More and more people are turning to business coaches to accelerate their growth. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Fortune 500 company that doesn’t use coaching to grow the leadership capabilities of their senior executives by leaps and bounds.
When their leaders grow, these companies know that the efficiencies will trickle down to the bottom line. Even SMEs are turning to coaching because they see it as such an impactful way to scale up their business and also reclaim some of their time.
Given how powerful coaching can be and how popular it’s become, it’s possible to get suckered by inexperienced coaches who’ve hung out their shingle with little to no authentic training. In this article, I’ll lay out some high-level guidelines to think about as you’re searching for a coach to accelerate your business growth.
- Has been well-trained
First, a coach should be trained by an accredited, well-respected, and in-depth program. The Co-Active Training Institute and New Ventures West are two great choices on the west coast, but you also have amazing coaching programs at universities like Columbia, Berkeley, and Georgetown. There are people out there who are natural-born coaches, but even they would do well to sharpen their skills at a high-quality training program.
Training is important because coaching is about more than being a good listener or having a background in a particular area of business. There’s a process to coaching, and if you work with someone who doesn’t have a deep understanding of that process, you’ll end up making incremental improvement instead of playing the big game you were born to play.
- Does not rely on industry-specific knowledge
When it comes to selecting a coach, don’t worry about whether they have experience in your particular industry. The magic of coaching is created through deep listening and then reflecting back patterns for the client so they can choose a different response that can create greater results. So, if you choose someone based on their experience in your industry alone, you may end up with just another consultant who tries to give you all the “answers”, rather than a coach who helps you find your own brilliant way forward.
In fact, prior industry experience can actually be a hindrance to effective coaching. Why? Because coaches can be tempted to give their client industry-specific solutions that have worked for them in the past. When that happens, the door is shut to new and potentially genius solutions that can be generated through the process of coaching.
- Has real success stories
A common practice in coaching used to be just to use a client’s first name and last initial, or say “a person from X industry.” Today, that’s not good enough. It’s important to see actual people with full names and be able to read how the coach has created big results in their lives.
A good coach will have more than enough real stories to create the social proof necessary for a potential client to move forward with confidence. Now, every coach has to start somewhere, so you shouldn’t discount a coach just because they don’t success stories yet. These principles are meant to guide your decision, not dictate it. That said, a great coach should have several success stories if they’ve been in business longer than a year.
- Exudes authenticity
With this criteria, you have to rely on your gut feeling and your chemistry with the coach. Although authenticity can be difficult to measure, there are some red flags to watch out for. First, are they guaranteeing you certain results? In coaching, there’s no guarantee because the results are created through the relationship with the client. So, if the client doesn’t bring their A game, the best coach in the world won’t be able to help them accelerate their growth. If a coach guarantees you something, look elsewhere.
The second red flag is a hard sell. When a coach is using high pressure sales tactics it’s a good indication that they aren’t in high demand. The best coaches I know do more of an interview with potential clients to see if they want to invest their time into working with that person. They have a finite amount of time and they don’t want to waste it on people who are not willing to commit to the coaching process.
- Charges a substantial fee
This one probably raised your eyebrows. Here’s the deal: if you call up a business coach and they substantially discount their offering, what they might be signaling to you is that they don’t have enough business. The discount says they’re needy for clients, and if that’s true, they likely don’t have a history of being a high impact, powerful coach.
For business coaches, the typical price is between $800 and $1,500 a month and most coaches have a minimum engagement of three months. If you look at that cost hourly, it’s expensive. But instead of looking at hourly costs, look at the impact coaching can make. I have a client who nearly doubled his revenue within four months, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to his business. Another client secured a new position and saw a 40 percent jump in his income.
That’s why the best coaches charge substantial fees: the results they’re able to create deliver an ROI that’s several times the investment. Now, I’m not saying that you need to work with the most expensive coach you can find, but if you try to find the cheapest, you will very likely get exactly what you paid for. Great business coaches can add six or seven figures of value to a business, and compared to the coaching fees, that is likely an order of magnitude of a return on investment. The only business coaches I know who charge under market rates are those that deliver under market results.
Written by Nick Egan, Ph.D.
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