What To Look For in a Business Coach

As we end 2015, I am reflecting on how the year went, and I imagine you are, too.  Did it meet your expectations? Were you as successful in your endeavors as you had hoped? Should you have done things differently? For professional women, our financial success is often tied to our professional success. So, looking ahead to 2016, I suggest you give yourself a gift that can truly make a difference to your professional success: a business coach.

My suggestion comes from the results I have experienced personally, and that I have seen benefit others, after having engaged the services of a really good coach. Another set of eyes, unbiased feedback, accountability, and a good strategic plan can get us on track and keep us there. This past year, I met with several business women at varying stages of their careers. The common challenge they shared was how to make  their businesses more successful. They didn’t necessarily know what “more successful” meant, but they knew that the places they currently at were not the places they wanted to be. Some wanted to be more profitable, others felt stale in their positions, and some were launching companies and wanted to avoid pitfalls. In each case, we referred these women to business coaches. When I work with clients, I can refer them to coaches I know well, and who I think will be a good match. But if you’re looking to find a business coach on your own, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are some tips for finding the right coach, based on Harvard Business Review’s, “What Can Coaches Do for You?”

1.  Ask your successful contacts for referrals to their coaches.
Reach out to people you respect professionally and personally to find out if they have business coaches and, if so, who they use. You will be surprised at how many successful professionals are using a business coach. Though they were once considered a sort of  last-resort for troubled employees, executive coaches are now thought to be a necessary resource for high-achieving professionals.

2. Make sure you have good chemistry with the coach.
This is a big one: You have to like the person you will expose your soul to. I suggest you interview a few different coaches and engage with the one who “gets” you, kind of like dating.  

3. Check out the coach’s experience and client list.
Make sure your potential coach has helped others in your field and others with similar goals. If you can, touch base with her former and current clients for honest feedback. Research the coach’s professional experience that qualifies her to advise you. I’ve noticed that there are more than a few people out there who call themselves coaches but have little experience to support that title. Coaching is not inexpensive, so it’s important to do your due diligence before choosing someone.

4.  Be highly motivated to change.
In order for coaching to be successful, you have to want to change. If things were perfect, you wouldn’t be looking for a coach. Working with a coach takes dedication and effort. It’s work, but it can yield great results. You get out of it what you put in.

5.  Look for a coach who has a clear methodology.
Accountability is one of the key advantages of having a coach. Your advisor should hold you to your strategic plan and make sure you are executing it accordingly. When interviewing potential coaches, ask how they  work with clients. Are there assessments? What are their processes? What sort of accountability can you expect? Will the coaches make themselves available to you?

A few years ago, I hired a business coach for a specific project. She was very clear upfront about cost, expectations, availability, and engagement. The project was successful, and I received the outcome I had wanted. This coach had worked with a number of business colleagues of mine, and she had been a guest speaker for my clients on several occasions, so I felt that when I chose her, I knew just what to expect. When I presented an ask to my employer that my coach helped me prepare for, I had a level of confidence that I would not have had otherwise.  My coach was my secret weapon: I heard her voice in my head as I negotiated terms and salary. Thanks to a well-thought out, and well-executed strategy, guided by my coach, I felt completely prepared and met my goal.. As you think ahead to what you’d like to accomplish in the New Year, I encourage you to employ the very best resources you can and invest in yourself, starting with  a business coach.

Bridget Grimes is founder of the Women’s Practice at HoyleCohen and a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.