Whether you are looking for a Life Coach, Business Coach, Performance Coach or any other type of coach or therapist, the question of finding a good one has two parts to it:
- What makes a good coach?
- Would a particular coach be right for YOU?
Unfortunately, the coaching and therapy market (like any other market, for that matter!) is full of people who are great at what they do as well as those who haven't got a clue what they're doing and who can ocasionally even cause more harm than good. So...
... What makes a good coach?
Unlike counselling and psychotherapy for example, coaching does not seem to be such a tightly regulated profession... there are more than a few people out there who call themselves 'coach' just because someone told them they give good advice! Clearly, giving good advice is not the same as actually being educated and qualified to coach someone. In fact, a coach is not even supposed to give advice. A good coach should be there to provide support and enable individuals to find their own path. Nevertheless, clients sometimes do not know what to expect from coaching which is why such advice-giving unqualified 'coaches' can survive on the market and sometimes even have fairly successful practices.
On the other hand, although having a coaching qualification should certainly be the primary selection criterion when choosing a coach (as well as being a member of reputable professional associations and having professional insurance), this doesn't automatically signify quality. At the risk of sounding a bit patronizing, I can't help being a bit suspicious about any qualification that can be obtained after just a few days or weeks of training as, to be fair, even qualifications obtained after years of academic training still don't guarantee the quality of a professional! This is why a qualification is an essential but not sufficient criterion for choosing a coach and additional selection criteria are needed.
While a recommendation from a friend or colleague is definitely a good starting point, it still doesn't guarantee that this would be the right coach for you (what worked for your friend, might not work for you!). Which brings us to the question...
... How do you know which coach would be right for you?
If you can't rely on qualifications and recommendations alone, then what can you rely on? With coaching, as with any other profession which requires a close one-on-one relationship between the practitioner and the client, the crucial factor in choosing the right professional should be your gut feeling or the 'chemistry' with a particular individual. These concepts may seem very unscientific, but many research studies have demonstrated that we constantly make automatic (subconscious neural responses) as well as more intentional judgements of 'trustworthiness' of the individuals we encounter, based on the non-verbal signals they emit (facial features, voice, etc.).
This is why, provided the person is adequately qualified and, ideally, also recommended to us by a person we trust (though this isn't essential), we should arrange to meet them in order to have a preliminary chat about the issue we would like to work on. Most professional coaches should offer a free initial consultation either over the phone or in person - meeting them in person would be better as that would provide you with sufficient cues (visual as well as auditory) to get a really good idea of what kind of person they are and whether you feel comfortable with them and confident in their ability to coach you.
Trust your instincts and good luck!