Is It Time to Find a Coach?

By Kathleen Doheny June 24, 2021
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Is It Time to Find a Coach?

​You're feeling restless, or anxious, or maybe a little lost on the job. Maybe you have to decide on a new job offer and just can't make a decision. Maybe you're suddenly thinking your line of work really isn't for you. If this is your mindset of late, maybe it's time to call in a coach.

Whether they call themselves career coaches, business coaches, executive coaches or life coaches, these professionals have common goals: to help you figure out what your skills and talents are, where you want to go, and how to get there. Here's what else to know.

Who Can Be a Coach?

The short answer? Anyone. Some coaches describe the field as the Wild West, so it's a good idea to do some research into prospective coaches' backgrounds and credentials. Numerous organizations train and certify coaches. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is often cited as the largest, but there are probably two dozen other organizations, said Janet M. Harvey, past president of the ICF and CEO of inviteCHANGE, a coaching and education company in Seattle. Among numerous others are Worldwide Association of Business Coaches and the World Coach Institute.  

What Is a Coach's Role?                                                                         

While some people think of a coach as a therapist, that's not an accurate comparison, Harvey said. "People often go to therapy when they are depressed or unable to regulate their emotions," she said. "In coaching, it's therapeutic but not therapy. People discover who they are or reclaim who they are." A good coach helps to evoke awareness and helps clients reframe how they see their world and to figure out how to move on to whatever they decide to do next, said Harvey, author of Invite Change (self-published, 2020).

"A good coach is not going to tell you what to do," said Cheryl Procter-Rogers, a coach in Chicago. A good coach, instead, will help the client shift his mindset and get clarity on exactly what his skills and talents are, she said.  

[Want to learn more about managing people and careers? Join us at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2021, taking place Sept. 9-12 in Las Vegas and virtually.]

How Do I Find a Coach Who's a Good Fit?

You can start by searching online for coaches in your local area, said Garry Schleifer, a coach in Toronto and publisher and CEO of choice, the magazine of professional coaching. Coaching websites often have a "find a coach" feature.

Contact at least three potential coaches and interview them, Schleifer said. Like many coaches, he provides no-fee consultations of about a half-hour "to see if we are a fit."

Ask coaches how long they have coached, the number of people they've coached and whether they are certified by any professional organization. There are good coaches who aren't certified, Schleifer said, but certification means the coach has received training and met some standards.

Check coaches' websites for client testimonials. You can also ask to speak to former clients. Ask what the coach's standards of practice are, Procter-Rogers said. They should be based on research or other scientific principles.

Can Coaches Really Help?

Every coach you talk to should be able to give you a success story.

For instance, Harvey once coached a clinician who worked in patient care in a large health care system. The client had heard of an opening for the system's assistant chief medical officer. When she met with Harvey, one of the first things she said was "I've never been an assistant chief medical officer." Harvey asked her if she thought every previous assistant chief medical officer had done the job before.

Next, Harvey asked the woman to think about why she wanted the job and what research she had done. When the woman expressed doubt that anyone would want her in this position, Harvey suggested she identify five colleagues at the system to meet with, and then ask each one what the role involved so she could determine her readiness for it. Once her colleagues learned she was interested, they encouraged her to apply, and some offered letters of recommendation. She got the position.

Procter-Rogers typically asks her clients this opening question: "What are your top five strengths?" A standard response from managers is "I'm good at organizing events." She probes, asking, "Why are you good? Is it because you have great attention to detail?" From there, she focuses on her client's strengths, not just what they have done. Thinking about strengths helps people move forward, Procter-Rogers said. Instead of telling a potential employer: "I'm good at organizing events," her clients begin by saying, "I'm a strategic thinker. Here is how it shows up."

How Often, How Long, How Much?

Schleifer likes to meet with clients at least once a month, ideally every two weeks. The duration of coaching depends on the person and the issues. Schleifer finds many people he coaches meet their goals within three months, but he also coached one client for years. Each session length varies; Schleifer schedules for 45 minutes, but others may hold longer or briefer sessions.

Fees vary widely. Typically, the more experienced the coach, the higher the fee. According to a 2020 survey by the ICF, the average hourly fee is $223, but it ranges widely from one location to another.

Kathleen Doheny is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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