My coaching colleagues and I are getting a big uptick in inquiries right now – we think it’s partly because some folks are feeling under the gun to start working on their careers and lives before year’s end. Others are completely underwater hitting their fourth quarter numbers and want to at least have “coaching” set on their New Year’s calendar.
Whether you’re in one of those categories, or are just curious about coaching, here are a few tips to make the shopping process easier and take less time.
First off, you may not have to shop at all. Lots of people get their coaches through referral from a trusted source, or are assigned a coach internal to the company. Especially with the latter, make sure your confidentiality is guaranteed – in writing, up front.
I know it’s a pain, but if you can shop for a coach I think you should. You can find many on sites like LinkedIn’s Profinder and Findacoach.com.
Most coaches offer a free comp session, and there are three things you should take away from one: a real sense as to what the coaching experience is like, a key insight or shift in thinking in the matter you discuss during the session, and a sense as to whether you and the coach are a good match. Do three of those with different coaches, and you’ll know who’s YOUR coach.
Most coaching happens over the phone, which was a surprise to me when I was in coach training. I thought I’d be welcoming visitors to my home, with gracious hosting provided by my rescue dog Sam. But in-person can be inefficient – you gotta get there, get acclimated, get moving … all of which can be accomplished in two minutes on the phone. And, phone sessions seem to stay really focused versus all the distractions which can interrupt in-person meetings.
A typical coaching arrangement is one phone session every other week, usually for a minimum of three-six months. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a lot of work (or it can be). Coaches want you to consider new options, and look at your situation in new ways. We give homework. The fee? The average charged by members of the International Coaching Federation (our credentialing organization) is $230 per session, but there’s lots of variations and often package deals are available. Corporate rates are higher.
Coaching sometimes gets confused with therapy, which it is not and the distinction is important (I’ve done both). Therapy tends to look back in time, and figure out why you are the way you are (what shaped you) and what you can do about it. If a potential client indicates a desire to explore that, a coach will refer out to a therapist. Coaching itself is much more about now and the future: what’s the situation now, what do you want, what do you need, and how can you get there?
Put another way, and this is an analogy that works with almost everyone, think of your life as a road trip. You own the car, you’re driving it, you decide where it’s going to go, how fast, even what’s playing on the sound system. The coach is in the car with you, not as a co-pilot and certainly not as a backseat driver. Just in the car, totally dedicated to your forward movement, and providing whatever guidance and assistance make sense – and of course that widely varies from client to client. Also, this should be a positive and even fun experience. You deserve a really cool car that runs well (even if you live in Manhattan like me and don’t need or want a “real” one).
It’s a coach’s job to provide a safe space where you can explore what you want to do with your next act, or as a fellow coach says, live your life by design rather than default. Great line, right?
If you’re feeling stuck, and not making as much progress as you want to on your own, coaching may be right for you. Or, you may sense that working with someone, and not just by yourself, will bring results faster. It usually does.
Coaches try to not offer direct advice, but I’m going to: take the time to choose a coach who fits you and your car. Your coach should be someone you can talk to – who knows you but isn’t part of your friend network — on the road trip that is your life.
J.D. “Jim” Fox, Head Coach, Next Act Coaching