Finding the Right People to Coach


December 4, 2012

girl with binoculars

In a coaching session a few days ago, the client and I were talking about growing a coaching practice. We were focusing on maximizing the impact of a coaching career and centered on finding the right people to coach. Then this sentence popped out of my mouth: "I just wanted clients before…now I want the right client." So, how do you find the right people to coach? This list of DOs and DON'Ts should help you focus!

DO Have clear core values for your coaching practice. For example, some coaches have a high value for helping their clients through a particular life stage or with a particular professional challenge (women who coach new moms or coaches who specialize in church plants are two examples that come to mind). Other coaches only work with people facing leadership challenges or needing leadership development. Your values determine your niche.

DON'T Just coach anyone. If you've got clarity about what you value in your coaching relationships, it's much easier to pick the right coaching relationships. The biggest enemy of this kind of clarity is the willingness to take any client on any topic. If you have clear values, stick with them!

DO A structured intake process. If you think about the 5Rs we use at CoachNet, the first R (Relate) actually starts BEFORE the relationship even begins. Healthy coaching relationships work the same way any other relationship does…it has ups and downs, and not every relationship becomes closely knit. What kind of things do you need to know about a potential client BEFORE a relationship starts? This little bit of information helps you hit the ground running when your coaching relationship actually gets going.

DON'T Let your clients be assigned to you without prior contact. Every experienced coach has been there. You get a call that goes something like "I've got this person on my team and they really need coaching. Could you do it?" Initiating a relationship like that without doing your homework is the fast track to coaching failure. Let me suggest the minimum information you need before starting an assigned coaching relationship: you need to know whether you can work with this person AND you need to know that they know EXACTLY what is expected of them because of your time together. The tricky thing is that in this case the outcomes aren't solely chosen by the client. More on this in a future post.

DO Evaluate how your coaching relationship is working. Throughout your coaching relationships, ask yourself "How is this going?" Better yet, ask the client! But don't just stop there, keep track of which relationships work and which don't. Make a qualitative list what your most effective coaching relationships are like. Once you have this list, you not only have a target for your existing relationships but you also can use this information to choose future relationships!

DON'T Keep doing things that don't work. Let's say you make a list like in the DO above, and you end up with a couple things that are consistent across the relationships you named as not working. In the words of Bob Newhart, "Stop it!" If it's not working, try something new.

DO Talk to other coaches. It's a surprising thing when you compare notes with other coaches: you all end up better! A great way to brainstorm how to adapt your coaching when you find something that isn't working is to ask coaches you admire "What would you do?" If you don't have other coaches with whom you network, check out your local ICF chapter or email CoachNet to ask about regional gatherings of coaches. You might even consider a training event to get to know the coaches around you.

DON'T have coaching conversations without preparing. A few minutes of preparation before a coaching call dramatically raises your effectiveness. You want to be at the top of your game when you're doing an evaluation of how your coaching relationships are working. Your ideal client should be someone with whom you work well when you're at the top of your game.

So, what are your best DOs and DON'Ts for finding your ideal client? I'd love to see your thoughts in the comments!

For more from Jonathan Reitz, please click here.

Jonathan ReitzJonathan Reitz has a number of impressive titles at CoachNet Global (Chairman/CEO/Guy with Coffee).  Jonathan has been coaching since 1996 and has worked with over 500 clients in the church, the non-profit sector and the business world. 

  “Coaching plays a part in the kind of leadership the world needs,” says Jonathan Reitz.  “I want to be a part of that.”

Contact Jonathan Reitz at or by phone at 440.550.4374.  Follow him on Twitter @jonathanreitz

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