GUEST POST from Leslie Beale, success coach with Profusion Strategies
Coaching is all the rage. If you’re an executive, entrepreneur, or looking to improve your health, it may seem like everyone around you is either working with a coach or has in the past. But, because coaching is a relatively new profession, and there are so many kinds of coaches, it can also seem intimidating and unapproachable to someone hiring a coach for the first time.
How do you find the right coach?
What does a coach do?
How do I know if a coach is a good fit for me?
For all its variety, the coaching field isn’t quite the mystery it may seem from the outside. In fact, there are a few things you should expect from a great coach, whether they’re helping you with your relationships, business, or career.
1. A Safe Space
One of the central tasks of a coach is to “hold the space” for her client. What does that really mean? Basically, a client is provided an open, non-judgmental place where she can express her thoughts, fears, and dreams without fear of being criticized or ridiculed.
When working with a coach, you should feel free to be completely honest and open about what you’re thinking or feeling. It will be awkward at first, but a good coach should be able to help you with those concerns and provide you room to say what needs to be said, so you can get what you want from the coaching relationship.
Holding the space also means your coach isn’t going to “attach” to your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about a particular situation. They aren’t going to accept the story you’re telling yourself about why you can’t succeed at business, why your career has stalled, or why you can’t find time to exercise. While they won’t judge your thoughts or feelings, they will invite you to explore them objectively and determine which are serving you best.
Your coach is not your friend (although he or she may become a friend after coaching has ended). She’s not there to commiserate with you, agree with everything you say, or take your side. This may not feel great at first, but it’s through this non-judgmental, objective nudging that growth takes place.
2. A Listening Ear
A great coach is a great listener. Particularly early on in a one-to-one coaching relationship, you should expect a coach to spend a majority of her time listening to you and getting to know your perspective and concerns. She should be extremely focused on what you say.
While there may be times when your coach offers tools, tips, or approaches to address your concerns, the best coaches will continually check in and want to know how their teaching resonates with you.
Coaches listen with more than just their ears. They listen with their intuition, experience, and hearts. They should also be able to hear what is left unsaid—the thoughts, feelings, and emotions behind your words. The best can sense when a client is holding back, when there is more to the story, or when a well-placed question can get a client to the next level of learning.
Speaking of questions…
3. Tough Questions
Coaches are full of questions, and great ones will push you to answer questions that may be really tough. Questions that stretch your mind, your imagination, or your concept of who you are and of what you’re capable. Questions that brush against hidden fears, assumptions, and past hurts.
The best coaches know they don’t have the magic answers that will work for your life, your business, or your career. They also know that by relying on their skill and experience and asking you the right questions at the right times, you can uncover those answers together.
As a client, you shouldn’t approach coaching like a test. You aren’t supposed to easily answer the questions your coach asks you. You’re supposed to dig deep, explore your own mind, and develop a new understanding of yourself and your world. You don’t need to worry about getting the right answer, either, because there usually isn’t one. Just be open and honest and let the process develop.
4. Hard Work
Too many people seek a coach because they’re in some way looking for a magic solution to their problems. That’s a big mistake. Entering into a relationship with a coach isn’t a way to avoid hard work. In fact, working with a coach may be some of the hardest work of your life.
A great coach is going to push you further than you think you can go. She’s going to nudge you out of your comfort zone and require you to question long-held beliefs. Depending on the particular type of coaching, you may work through fears and doubts that are difficult to face down.
Working with an exceptional coach shouldn’t be miserable, but it shouldn’t be a pleasant stroll through the park, either. You should expect to feel stretched a little past your limits, and sometimes confused and frustrated, too. These are the sensations of growth. Embrace them.
Accountability often gets a bad rap. It seems too stiff, or cold, or demanding. And it can seem just a little bit boring. But, great coaches know when clients are in the process of developing new mindsets, behaviors, and habits, most need some type of accountability.
Very few of us can deal with the self-doubt and discomfort of developing new patterns in our lives without some type of external accountability. Coaches have a wide range of tools at their disposal in this area, and you should expect to see some combination of these during your work with them.
That being said, a coach can only do so much to help you meet your goals. At the end of the day, all the accountability practices in the world will only work if you are committed to your own growth.
Hiring a coach for the first time can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. While each coach has his or her own particular style, the best coaches have a few very important things in common. Understanding these will give you a head start on finding a great coach.
Leslie Beale is a success coach who helps professional women and entrepreneurs develop careers and lives that allow them to truly thrive. Her clients learn to build their confidence, keep stress from running the show, and set priorities that really matter to them so they can finally find the sense of balance they’ve always wanted.
A former lawyer and executive, Leslie is committed to helping bright, ambitious women build the lives they’ve always wanted. Check out her website at ProfusionStrategies.com, or find her on Twitter or Facebook.
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