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Five Remarkable Qualities to Look for When Hiring A Business Coach

Young female entrepreneur creative business owner with laptop at desk
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

When you hire a business coach, you want to be sure you are getting what you need to make it a win for you and your business. Recently a friend contacted me and shared two negative experiences in a row with hiring business coaches. The thing is, both of these “coaches” weren’t actually trained coaches. Neither had actual training or certification as coaches but called themselves coaches. And both were missing the most important skills that great coaches have.

I’m not saying that all trained coaches have to have these traits. But, whether they have formal training or not, these traits can be cultivated. They are imperative for effective coaching. And if they’re not present, you may be creating stress instead of relief and throwing away your resources.

Five remarkable qualities to look for (and 5 to avoid) when you hire a business coach:

1- They cultivate internal motivation vs. external “accountability” and pressure-

Without authentic internal motivation, what you likely have is a hierarchical, authoritative power dynamic rather than a co-creative relationship.  Chances are you’re not looking for a strict teacher or parental vibe to “hold you accountable.” In my experience of coaching for 18 years, this doesn’t work… or at least not for long. It’s counterproductive with many personality types.

This vibe doesn’t work for me for two seconds when I’m being coached.  If you are into this kind of “accountability” and know it works for you, ignore this section.

The best coach supports you where you are at the moment. They coax your vision out of you to spark and reignite your internal motivation. They support you to tap into your reason for doing what you’re doing, your “why.”

Make sure they are meeting you where you are at and not pushing you before you’re ready.

Pushing you beyond where you are in your process is like a midwife trying to control the pace of when a baby is born. It’s absolutely counterproductive.

I’ve had clients who feel clear and motivated to take their life and business to the next level and they know what they need to do.  Yet, emotional and mental stuff is coming up and they are unclear about where to start. They are in their process and no amount of pressure or force is going to make it move.  Be clear that the coach can meet you where you are right now instead of just acting as a consultant.

Pain pushes until vision pulls. Dr. Michael Beckwith

I have found that clients have breakthroughs when I am present with them, meet them where they are at, and support their process. They then hit the ground running in such a powerful way that the wait was worth it. The actions they take are more aligned and more effective.

Ask your potential coach questions that distinguish between their role as coach, consultant, and mentor. A coach who has been trained in some capacity has cultivated listening skills. They have tools that support you to work through limiting beliefs, mindset loops, etc. A consultant has expertise in a certain area that may benefit you and may not only keep you from reinventing the wheel but optimize your efforts. A mentor has been there, done that in your particular field or area of expertise, and can guide you on your journey.  Some coaches are all three of these.

2- They listen instead of project

An effective coach will listen to what you want, what you want to create, what’s in the way, and what you need to make it happen.  It’s imperative that you’ve had a chance to share what’s important to you and why it’s important.  It’s also important that you feel heard and that they respect you, your values, and your choices.

If you haven’t given the business coach a sense of your values, and they are recommending services, this is a red flag. If they tell you what you need or want based on what they are projecting on you even though they don’t know you, take pause.

What you don’t want it to look like is “I will help you create a soul-led business” and then they tell you what your soul wants. Hmmm?

It could also be that after you share your goals, they say, “Your goals are grossly small. Come work with me if you want to quadruple your income in 6 months.” If you really do want that and it resonates with you, great. But, for example, if you have been burned out and value family time and your health and want to create a low-key work life, not so much.

A challenge to “play a bigger game” is not always helpful. This is especially true in a hyper-masculine culture that glorifies overworking and always making more and more money as a priority over health, relationships, etc.

Make sure you have communicated your priorities and values and the pace you want to take in your business growth.

Notice who is doing most of the talking. A good coach asks powerful questions that cultivate insights and support you to move beyond the limits you place on yourself. Ideally, you are doing most of the talking and the business coach is not just talking to hear themselves talk.

3- They share clear expectations instead of false promises –

If you need help scaling up your business and want to hire a business coach to help you, ask them how they do that. Even though I’ve been a coach since 2003, it’s not obvious to me exactly how someone will do this. There are so many approaches to coaching, business, and so many tools. There are countless strategies, and perspectives that it’s a reasonable and really important question.

The friend I mentioned earlier did not get the support she was told she would get from the business coach she hired after a $5000 investment. It may have been a misunderstanding, but either way, ask questions from the start to clarify what the coach’s style of support looks like. Communicate what kind of support you need, and discuss it all to determine if it’s a fit.

Part of this discussion may be asking about their client success stories and time frames. In sharing these, if the coach is talking about results that don’t seem relevant to what you’re going for, it’s time to clarify your vision for them. 

For example, if one story they share is of a client quadrupling their income, ask questions. If your vision is to maintain your current income level but work less, make sure that’s something they are interested in supporting.

Or, if they are implying that all of their clients at least double their income in the first year of working together, ask them more. Make sure that the kind of on-the-ground support and the methods they offer are aligned with where you’re at in your business and the direction you want to go.

