How To Choose a Career Coach

Many people come to me with questions about coaching.  Most want to know how to choose the right coach for them.  The other day, I saw a Leadership Freak blog post by Dan Rockwell on characteristics of good coaches.

Dan was writing to leaders, telling them what they need to do to become a great coach for the people they lead.  But I think his advice is a great starting place for people looking for a career coach.  Here are his 15 characteristics of a good coach.

  1. Grow themselves. Know-it-alls make lousy coaches.
  2. Practice self-reflection. Growth requires reflection. Successful coaches know how to observe themselves and others.
  3. Enjoy people.
  4. Ask more than tell. Curiosity drives the coaching process. Knowing, at least in the beginning, gets in the way. Even if you think you know, pretend you don’t.
  5. Leave space for responses. Silence precedes enlightenment.
  6. Reveal their own journey when it’s helpful, but don’t need to out-do, one-up, or talk about themselves.
  7. Have their own coach. Great coaches have coaches.
  8. Show compassion. Compassion builds foundations for touch conversations.
  9. Challenge bull crap. Great coaches challenge one-sided perceptions, narrow perspectives, and inconsistencies.
  10. Embrace your goals. Coaches who don’t accept your goals are manipulators.
  11. Keep secrets.
  12. Feel optimism about people and progress. Great coaches believe progress is probable with work.
  13. Focus on behaviors within control.
  14. Let go of past failures and disappointments. Growth requires starting over.
  15. Don’t need to be right; explore options.

I like to think that I embody all 15 of these characteristics.  They are all important.  But number 12 — a good coach is optimistic about people and progress, believing that progress is probably with work — really stands out for me.

When you’re choosing a coach, you want someone who is positive and optimistic; someone who leads the cheers for your small success, someone who is there to help you find the learning in your failures so you can bounce back.  You also want a coach who will hold your feet to the fire, someone who holds you responsible for doing the work.  A good coach can guide you, but you have to do the work if you are going to succeed.

Which of these 15 characteristics are most important for you when you’re choosing a coach.  Please leave a comment, letting us know.

Your career mentor,


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