Thinking About Hiring a Coach? Read This First

5 Rules of Engagement for the Coaching Relationship

If you are considering hiring a coach, you probably already know that coaching is not a substitute for counseling, medical treatment or legal or financial advice. You are thinking of hiring a coach because you want to sort out a difficult decision you are facing or to break work or personal habits that you suspect are impeding your success.

As the client, it’s up to you to select a coach who fits your style and needs. You also get to decide what you want out of the relationship and, importantly, when to let the coach know what isn’t working for you.

Following are five coaching principles to help set your expectations and guide your selection process so you get off to a positive start.

Principle 1: A coach has an obligation to create a positive relational environment in order to facilitate client-led change.

There are a couple important points here, the first of which is that the change you seek must be directed by you. A coach is a facilitator of your discovery and growth process, but will not do the work for you. You will do most of the talking in a coaching session, while exploring your patterns of thought and challenging your ingrained beliefs. This surprises some people who may have expected advice or mentorship from a coach. Your coach shouldn’t sit idle, however, while you do everything. A good coach will be able to adapt to your learning and will guide you with specific and pertinent questions.

This leads to the second key point. A primary challenge for a coach is learning to adapt to a client’s needs in any given interaction. Your coach should make an effort to understand your preferred communication style and learning methods.

You may respond to more than one style during the course of a session or a series of sessions, particularly when a difficult problem is being discussed. To address stagnation or fatigue, your coach may change tactics to help reinvigorate your critical thinking. He or she may introduce role-playing or free-writing exercises to spark new ways of thinking. This kind of responsive adaptation helps foster a welcoming, safe environment in which you can express yourself.


Principle 2: Change does not happen in a vacuum.

An effective coach will take into consideration the various internal and external influences and belief systems that may be impacting you and your situation. It is important to probe which influencing systems can have a positive impact and which may be a hindrance. A successful coach should probe around those positive and negative systems in a client’s life so that together you can devise strategies to maximize your support systems outside the coaching relationship and mitigate any potential snares that can derail your progress.


Principle 3: Open-mindedness and open-heartedness are key qualities for both you and the coach to bring to the relationship

You have a stake in co-creating a safe haven to achieve personal growth.Your coach must come to each session or new relationship with compassion, empathy, a grounding in current best practice and a commitment to active listening. Once you, as the client, feel that a judgment-free zone has been established and that the coach is genuinely invested in your development, you can relax and share freely and honestly. That is when real change can take place.


Principle 4: Success will depend, in part, on your ability to power through pain points  —  with guidance.

As in any relationship between adults, effective communication and mutual respect are foundational. This is no less true in a coach/client relationship in which you, as the client, must self-identify the need for a coach and self-direct the transformation that happens within that relationship. Client and coach need to develop a deeply trusting and intimate relationship in order to survive challenging exchanges that inevitably occur. A savvy coach will push you past your comfort zone so you can expand your awareness, but should always do so with kindness and generosity of spirit. If you feel that you are being pushed too far too fast, speak up for yourself. If your coach does not adjust course to support you, find a new coach.


Principle 5: Not everyone is ready for coaching right now, but anyone ultimately can benefit from a coach.

I believe everyone can achieve a state of peace and happiness once they are truthful with themselves and willing to explore honestly. The right coach can help you ready yourself for the journey, but she should also be willing to let you know if you need to spend more time in self-reflection first, or if you would be better served by a different expert. If you are turned away from coaching, you have a right to ask for a detailed explanation so you can understand what, if any, changes you need to make or what type of coach you may find more suitable. The key here is that you not take it personally. Most often a coach has the best intentions for you and is acting out of a sense of professional integrity.

Are you ready?

You are the boss when you hire a coach, and you deserve to enter into a partnership that meets your needs. As the boss, you also have a responsibility to participate fully in the process in order to achieve a successful outcome.

Coaching is a pathway to self-discovery and positive change that can be an effective component of your overall well-being. Enjoy the process and good luck!