Ask for examples of “homework,” suggestions, and support they give to clients. You may have a completely different idea of the “how” as far as coaching goes.

You may also want to ask questions about their experience in business to see how relevant it is to your path. This is especially true if you are looking for someone to fill more of a consultant role.

Ask for their opinion about your expectations. Find out what they think it would take to reach your goals. Share the growth rate and pace you’d like to have.  Be sure that the expectations of pace and growth are clearly communicated. You don’t want to make assumptions or commit to a pace that you are not ready for.

If a business coach you are considering hiring tells you that you can double your income in 3 months, ask them about how many hours per week you’d be working to do that. Make sure you are not stepping into a situation that is projecting that you will work 60 hours per week hustling making cold calls if it’s not what you want.

Understand where the business coach is coming from in their own experience.

For me, my path and perspective on business speak to who I like supporting. I’m a huge fan of leverage and working less. In the past, I’ve hustled to start and grow businesses. Now I have a practice that supports my wellness and lifestyle, instead of takes over my life. I am a business coach for creative entrepreneurs in most phases of business who are ready to own their value, their unique gifts, and work smarter not harder.

In the sales process, I’m listening for alignment and making sure they are leading from their vision, and being realistic to some degree. Without the vision and deeper meaning, they are likely not my client. I know I’m not the coach for someone who is all about the hustle and wants more income just for the sake of money.

4- They trust and honor your choices instead of using manipulative sales strategies

They are showing you their values and vibe in the sales process. If you feel pressure in the sales process and are not given a reasonable amount of time to think over your decision, it may not be the best fit.

It’s imperative that the coach respects your process for committing to a large investment and a new relationship with someone they just met. Everyone makes decisions differently. Make sure you receive the time and space you need to make a decision. Take the time you need to determine if the investment fits into your financial plan or mull it over emotionally to see how it lands in your gut.

Some sales techniques claim to value decisiveness and while decisiveness is an important skill to cultivate and have, so are free will and individual needs.

Be on alert if there is any form of urgency in the sales process. This is really a use of the scarcity mindset they are plugging into.

You can also ask what their return/cancellation policy is or if they have a client contract/agreement you could look over before you commit. Ask for a different agreement/timeline/start date if you need it.

Keep in mind that your experience in the sales process reflects the coaching relationship.

It’s not a good sign of alignment if you don’t like how they are selling to you. Hire a business coach who values creating a win-win in their business, if that’s what you value.

Bottom line is, as a potential client, you want to experience a sales process that you respect, admire, and want to exemplify. You want to feel that your needs and values are more important than them “making a sale.” With the best sales processes, you don’t feel pressure. Instead, you feel inspired, have insights, and feel motivated to create your vision. (Regardless of if you decide to work with the coach.)

It’s important that your values are aligned to a certain degree. If you are turned off by a business coach’s sales process, it’s not a good sign of alignment. You may consider doing more research before you take that direction. This is especially true if you want them to support you in evolving and growing your own sales process.

5- They over-deliver value instead of overcharging (and under-delivering)

Most coaches charge by the month or sell a program as a package. Coaching prices range from about $150 to $1000+ per session and typically last from 6 weeks to a year. Some include content, group coaching, masterminds, content modules, resources, email support, and/or app support (WhatsApp, Voxer, Marco Polo, etc.) Those who charge on the lower end are typically starting out. Those on the higher end are often established authors or public figures who have large followings and are in high demand.

You want to be sure that the expectations you have about how much and how fast you will grow your business are realistic. This topic is taboo because it’s easy and popular to simply overestimate the pace of business growth. And the idea of quick growth is a great selling point, though it may be overly optimistic.

Be sure that you know what kind of support you need, the pace you want to go, and that the coaching relationship you invest in is the best fit for you. Also, if you feel like the coach is the right coach for you, but the package pace or timing is off, ask them to co-create something customized for you. Don’t let the prepared content, packages, or other bells and whistles take you away from what you need.

Alignment is the Key

Consider that you’re going to be spending a lot of time with this person over the next few months. You likely wouldn’t want to pay for their time if you wouldn’t want to spend time with them for free. You are stepping into a relationship that has long-term significance to your life and your business.

Do you vibe with them? Do you feel a genuine desire to spend time with them? What does your gut say? Do you intuitively trust them (and their sales strategies/tactics)? Do they have a sense of humor(if that’s important to you)?

There are a lot of coaches out there. Most of them will do a free consultation or have a conversation with you to determine if coaching with them is a fit. You deserve to find one that you resonate with and feel supported by.

You want to feel excited about working together when you hire a business coach. Make sure you feel like the money you are investing will pay you back for years to come.

I recommend giving yourself time to search for a coach before you need one so you don’t feel desperate or in dire need. Ask colleagues who they know and recommend. Do your research, stay in your power in the process, and you’ll hire a business coach that is the best fit for you.

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