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What's it Like to Have a Professional Coach?

What's it Like to Have a Professional Coach?

You may have heard about coaching. Perhaps you've seen someone in a TV sitcom with a coach. Or maybe you’ve heard coaches are some sort of therapist. But what is a coach, really? What’s it like to have a coach, and why would you want one? Throw out that mental image. I'm going to tell you all about the coaching process and what it's really like.

Before you hire a coach, you need to be clear on what exactly a coach is. A coach is not a therapist, counselor, or mental health professional; a coach is not there to provide mental health care of any kind. Coaches are there to support adults as they work to improve their lives - personally or professionally. A coach does not view you as needing to be "fixed." A coach views you as a fully capable, competent, and whole individual who would like some support. A coach is trained to be an expert in coaching. This means they have received education in how to support you; this doesn't mean that they have all the answers. Coaching facilitates collaborative growth - both the coach and the client improve!

[Related: The Difference Between A Coach And A Mentor: Which Is Right For You?]

So why would you want to hire a coach? There are so many reasons why you may want support from a coach, such as:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem solving
  • Building/improving relationships
  • Work-life balance
  • Managing life transitions
  • Developing self-confidence
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Stress management
  • Career navigation
  • Personal branding
  • Time management
  • Networking
  • Building and maintaining motivation
  • Intentional living
  • Uncovering strengths and weaknesses
  • Authentic leadership

The first step in hiring a coach is finding one that is a good fit for you. Most coaches will do a free consultation with you so you can see if you like their style and have a connection. You want a good relationship with your coach, so you should shop around until you find the right one for you. Some coaches meet with you in person while others utilize technology for communication such as telephone, video conferencing, or email. You'll also decide how frequently you want to meet with your coach. Some meet weekly, every other week, or even monthly. And the price of a coach can vary just as much as their approach. A good coach will set up an arrangement specially for you - rather than offering a single option.

After you decide on the coach that you want to hire, the coach will give you a welcome packet which serves two functions. First, it gives you the run down on the costs, boundaries, and procedures for coaching. Second, it collects information about you. For instance, it will ask you questions about why you want a coach, what things you'd like to improve in your life, and what you'd like to accomplish. This gives the coach a starting point to work from.

Next, your coach may have you complete some assessments. These are often optional and vary based upon what your interests/needs are. For example,  I often have my clients take the Myers Briggs Typology Indicator (MBTI) or the Emotional Quotient Inventory 2.0 (EQ-i 2.0) in order to help them to learn more about themselves. By taking these assessments that stimulate their introspection, they have the opportunity to really stretch themselves. They grow and achieve more than they thought possible. Assessments are also really helpful when clients come to coaching with dilemma's such as "I know I hate my job, but I have no idea what else I want to do," or "I'm in college and need to make a career plan, but I don't know where to begin."

Once your coach feels that she has sufficient information to guide the process, you'll spend some time talking about your goals. They may have changed a bit now that you have more information about yourself. You and your coach will examine these goals from many angles and fully explore why you want to accomplish this goal, how it will impact your life, and what you'll need to be successful.

When you're ready to take the next step, your coach will work with you on developing strategies or action plans to accomplish your goals. Expect to have fieldwork. You'll never be told to do anything. A coach may ask you to do something, but you always have the ability to say no. Often, clients generate their own action steps.

Along the way you'll have regular check ins with your coach to problem solve, celebrate accomplishments, and continue to create action. Overtime, you may reevaluate your process with your coach. New goals may emerge. Old goals may be accomplished. It's a flexible process that permits you the opportunity to evolve as a person in your own way and at your own pace.

[Related: Want to Get Ahead in Your Career? Consider Hiring a Professional Coach]

Often times, clients will gradually reduce the number of sessions with their coach. Some clients like to continue to have quarterly or biannual sessions with the coach to just check in and make sure they are staying on track.

Coaching is a process that is customized to you and your needs. It consistently provides a partner that delivers an outside perspective on your unique situation, connections to valuable resources, someone to hold you accountable to your commitments, a person to challenge you to go further, and a support system to count on.


Ashley Bauman, M.S., M.B.A., is the president of Bauman Consulting Group in Loveland, Ohio. She provides leadership and management consulting and coaching with a focus on women in business.

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