Since coaching is a relatively new profession, it may be confusing as to how to select a coach. To add to this difficulty coaches are typically not licensed or subject to provincial or state regulations. Professional coaching associations with ethical codes and coach training programs with certification standards are just beginning to emerge. The majority of persons presently involved in effective coaching have gained their expertise from experience as well as from training in other disciplines. Traditional indicators such as professional association affiliation, degrees, certificates and licenses, which provide the public with some guidance in selecting other types of practitioners, are typically not as plentiful in the coaching profession. However, a set of guidelines for selecting a coach has been developed by the coaches who are members of the International Coach Federation and by Peer Resources. Those guidelines are reproduced here. (If you are unfamiliar with coaching, please refer to Rey Carr's paper, What is Coaching?)
Rapport is essential to effective coaching. Your relationship with your coach is essential to get the results you want. Choose someone with exceptional interpersonal skills. Initial contact can often be made by phone and usually there is no fee for this first contact. Determine how well the coach listens and understands. Did you feel judged or did you feel accepted?
Experience in your field is not as important as you might think. A coach with experience in your personal or professional situation may understand you more quickly. However, much of your work with a coach will involve encouraging you to use and develop your personal skills and your expanding network. Therefore, the specific business experience of your coach is not as important as you might think. Coaching technology works independently of the business or professional environment.
Location is normally not important. While some coaches do offer on-site coaching, it is normally not necessary nor efficient. You will get the same or better results with telephone coaching at a fraction of your investment with on-site coaching.
Interview more than one coach. Most coaches are happy to speak with you for several minutes in order to get to know you and your situation. You can use this time as an opportunity to gather information and an impression about the coach's style. Compare two or three coaches and select the one who seems most helpful to you. Trust yourself to know what you need.
Ask the prospective coach questions. Great coaches are willing to answer your questions directly and openly. Consider asking questions about depth of experience, qualifications, skills, and procedures. For example: "How many clients have you coached, and how many are presently active clients?" "What is your specialty and how long have you been practicing in that specialty?" "What qualifies you to coach people in my situation and how many people in my business have you coached?" "How long do clients typically work with you?" "What might a typical coaching session include?" "What professional organizations do you belong to?" "What ethical code do you adhere to in your practice?"
Do some research. The internet can provide a lot of valuable information about coaching and particular coaches. Peer Resources, for example, maintains a coach information service website, (the URL is http://www.peer.ca/coaching.html) where you can learn about coaching, find all the published research and literature about coaching, register for workshops, use a coach referral service, find other sites relevant to coaching, get access to the largest and most well-established coach training organizations, and contact the professional associations specifically devoted to coaching. If you do not have access to the internet, contact Peer Resources or your local library for additional coaching references. Find out if a coach you are interested in has any printed information about his or her services, qualifications, and affiliations.
Ask about fees. Make sure you understand how much a coach charges and what kinds of services are included. Coaches often provide a package of services which might include face-to-face time, telephone time, document preparation time, and e-mail or fax time. Coach fees vary considerably because of their experience and training. According to the International Coach Federation, coaches working with individuals typically charge $200 to $250 per month for one half-hour call per week. Coaches working with business executives charge more and some clients work with a coach for an hour or two per week. It would not be unusual for a reputable coach with considerable documented experience to charge $100 to $150 per hour. Corporate coaching or a full coaching program may run considerably higher, often costing $1,000 to $10,000 per month.
Contact a coach referral service to determine whether the coach is affiliated or certified. Several organizations provide coach referral services. Peer Resources conducted a thorough review of all such services, and the results of their research are available at www.peer.ca/coachreferrals.html. Peer Resources also maintains an up-to-date list of all coaching schools that provide coach training and certification programs. (If you'd like to know more about the various credentials and designations associated with coaching, go to www.peer.ca/credentials05.html.