Creating a strong coaching alliance: What happens once I hire my coach?

So you have been thinking about hiring a coach, but are unsure of where to start. Why do I want a coach? How do I find the right professional for me? What happens once I hire my coach? How do I tell if it is working?

Professional coaching is a relatively new and currently poorly regulated field. Navigating the uncharted terrain can be challenging and confusing.  This series of posts is designed to take the reader through the process of coaching to clarify the process.  Previous posts in this series addressed why you might want a coach and how to find the right coach for you.  This third article in the series explains what happens after you hire your coach.

I’ve hired a coach, Now what?

I’ve committed to beginning coaching. I’ve chosen a coach.  We completed a “test drive” session and I think he or she will be a great fit for me.  Now what?  What do I do next? What can I expect from my coach?  What will he or she expect from me?  The beginning of a coaching collaboration is always very exciting and can be a bit stressful. It is filled with endless possibilities awaiting the uniquely transformational chemistry created by client and coach.

The Coaching Agreement:

During your “test drive” with your coach, part of the discussion should include clarifying some basic expectations on both sides.  How long is each meeting?  How often will you meet? What is the duration of the agreement?  Will the meetings be face to face or via telephone or Skype?  Will you, and if so, how will you communicate between sessions?  What happens if it just doesn’t work?  What should either party do if there is a problem of some sort?  When and how are payments due? All of these questions and more should be addressed both verbally, and in a signed written agreement prior to your first coaching session.   If you have questions that haven’t been answered, do not be shy.  Ask your coach.  Remember, as stated in previous posts on this subject, your coach doesn’t want a nonproductive or unsatisfying coaching relationship any more than you do.  Clear communication of your needs and expectations is the key to a successful coaching experience.

Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork:

In addition to your coaching agreement, you will probably be asked to fill out some additional paperwork.  The amount of paperwork, and nature of the paperwork will vary depending on your coach’s preference and you, the client’s, willingness to tolerate it.  Remember, coaching is somewhat of a new field, and not very well regulated, so there are not clear standards for record keeping as in medicine or counseling.  I prefer for client’s to complete a significant amount of paperwork when we begin, and complete a short, one page update prior to each meeting.  I find this helps keep us both in alignment and focused on our established coaching objectives.  When I start a new coaching alliance, I typically ask my clients to fill out information on demographics, life history, present situation, and goals and objectives.  My paperwork is all electronically delivered and stored.  My clients have access to their private section on my website and we keep records of progress through that site.   This site serves to capture goals and objectives, as well as chart progress as we go.  It’s great for both client and coach to be able to go back, review where we have been and appreciate the progress that has been made.  It’s very satisfying to remove a goal from the list because it has been successfully completed.

But what do we do???

This is the tricky part to explain.  I am going to try not to get too “woo woo” on you here. Here it is.  People are naturally whole and brilliant.  Given the proper time, space, and tools it is amazing what people can do.  The coaching process provides you, the client, with the time and space to create, grow and develop in ways that are most natural and most desired by you.  This is done primarily through dialog.  Your coach is your partner.  He or she listens deeply, asks compelling questions, partners with you as you set goals and objectives, and occasionally reminds you of what you have indicated you want for yourself and why.  In the coaching alliance, you are the expert, your coach is your collaborative partner.  Remember, almost anybody can benefit from coaching in some way, but coaching is exclusively for those who are open to personal and/or professional growth using this type of collaboration.

A bit on goals and objectives:

The coaching experience alone is subjectively highly rewarding for most clients.  Heck, let’s be honest, it feels great to be the center of someone’s attention, talking about what you want and need with someone who is a really good, caring, compassionate listener.  People tend to really, really like that a lot!  But, a good coach will help you identify goals that are critically important to you, help you create objectives to support those goals, and measure your progress towards your goals.      Ideally a great coaching experience will leave both client and coach with both the subjective experience of success, and objectively measurable evidence of success.

I hope you have enjoyed this post.  Thank you for taking the time visit my blog and to read this!  As always, I would love to hear from you, including any reactions to this article, or alternative perspectives you might have.  My next post will look more closely the coaching experience,  addressing the question, “How do I know if coaching is working?”

Written by: Terry Hoffmann

Terry Hoffmann specializes in partnering with physicians, executives, and teams to drive profitability, foster patient loyalty, enhance provider and staff engagement and satisfaction, and create high performance work cultures. Terry's educational background includes a Master's degree in counseling psychology from the University of North Florida and a Bachelor's of Science in psychology from Colorado State University. She is a board certified coach, and also credentialed through the International Coach Federation.