I find it shocking that in 15 years of coaching senior leaders and teams I’ve only twice been asked even some of these questions. The focus from the organisation (HR and L&D) is on cost and cancellation fees; the transformation my work represents is reduced to a transaction (one that might need to be terminated) The leaders on the other hand, tend to be keen to describe their challenges and interested to know if I can help. Any questions they have tend to be about the process – how it works and what kind of commitment they will need to make.

Anyone can – and does – call themselves a coach. There is no single, unified coaching accreditation body. So why wouldn’t you ask more questions?

These are my top ten.

1. Do you have a coach?

Accredited coaches should attend supervision (a form of coaching) which can be individual or as part of a group. This brings rigour and accountability to the coaching process and strengthens the coach’s resourcefulness and self-awareness. In addition, coaches might also access therapy or have a business coach. There is no right or wrong answer here, but if a coach thinks coaching works, then it is reasonable to probe the reasons they have chosen not to have one!

2. What coach training and qualifications do you have?

Anyone can call themselves a coach and the barriers to entry are low. There is sadly no one “gold standard” for coaching, but at the very least look for a coach that is accredited by one of reputable coaching organizations (The Association for Coaching, the ICF, or the EMCC) In addition, experienced coaches may also have Masters’ degrees in coaching or psychology.

Ask what the accreditation and study involved (you are looking for more than a weekend program or distance learning course!)

3. What kind of insurance do you have?

As coaching is an unregulated profession, look for a coach that has professional indemnity and liability insurance. In 20 years of practice I have never needed it, but it offers me and my clients the reassurance of back up and support if we need it.

4. How do you keep your practice current?

Coaching is about learning and growth, so you would expect that your coach invests a size-able portion of their income each year on their own development and the choices they make will give you insights into their priorities, focus and personality.

I spend at least 10% of turnover on my own personal and professional development

5. What have you read recently in the leadership and personal development arena that really resonated with you? Why?

Good leaders are readers and so are good coaches. This is another question that probes the coach’s attitude to their own development but also illuminates their philosophy on leadership and development which will help you work out if you are a “fit” for each other.

6. What kind of goals/challenges do some of your current clients have?

You would expect that a coach has a range of clients with differing challenges which tend to revolve around either a stage of transition or decision (such as promotion, career change, new team, reorganization) Our beliefs and judgments about ourselves tend to be the hidden brakes on our courage, decisiveness and ability to change, so listen for a coach that acknowledges and works with this.

However, what you are really listening for is HOW the coach describes their clients (because this is how they might talk about you!) Presumably you would want to be talked about in a clear-eyed yet compassionate and non-judgmental way.

7. How long have you been coaching and how has your coaching changed during this time?

Experience does not equal wisdom. Indeed a “new” coach who has just passed accreditation may be sharper and more attuned than a long practicing professional who is a bit jaded and cynical. Listen for the WAY they talk about their experience, their motivators and their insights into their practice. Is coaching still their passion? Are they still in learning mode?

8. How long will the coaching engagement last?

This should be where the coach explains their process and rationale for working with you. You would expect that a coach will suggest a set of coaching sessions (six or eight at a minimum) that reflect the level of change you want to achieve. Coaches vary in their practice in terms of whether the sessions are 60, 90 or 120 minutes long and how frequently the sessions are held (usually between 2 and 4 weeks apart). You would expect a coach to be flexible to your needs and budget and to adjust their process accordingly.

9. How do you measure success?

You are looking for a coach that will work with you at the beginning of the process to identify clear goals – the specifics of how you want to think, feel and behave differently. You would expect your coach to treat you as being “in the driving seat” in the relationship and therefore able to hold yourself accountable. However, you would expect your coach to regularly check in with you about HOW things are working and to adapt to your feedback and expectations. At the end of the engagement you would expect a review of what has changed and to what extent your original goals have been met. Long before this, you would expect as a client that others around you have noticed the changes in you – both at home and at work.

10. Can I speak to one of your current or former clients?

Due to the personal and confidential nature of coaching, some of the happiest, most satisfied, clients do not want to go “on the record”. However, coaches should have at least one or two clients, whose experience with coaching is in some way relevant to you, that will be happy to have a brief conversation or email exchange with you. Also, look at the coach’s website to see if there are named (rather than anonymous) testimonials and on LinkedIn for recent testimonials and check they were coaching clients – what Amazon might call a “verified purchase”.

Once you have the answer to these questions, the money question will have more context.

It will be up to you to decide what the value of coaching would be to you; to ask yourself the hard question: “How much will it cost me if Idon’t do this?”

Now it’s your turn – I’m really interested in your response, especially:

If you’ve had a coach, would these questions have helped? If you’re thinking about investing in yourself, how do you feel about asking these questions? And have I missed anything? Any great questions that should be added to the list?

I welcome any and all thoughts!

Book a 30 minute discovery call to find out more about the way I work and to discuss how we can help you meet your goals.

I would highly recommend journal writing. I joined one of Moyra’s journal safari sessions a couple of weeks ago and have been keeping a daily journal ever since. The main benefits for me is it’s helped me to keep perspective in these times, not to be too hard on myself and be thankful for the things I have achieved.

Justin Ellis

Innovation & Strategy, British retail bank