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  • Sanjay Mistry

Thinking Of Investing In a Coach - Be Careful!

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

How can something so powerful have such a low barrier to entry, this is an area of frustration, so read on for advice when making the investment:

Hiring a coach isn’t a day-to-day decision for you. In fact, it might be a once in a lifetime decision for you! And a risky one at that: You are contemplating a potentially large investment of money, time and energy that will also require a leap of faith.

What if you engage the wrong person or firm? Pick a tool, system or framework that doesn’t work for you or your company? Get sold something that feels and sounds great, but doesn’t address the root issues that you must address? Work through a process that takes a lot of time and energy, but doesn’t produce concrete, measurable business results? The list goes on…

There are 3 factors that I’ve consistently observed to separate “cream of the crop” coaches from the rest. Use them to tip the scales in your favor to find the “right” coach for your business.

1. Pick the person, not the toolkit

The last time you hired a contractor to work on your home or property, you probably never bothered to ask them which brand of tools they planned to use during the project. Why? Because you were more interested in the outcome than in understanding exactly which tools would be used to make it happen.

So – accordingly – as you evaluated different contractors you focused on who they were: How well you liked and trusted them, the quality of their work, their references, and their overall qualifications to undertake your particular project. The toolset didn’t matter – you picked the practitioner and trusted them to bring the right tools to create the outcome you wanted.

Use the same thinking to evaluate potential coaches for your business.

If you already happen to have an affinity for or a commitment to a particular toolset for your business, that’s great. Simply look for practitioners who are certified to use it and follow the rest of this evaluation process.

If you aren’t quite sure which toolset or process you want or need, then consider candidate coaches just like you’d consider potential home contractors. Don’t focus on the tools! Rather, assess your confidence in them to actually deliver the outcomes you seek – and trust that they will bring the right tools to make it happen. The rest of this evaluation process will help you do just that.

2. Determine if they practice what they preach

It never ceases to amaze me that so many coaches fail to “eat their own dog food” (practice what they preach). They’ll spend all day telling you why you should hire them, but not a minute on their own integrity, which is exactly why you must turn the tables and explore this important qualifier.

Here are a handful of questions to help you assess whether a coach practices what she or he preaches:

- When was the last time you met with your own coach?

- What kinds of things are you working on with your coach?

- How are you using the tools / processes you recommend for us in your coaching practice?

- How much did you spend on your own professional education and development in the past year? - What did you spend it on?

A solid coach with integrity should be able to look you in the eye and easily answer all of these questions, lowering your risk if you hire them. If they squirm and dance around the answers, they don’t practice what they preach.

3. Find the personal “fit”

Personality, methods, and style matter, but perhaps not exactly the way you think.

A great coach makes you feel uncomfortable as he or she pushes you or your team to learn, grow, and accelerate change in your business. A great coach names the elephants in the room and tells the brutal truth. A great coach asks thought-altering, assumption-challenging questions. A great coach makes your brain hurt sometimes.

If you want these things from your coach – and you most certainly should if you are serious about change – then be careful not to confuse the appropriate “discomfort” they may cause in you and your team during the selection process with your sense of their “fit.”

A great coach also makes you feel capable, confident, and inspired. A great coach – even in the midst of the most brutal truth – will give you a sense of possibility and hope. A great coach listens intently to the both the said and the unsaid and interjects points that connect the dots in ways you’ve not yet contemplated. A great coach is at once firm and compassionate, critical and affirming, distant (objective) and intimate. A great coach energizes you.

As you think about the personal and stylistic qualities of the “right” coach, give careful consideration to where your personal needs fall on this “tough as nails” to “feel good” continuum. Be sure to determine your sense of fit through that lens.


By now you are probably wondering how exactly to assess fit before you hire a coach. There are two ways: (1) Great coaches coach, they don’t “sell” themselves to prospective clients – so you should feel their fit (or not) consistently throughout the selection process; and (2) Ask their client references specific questions to elicit the reality of their personality, methods, and style.

One final point: Trust your gut with regard to fit.

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