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5 Dec 2011

Coach Selection: A Highly Subjective Affair

People periodically ask me, “Should I get a coach?” I chuckle because it’s akin to asking, “Should I get married?” Coaching as with marriage is great if you find a great person. However, it can be unrewarding, even harmful, if you don’t, especially if you’re already good at your profession.

If you’re considering a coach, I strongly recommend reading, “Personal Best”, by Atul Gawande which appeared in the October 3, 2011 issue of the The New Yorker. Gawande gives an excellent account of his decision-making process for securing a coach. More importantly, he made three points about coaching that standout from other coaching literature I’ve read:

  1. “Good coaches know how to break down performance into its critical individual components.”
  2. “Good coaches speak with credibility, make a personal connection, and focus little on themselves.”
  3. “. . . bad coaching can make people worse [especially if they are already professionals]”

In many respects, it doesn’t matter what the coach’s credentials, experience, references or record of accomplishment are: if the coach and you do not connect on a personal level, your experience will be mediocre and possibly damaging. Yes, selecting a coach is a highly subjective affair.

Many coaches will transfer their failure to the client by saying, “I’m only as good as my client is.” Theoretically, this is true, but in reality, you can have two excellent coaches in a situation where one succeeds and the other fails. Coaching is not an objective science; it’s a subjective art. What works for one client might not work for another.

That means determining what you want in a coach. If credentials and experience are important, that’s great! If not, don’t fret. You’re in charge; it’s your coach . . . and your choice.


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