Choosing the Right Coach- Seven Factors to Consider

Choosing the Right Coach- Where to Begin?

Choosing the right coach can be a very daunting task. It is hard to know how or whether the coach will be able to help you based on their profile on a coaching directory or on their own website. All coaches advertise themselves as certified or qualified but how do you know which one to choose, and whether one is better than the other?

There are so many people who want to become life coaches nowadays. There are also many training bodies and institutions that offer quick ‘coaching courses’ for people to become a ‘life coach’. Becoming a life coach seems to be a convenient career switch for many people especially those in the field of human resources or talent management. Many think they can guide people because they like working with people and it is becoming increasingly concerning as there are no regulatory bodies. It is so important that when you are looking for a coach and moving through the process of making your choice you do your research.

As Graham’s Practice Manager I have done much research to find out what other coaches in the field offer and it is shocking how many are setting up practice with only a small amount of training and no qualifications at all! This is what inspired me to write this article. I hope it will help you choosing the right coach to work with by being able to distinguish an amateur coach from a truly qualified and experienced coach.

  1. Look Out for Their Credentials

Always begin by checking out their credentials, the two most reputable and trusted certification bodies are the International Association of Coaching (IAC) and the International Coach Federation (ICF) both founded by Thomas J. Leonard. The IAC was set up for coaches who already have some level of training and need a framework to continue their development. The ICF was set up to provide similar but it also has a coaches training programme.

Graham is a certified Master Masteries Coach with the IAC so I will outline their levels of certification from the lowest to the highest first:

IAC: Masteries Practitioner → Certified Masteries Coach (CMC) → Master Masteries Coach (MMC)

Next is the ICF:

ICF: Associate Certified Coach (ACC)→Professional Certified Coach (PCC)→Master Certified Coach (MCC)

Coaches with the designation ‘Masteries Practitioner’ with IAC or ‘ACC’ with ICF denotes that they have not long started as a coach and are still very much in training, in the case of the IAC they only have to take a multiple choice exam to achieve the designation Masteries Practitioner and it does not equate to a coaching qualification.

  1. The Coaching Models They Use

Be aware that if a coach tells you they are trained in one or two ‘models’ and they make a big deal out of the benefits of that model this is more than likely an indication that they have only undergone a short coaches training course, some as short as 2 seminars. An example of this is the GROW model developed by Sir John Whitmore. Many coaches are trained to work with this model and it is a great developmental coaching model/tool, but it is just one way to work with clients. There are many, many maps and models, many processes and distinctions that an experienced coach has at their fingertips. A coach with years of experience will be able to draw on many transformational processes that will powerfully support their clients. It is so important that your coach tailors the coaching to your needs and not just rolls out the one or two coaching models they have been trained in on a 6 week course. It takes years to become a fully qualified and experienced coach. It is a big responsibility to hold a client on their personal development journey and work with them safely, it should not be taken lightly.

  1. Do They Have a Supervisor?

Many coaches out there are not supervised while working with their clients either. You often find new, lower level coaches offer free coaching because they need to practice on you and log in their hours as part of their training. It is essential that coaches in training tell their clients they are not qualified yet and are in training, they must also have a coaching supervisor to work alongside them. A supervisor is an experienced and trained professional coach that works with the coach while they work with you. This is not just for new coaches though, all coaches need to be in supervision so that they can have support themselves, so be sure you ask whether they have a supervisor before you join their practice.

  1. Have They Worked on Themselves, on Their Own Shadow?

Many coaches out there have not even had any coaching themselves, how can you work with a client on their ‘shadow’ when you have not even worked on your own? When I speak of ‘shadow’ above I refer to a term coined by psychologist Carl Jung, it refers to our deepest wounds; the wounds that have us believing we’re flawed, unlovable, undeserving and not good enough. These wounds are often created in childhood, but can sometimes develop later in life. Perhaps you were bullied or experienced a traumatic life event that created a wound. Other times these wounds are cultural. They develop from prevailing social/religious beliefs, such as the way money is tied to self-worth and status or the expectations of your parents that you will conform to their religion. In all cases shadow creates the limiting beliefs we let inform our internal adult narrative. A good coach will work with you to uncover this, it then develops the foundation for your healing and transformation. How can a coach work with you on your painful wounding, if they have not worked on their own? This is key, don’t waste your money on low level coaching that just scratches the surface, because you will only end up right back where you started because the painful itch will return.

  1. Do They Have Academic Qualifications in a Psychological Framework?

Bear in mind that IAC and ICF only provide a framework for coaches, a credential. Having a coaching credential/certification alone does not necessarily make a good coach with the ability to address the root of the issues that stem from your past. Generally speaking, coaching is all about future based commitment, but if you don’t look at what holds you back, what has you keep getting in your own way, then you will keep getting in your own way! Without working on the shadow you will easily slip back into all your painful historical patterns.

Therefore it is always beneficial that you look for additional psychology, psychotherapy or counselling qualifications when choosing a coach. Within this there are many, many fields from Psychosynthesis to Transactional Analysis and all carry academic qualifications. Coaches with psychological awareness and training have the tools, models and the necessary knowledge to be able to work with you deeply, safely and effectively. This cannot be said for someone who decides to become a coach simply because they were in HR management or recruitment and thinks it is a way to make easy money.

  1. You Don’t Need Your Coach to Have the Same Career Background to be Able to Coach You

Some people prefer to work with coaches with the same background or experience e.g. those who used to be in the IT field or are experienced at setting up a business, before becoming a coach. Coaches who only work with clients based on their career background or business experience can only serve you as a mentor; someone who can tell you exactly what to do because they have done it themselves with success. They are not able to work with you psychologically and at depth, there is a place for career and business mentorship but make sure before you approach a life coach that you are needing to be coached on your LIFE, because coaching is all about context and you are the one who brings the context. So, you come to coaching with the ‘context’ career or business coaching but a good coach will take you on a journey that develops you as a whole, all aspects of your LIFE, and as a result you will be able to create a vision and live into a purpose that will impact your career/business and the choices you make. So make sure you get clear on your context and be prepared to transform your life if you join Graham’s practice.

  1. Chemistry and Preferred Gender Considerations

Many people choose their coaches based on their preferred gender, the gender they feel most comfortable with. This can be challenging, yes, chemistry and the immediate connection are very important, but not necessarily gender. There may be historical associated trauma that has you feel more comfortable with a female coach, but it is the process of working with a trained, experienced male coach that will support you in seeing the patterns you have created over time, the ‘false self’ you have created to survive over the years, that badly blocks your relationships with men. It is this work that will lead you to the healing required to allow you to develop male relationships in the future which will impact your connection with male peers, managers, bosses, friendships and clearly your love life. You will see that it is always you, and your shadow, that create your blocks and being able to recognise this may only come from working with a male coach. The same can be said for male clients feeling more comfortable working with male coaches, but what they need is to work with a powerful female coach.


As Graham’s Practice Manager I have put together this article because I see firsthand how the coaching industry is full of people who simply should not be in practice as coaches. I have heard, through research, and from Graham’s own clients, many stories of how people have been let down, further damaged, or feel their money has been wasted by working with a pseudo-coach. I know this is a hard hitting article, I image it could create a backlash from other coaches, but it is necessary because there is no regulatory body and no associated laws to protect people from the bad coaches. I hope it helps and goes some way to keeping you informed and answering the questions so many clients ask.