Finding Support: How to Tell if a Coach is Right for You.


Every new relationship has a period of vulnerability.

You don't know them and they don't know you. You're going to have to decide to trust each other if you want to make a connection.

If it's a business relationship, you might ask yourself questions like these:

  • Will they help me get where I want to go?
  • Will I get a good return on my investment?
  • Will they keep my best interests in mind?

No matter who you're hiring, you want to trust that they share your vision and agenda.

Keep reading to learn how to answer these questions in a coaching relationship. But first: a few words about support and trust.

When you hire a coach, you're really asking for their support.

Career coaches like me support you in getting clear on your ideal career direction. We know that this process can be messy and vulnerable and roundabout. There's certainly the potential for uncertainty and self-doubt, so you need to trust that we'll be there to keep you on track.

If you've ever done a trust fall at summer camp or a team-building thing, you know what I'm talking about in a visceral way. Falling backwards into someone's arms, you really want to know that they're going to catch you and haven't wandered off to get a sno-cone.

Trust and support go hand-in-hand. It's hard to accept support (or even become aware of it) without trust. If Support rides a bad-ass motorcycle into your life, you'll likely see Trust in the sidecar.

How do you go about building that rapport? What does it take to feel truly safe leaning on someone - and, in the case of a coach, being incredibly honest and vulnerable with them? Here are a few of my ideas.

See What Others Are Saying

There's a reason coaches love word-of-mouth referrals. We know that you'll take the word of a friend over ours any day, so we get excited when people say nice things about us and refer us to people in their circle. (Click here to see some of the nice things my clients have said me!)

This isn't just good for us - you can use it to your advantage as well. Do you know anybody who's used a coach in the past? Would you trust their opinion? That can be a good jumping-off place.

Interested in a coach that you've heard about? Do an internet search and inform yourself. If they have a blog, check out what they've written and see if it resonates for you.

Test the Waters

Okay, you've picked a coach to check out. Hopefully, they offer the chance to have a conversation and evaluate your mutual compatibility before you commit. I offer a free strategy call, which you can schedule here.

Here's the deal: you don't have to spill your guts in the very first session. Yes, you need to give us enough information to help you figure out where you're stuck and what to try next.

But you can also share a little bit at a time to see how your coach treats your information. Do they interrupt you or steamroll over you with advice, or do they treat your confidences with respect? Do you feel listened to and understood? Do you want to share more?

I don't believe I'm entitled to my clients' innermost stories right from the start. Instead, I try to earn trust by listening with a compassionate and non-judgmental attitude. Usually, it doesn't take long for us to establish a connection and start communicating on a deeper level.

Check Your Gut

Here are some questions to ask yourself after you get off the phone:

  • How do you feel? Energized, optimistic, tired-drained, or tired-depleted?
  • Do you feel like you were collaborating with or struggling with your coach?
  • Did you feel like they were pushing their own agenda, or meeting you where you are?
  • If they told you, "I'm sorry, but I don't think I'm the best coach for you," would your first feeling be relief or disappointment?

Working on your stuff isn't always easy or fun, but there's a difference between feeling emotionally drained and emotionally repelled. I'm here to challenge you to try some things that might feel uncomfortable, but I'll also respect your experience and where you are in the process.

Who's Coaching Your Coach?

We all have "blind spots" - those areas where we carry beliefs or assumptions we're not even aware of. A coach's job is not only to point them out to her clients, but also work on her own.

I believe that every coach needs ongoing mental, emotional, and professional support in order to do their best work. It's valid to ask what kind of support systems your coach has in place. "Live it to give it" was a mantra of my training program and continues to be a cornerstone of my own practice.

Last Words

It can feel vulnerable and scary to trust someone to support you in your journey. (Especially if you're a recovering control freak like me and want to know for a fact that everything's going to work out.)

But you know what's even more difficult? Doing it on your own. I found that out the hard way. Now that I've gotten used to the support all around me, I'm never going back to my Lone Ranger ways.

If you're interested in getting some support of your own, sign up for a free assessment or learn more about working with me.

Back to the Article Library