• Glin Bayley

5 Mistakes not to make when choosing a coach

Updated: Nov 6, 2019

We’re hurtling towards the end of 2019 and also the end of this decade! Yikes!

In and amongst the seasonal festivities there will be many of you that will be reflecting on the year and the time passed and considering what you want to be different for the year ahead. Some of you may decide it’s finally time to make an investment in yourself, to create the impact and life you want.

For anyone considering coaching as avenue to making change happen – whether in your life generally, career or business, I thought I’d share a few mistakes that I commonly see being made when people are selecting a coach.

Mistake 1 – Investing in someone who guarantees you a specific result

Run far away from anyone that guarantees you will get a specific result because no coach, no matter how good they are, can guarantee it. Coaching outcomes are dependent on both the coach and client contributing to creating the measurable change that you are seeking.

The emphasis on the action, however, is very much dependent on you, the client, upholding the agreement to follow through on the commitments. The results you get are dependent on you taking action, so don’t be naïve in thinking a coach can solely guarantee your success because they ultimately have no control on what you will do.

Expect a good coach to qualify you as a client and determine how coachable you are before they agree to take you on. Good coaches won’t work with everyone regardless of a client being willing to pay, because a client that is potentially looking for a silver bullet, or one that has no intention of doing the work and taking appropriate action to get the result won't be a good measure of their coaching competence and good coaches know these types of clients can also do some serious damage to reputation.

Good coaches want you to get a successful result and won’t work with you if they don’t believe they can get you that. Most will do some sort of pre-coaching assessment either through a discovery call and/or a pre-coaching evaluation. Don't be put off by a coach doing their due diligence you should be more concerned if they don't.

Mistake 2 – Waiting until you are desperate before you seek to find a coach

It’s unfortunate but I see this a lot, whether it’s someone whose needing help finding their next career move, seeking greater fulfilment, impact and influence or growing their business, I see many that have reached a real low before they are willing to invest in themselves to change their outcome.

It’s fascinating because in the world of sport, every elite athlete/team has a coach to elevate performance and to raise the impact and achievement levels, and this is usually when the athletes and teams are already doing well. Outside of sport, in the business world many individuals will never invest in a coach to elevate their performance and many will continue to wait until they are in real desperation or totally at a loss before they seek help. It’s the equivalent of a sports team being moments away from being relegated from their league and then seeking a coach to come in and turn it around for them immediately.

Whilst it is more common to have a coach in this current era in business than in previous, there are many that still don’t recognise the benefits of getting help to unlock their potential or accelerate their progression and impact level. Many still only turn to coaching at times of crisis – when things require a significant and more costly intervention to get them back on track before the real unlocking of potential can begin.

If you look at coaching as your opportunity to illuminate any blindspots you have, to have an objective resource that will guide you to the inside track, a route to avoiding the common pitfalls in reaching your destination and a means to acquiring new skills and behaviours that help you gain leverage needed to accelerate your journey - there is a different energy and momentum with that intention and mindset than the one of crisis management.

Mistake 3 – Focusing on the cost and not the outcomes being sought

When you focus on the cost of a coach rather than the outcome you seek there is a huge missed opportunity to create the meaningful value and the change you want.

Most clients ask about cost but never seek to understand how the coach will keep them accountable and support them in achieving the vision they aspire for, and therefore they fail to attribute any value to the outcome they seek.

This is usually due to one of two reasons:

1. They don’t have a clear articulation of the vision or goal they want to achieve

2. They have a fixed mindset about the potential value that will be created and therefore only assess based on number sessions and the equated cost per session.

Coaching is not a regulated industry and there are many people calling themselves coaches with many different niches. This means there will be a significant difference in the pricing which can make it difficult to make an assessment of what is an appropriate investment value.

Focus on what outcome you are seeking and then assess the type of coach that would best suit you before you start considering what investment level is appropriate. I deliberately say investment because it’s important to consider the return you are seeking. If you are a business owner seeking to double your revenue and you find a business coach that has a track record for that result, what would you be willing to invest? If you are seeking a new job and a career coach would give you better chance of securing a higher paying role, what would that be worth in the long run?

