Development Coaching for Business

Choosing a coach to help your business

Coaching can return significant benefits for individuals and organisations. In the increasingly complex business environment of the 21st century, it is becoming the development tool of choice. Coaches help people move on, break out of old habits, solve new problems. But how do you get the coach you need? How do you get the right coach? I’ve set out the questions you need to ask in four basic steps:

  • Understanding your needs
  • Finding a coach
  • Assessing a coach’s suitability
  • Getting the details sorted out

Your needs

The first step in choosing a coach has to be making sure you know what it is you need, whether it’s for yourself or someone else in your business. Are you looking for specific advice on a particular topic? a sounding board for your thinking or decision-making? someone to help you develop specific skills or overcome particular issues? or someone to help develop a sense of direction? In order to achieve your goals for coaching, are you looking for something intensive, or long-term? Being clear about this will help you choose the right coach.

Finding a coach

Getting the name of a coach from someone who has used them before is an excellent start. You might also look at directories available on the internet, or use a search engine (most coaches have a website). Directories may be paid for listings, listings of a professional association’s membership, or open directories. Any of these may have a local bias, or a way of selecting by region. Using a search engine has the advantage that you can use particular key words in your search.

Assessing a coach’s suitability

It’s always difficult to choose between service offerings of value-added services. Fundamentally, you don’t know how much value is going to be added. I’ve suggested here some criteria that might help you decide:

Experience – Do you feel the coach has the experience to deal with the task in front of you? Although every situation is different, a coach should be able to explain the relevance of their experience.

Getting a good fit – Get the right person for the job in hand. Some businesses specialise in a particular solution, which is great … if it happens to be the solution to your problem. Decide for yourself whether ‘one size fits all’. Coaching relies to a great extent on the quality of the relationship with the coach. Does it seem to you that the coach is a person that is going to deliver what you need? Many coaches, particularly in the ‘personal’ coaching market, will offer a trial session without charge. This is an excellent way of finding out whether there’s a good fit.

Insurance – Like other professionals you can expect a professional coach to have professional indemnity insurance in place.

Professional development and supervision – A good coach will be looking at their own development as well as yours. Ask about their professional development: courses, research, forums, conferences. This may also include supervision – a concept borrowed from counselling and therapy – where the coach has a senior professional who helps them to ensure they are able to operate effectively with clients. Not everybody agrees with the idea of supervision for coaching, but it is becoming broadly accepted as a level of protection for the client.

Affiliations and memberships – Coaches may be affiliated to a professional body representing coaching, or a related field. This is not compulsory, but it can demonstrate a commitment to the profession and adherence to an ethical standard. Some professional bodies apply criteria for entry based on experience and qualifications.

Qualifications – There is no governing body for coaching in the UK, so there is no nationally recognised qualification. There are a number of commercial providers of training and there are organisations set up to represent the interests of coaches, which in turn accredit courses and/or individuals. There are also a number of university qualifications (post-graduate certificates, diplomas and masters). It is important to question what a coach means when they say they are “qualified” or “accredited”. There are many coaches who have qualifications in related areas (psychology, therapy and counselling, teaching, business, human resources), and of course there are also excellent coaches who have no specific qualifications at all. In any case, the coach should be able to explain the relevance of their qualifications.

Getting the details sorted out.

Getting down to a discussion about details not only prevents misunderstandings later on, it may also tell you more about how the coach operates. Most coaches will welcome this conversation. Here are some key points:

Price – There is a lot of variability in pricing in the coaching marketplace, and it is inherently difficult to assess the potential value for money when specific outcomes are often unknown. In this respect, coaching is comparable to consultancy or professional advisory roles, and the fees charged by coaches with a track record of success may well be of a similar order. High fees are not a guarantee of quality, but buyers should also be careful of trying to get professional service on the cheap: if you’ve beaten the coach down to an uneconomic fee level, you have to ask whether they’re going to be able to deliver you good value. Haggle, by all means, but be prepared for the best to walk away. Shop around to get a comparison of the going rate for what you want. Finally, be clear whether the fee is per hour, per session, or per month, and whether expenses and travel are included or extra.

Packages – Some coaches require clients to sign up for a fixed number of sessions. Others are happy to give the client responsibility for this.

Flexibility – Large consultancies who use associates to deliver coaching can flex more easily to meet a wider range of requirements or a sudden high demand from a client. There may well be a cost implication for flexibility. Smaller companies or individuals may be able to tailor their offering more closely to the needs of individuals or smaller businesses.

Most people who work with a coach are amazed by how much it can help them. But not every coach is right for every client. Make sure you get the right one.

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson says that he “helps people to make the choices that best serve them in their professional and personal life”. He writes and lectures on coaching and is editor of the Bulletin of the Association for Coaching.

Visit his website at or telephone 01453 731689 to talk about how coaching can help you.

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