habits
- Great for having an accountability partner
Text coaching drawbacks:
- Communication can be sporadic and unfocused.
- Messages sometimes get lost in translation without real-time ability to get more context.
- Set and setting can be unpredictable; most platforms and coaches do not recommend going deeper on a topic with a client using text.
Text-based is an option if you want to “dip your toe” into coaching – but you really won’t experience the thrill of swimming until you jump into the pool.
Individual versus Group coaching:
Individual coaching gives you the focused attention of a coach. You’re able to dive deeper into any area that you’re interested in. It’s more flexible and customized to your preferences and priorities.
Group coaching offers a sense of community, which can be healing or energizing (depending on the topic of group coaching). You’ll learn from other people’s experiences and questions. You’ll meet other like-minded people. However, your questions may not always be answered when you want or to the specificity you want.
In addition to one-on-one coaching, some coaches will also offer training courses.
- Often, training exists because the approach works and has helped many, so the coach packages it to reach a bigger audience.
- Training is often more affordable than hourly rates with the coach.
- Training is a good way to see if the coach is a good fit for you, if you’re unsure about investing one-on-one or other offerings with your coach.
- You generally don’t get individualized attention with the coach.
- You may not have the opportunity to dive deeper on your specific situation.
- Solutions may not be tailored specifically to your situation.
8. Why is coaching on the rise?
We can’t talk about the growth of the coaching industry without talking about the surge in the need for coaching.
If we just look at well-being, year over year, mental and emotional well-being stats are declining, while technology, business, and medical “advancements” are exploding.
These stats are happening worldwide, but it’s particularly bleak in the US.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2017, in the US:
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death (ages 10-34)
- Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death (ages 35-54)
- There are two times more suicides than homicides
- There are 11 million adults diagnosed with major depression
These numbers have all been said to have increased since the report.
What’s important is that these stats tell us that our traditional model for mental and emotional health is lacking and broken. It also shows us that symptom management is not the same as promoting well-being and thriving.
Fundamentally, how we’re dealing with stress and life is not working, and it starts with our mind.
Earlier this year, when I attended the 2019 Integrative Mental Health Conference in San Francisco, I learned from professors, medical experts, and researchers that unanimously pointed out the curious relationship between the increase of prescription medication for anxiety and depression and the uptick of depressed, anxious and suicidal people in the world.
If medication can treat these disorders – meaning not just a temporary band-aid to numb and “manage” discomfort, but to treat and address the root cause – shouldn’t we see an inverse relationship? Like we saw with smallpox – with increased vaccination, we saw a decrease in the disease and eventually, it was eradicated.
Treatment takes time. But the direct relationship between the increase of drugs administered and the rise in mental and emotional disorders should be a clear sign that we’re going in the wrong direction.
People who aren’t seeing the results with traditional intervention are seeking other means of regaining their wellness and well-being – including coaching.
This is one of the many gaps that coaches are filling.
Just like people hire trainers and nutritionists to tone and promote physical health, we should be thinking about our mental and emotional fitness in the same way.
Summary of considerations if you’re hiring a coach
If you’re looking to hire a coach, here are my suggestions:
- Get crystal clear on what you need help with
- Decide if you need a mentor, consultant, coach, or a large-scale movement
- Decide if you prefer in-person, video, audio, text, or training
- Identify the niche that your ideal coach serves
- Find out if your coach is certified
- If so, which training program did your coach graduate from (not all programs are created equal nor recognized by ICF)?
- If not, does your coach come with a referral you trust?
- Find out your coach’s approach
- Have an introductory call with a coach before you sign up for anything (most coaches will do this as a complimentary service because responsible coaches also want to make sure it’s a good fit)
- Interview your coach (see sample questions)
- Hire your coach that best fits what you need and get excited for what’s about to happen to your life
Questions to ask when hiring a coach:
- What’s your coaching approach and philosophy when coaching?
- What do you do to replenish and grow as a coach?
- What communities do you belong to/exchange learnings with?
- What happens if you decide you can’t help me?
- Where did you train to become a coach? Is this an ICF-recognized program?
- What experiences have you had that differentiates you as a coach?
Hire a qualified coach to partner with you to level-up your life and thrive.
Coaches assume an important role that spreads across multiple disciplines and industries. Our one goal is to help you thrive in the area of life you want to thrive.
If this interests you, your first assignment is to figure out what you need help with and research the right coach to help you!
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