Many will avoid coaching because of the investment required, good coaches aren't cheap but just considering an equivalent hourly rate will limit your value creation opportunity and sometimes the opportunity cost is far greater and this is often not considered. The last thing you want your coaching relationship to be is transactional, what you want is a partnership for creating meaningful value and sustainable change. You want someone that cares about getting you a result that you wouldn't reach on your own. So get really clear about the outcome you are seeking and make it meaningful.

If you aren’t clear about your goals up front, most coaches worth their time will offer a complimentary discovery session which allows you to unpack what you want from a coaching assignment and it will help you get clear before you need to make any decision about the investment. Take this time, because as I said before, a good coach will want to know what outcome you are seeking too in order to assess whether they can help you.

Mistake 4 – Confusing coaching competence for business acumen and savviness

As I mentioned, coaching isn’t a regulated industry and there are various coaching certifications coaches can hold to demonstrate coaching competence.

It’s worth noting however this must not be confused for someone having strong business acumen or business savviness. Whilst a coach with exceptional coaching competence will take you a long way, if you are looking for someone that understands the environment you are in and can give you guidance on how to navigate that environment beyond just asking you the pure coaching questions (for you to reveal your own answers) then you need to look beyond any coaching accreditations or certificates purely assessing coaching competence.

Seek to find coaches that can relate to your businesses or environment so that they bring you their broader business experience and a deeper understanding of the landscape to help you achieve the outcome you are seeking via the coaching.

Review testimonials from others that have worked with them and feel free to ask to speak to any former clients of any coach to understand the value they have received, and to ask any questions you have outstanding to satisfy your requirements.

It’s easy to believe just because someone has a certification it makes them a great coach – that may well be the case, but it doesn’t guarantee they are the right coach for you. There are many coaches that don’t have coaching certifications but get solid performance results for their clients – this is why you need to focus on the outcome you are seeking and then validate that with the testimonials of others that have worked with a coach to achieve the results that you want.

Also, I mentioned discovery calls earlier, use these to ask all the questions you have and also to determine the chemistry with the coach. The relationship with a coach needs to be one of 100% trust and therefore you need to able to talk openly and feel comfortable that there is natural rapport, that not only do they have your best interests at heart but will challenge you appropriately to get the result you want.

Find someone that cares about getting you the result you want not just selling you a pack of coaching sessions or telling you what you want to hear. Expect to be uncomfortable – you want them to demand more of you than you do of yourself.

Mistake 5 – Not having clearly defined outcomes for success

It’s easy to see the initial pain point that you are feeling/experiencing being solved as the intended outcome for the coaching assignment but what if you could have so much more than that?

I’ve seen clients get what they want from their coaching sessions in a faster time than they expected and then fail to continue with the remaining sessions even though they’ve been paid for. Every coaching engagement must have a clearly defined goal but it's important to know that the work doesn’t stop once you’ve achieved your first goal.

Don’t limit your potential by keeping yourself fixed to the initial goal as the only outcome if you find yourself achieving it faster. Allow yourself to be challenged to set a new goal and keep up the momentum of elevating your performance. Don’t make the mistake of getting complacent and not leveraging the resources you have available to you.

Be clear about the outcomes you are seeking and think broader about what you would go for if there were no limits to your success. Sustainable change takes time to imbed so it is not uncommon to have 6-12mth coaching assignments. Remember this isn't just about solving pain points its about unlocking the potential in you, to achieve goals you never imagined possible.

Circumstances and external events can change the focus of coaching assignments when it comes to specific sessions but it’s necessary to be clear about what the measurable change you are seeking so both you and your coach can keep you on track even if things occur that you hadn’t anticipated.

You want to walk away from any coaching assignment having achieved a successful result but if you can’t tell what that is supposed to look like from the outset it’s unlikely, you’ll know and see success when it happens.

That’s not very smart, so your goals should be.

There is so much more to coaching that I could share with you, but for now I hope this post helps you steer away from making the common mistakes people make. Good luck with making the impact you seek.

A new decade, and a new opportunity to go after something big! Go Well!


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