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What to consider when selecting a one-to-one coach

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April 25, 2024
CEO, Founder & Executive Coach
This article is a must-read for business executives and leaders embarking on a coaching journey. Learn about the importance of a strong coaching relationship, trust, accountability, and coaching style.

Avoid the pitfalls when choosing a one-to-one coach

An internal coach is someone with whom you can work on a professional basis to help you improve your performance at work, develop your skills, and work through specific issues and overcome hurdles to achieve your professional goals. Choosing the right coach for you, and for your current circumstances, can make all the difference between a mediocre one-to-one coaching experience and a highly successful one, so it pays to put some thought into the selection process.

Before your short-listing for your coach starts, you should be able to assume that any internal coaches offered to you through the organisation are competent to act as your coach. This means that ideally they are qualified in coaching to ILM Level 5 or Level 7 or have an equivalent coaching qualification. Do check the qualifications and coaching experience of your potential coaches carefully – you neither want nor need an enthusiastic amateur therapist as your coach. In the absence of a coaching qualification, check that the coach has, at least, plenty of coaching experience. Remember that is not necessary or even helpful for your coach to have direct experience of your learning or development goals. They are there primarily to facilitate your thinking and action, and not to add their own.

It's an important step. Coaching is investing in yourself – whether it is funded by your organisation or your own pocket. The choice of coach is crucial. If in any doubt, contact us and we may be able to help guide you.

one-to-one coach

Shortlisting a one-to-one coach

You might then want to consider asking yourself these four questions to help you create a shortlist for your one-to-one coach:

1) Will we be able to have an open, honest and respectful mutual relationship?

The relationship you develop with your coach is the key to success. All the research shows that the relationship is the most important factor in coaching as this allows for an open, honest and challenging dialogue which is critical to coaching success. Shortlist coaches with whom you feel you can develop an harmonious, collaborative and professional coaching relationship.

2) Do I trust my coach to maintain confidentiality and to operate within agreed coaching boundaries?

Your coach should be clear with you about the boundaries of the coaching relationship and how they will manage issues which might arise and that fall outside these boundaries. They should maintain confidentiality with you at all times within these boundaries. You should feel comfortable that you can trust your coach in this regard.

3) Will my coach challenge me, give me tough feedback when it would be useful for me and hold me to account?

Coaching isn’t an opportunity for a long aimless chat, pleasant though that might be. Coaching is a focused, performance oriented conversation that should give you real measurable results and move you towards your desired professional goals. This will require your coach to challenge your current thinking, and occasionally give you feedback about how they or others perceive you. You should feel comfortable that, though you may occasionally feel uncomfortable during the coaching process, you know that your coach has your best interests at heart and your performance aspirations in mind.

4) Is their coaching style going to work for me?

All coaches are human beings and therefore have their own unique style. Ideally you should shortlist coaches who help you feel energised, confident, self sufficient and light in spirit. They should allow you space for your own style of learning and preferences. You should enjoy being coached, and look forward to the engagement, challenge and hopefully touches of humour that each new session will bring.

Once you have selected two or three coaches for your shortlist, then arrange to meet each one individually for a ‘chemistry’ meeting. The purpose of this is to get very clear answers to the above four questions, which until this point will only be your best guess about their fit as coach for you.

Is your one-to-one coach good for you?

Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Hopefully, after the first session or two you will feel that you have made the right choice for your coach. If not, don’t be reluctant to raise your concerns with your coach and discuss it. They are there for you, and if it isn’t working, then your coach should be professional enough to help you move on to choose another coach who may be better suited to your needs.

Generally speaking, you'll see these signs after two or three coaching sessions:

Your coach is probably a good fit for you if:

  • You feel comfortable, even when on occasions you feel challenged and not so comfortable!
  • The conversation flows well
  • You feel heard, understood and appreciated
  • You feel energized
  • You can identify real progress towards your performance goals
  • You look forward to your next session

Your coach is probably not a good fit for you if:

  • You feel concerns or doubts or worries
  • You feel led in the coach’s direction
  • You feel the coach is not listening to you
  • Your energy level is low
  • You can’t really identify any performance improvement
  • You are unsure if you want to have another session

Need more information?

We have some other resources on this website around one-to-one coaching that will be useful to read.

A Guide to One to One Coaching

The Coaching Process

The websites below give a little more information about how to go about selecting an external executive coach and provide useful background.