What to look for in a coach

Even if you’d like to work with a coach, it can be hard to find a good one. Fit matters — even very experienced or skillful coaches might not be right for you.

I wanted to share the five things that I look for in my own coaches, and what I advise friends and family to look for when assessing coaches themselves:

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1. When you talk to them, do you feel safe and heard?

In my opinion, this is the most important quality to look for.

Almost all coaches will offer a free consultation (here’s mine). During that time, you’ll talk about what’s been going on in your life and why you’re interested in coaching. As you share about yourself, notice whether you feel listened to, safe, and comfortable. Of course, it can feel vulnerable to share personal information about why you’re seeking coaching. But does this coach seem like someone you could share sensitive personal information with?

Listen to your gut instinct or intuition. Even if your coach is experienced or skillful, something about the way they interact with you could make you feel just a tiny bit uneasy. Listen to that.


2. When you talk to them, do they say anything that resonates?

This is another important thing to look for in your initial consultation. Do the ideas they share with you resonate?

Of course, an initial consultation isn’t the same as a coaching session. The coach won’t be fully coaching you yet, but they’ll probably share information about their approach. They may also share some ideas about what you might work on together based on what you’ve told them. How do those ideas land with you?

You probably want to feel a sense of “rightness” — though you might also feel a little bit scared or a little bit excited. It can be scary to think about changing! Like #1, this is something that you’ll have to trust your instincts or intuition on.


3. Do they have appropriate credentials?

 I have an entire post on credentials coming soon, but for now I’ll say two things:

  1. Not all coaches have credentials, and not all coaches need to. For example, a cooking coach or a writing coach might not need a certification!

  2. But, if you are looking for some kind of minimum “quality control” in a life coach or a professional/executive coach, the certification that matters is from the International Coach Federation (ICF).

I emphasize the ICF because if you poke around, you’ll find all kinds of other “certifications” out there. Certifications can be great, but as an outsider who isn’t familiar with the field, it’s hard to know much about what they mean. It can be hard for me to know what they mean — and I’m a coach! That’s because, technically, anyone can create a program and hand out certifications. 

The ICF is the professional organization for coaches. They are a non-profit that accredits coach training programs, certifies coaches that have met certain standards (training, supervised coaching hours, passed tests, etc.), and maintains the ethics of the profession.


4. Does their overall approach match what you’re looking for?

It’s a good idea to be clear about what want out of a coaching experience. Do you want to set explicit goals (like: lose 10 pounds, or make $7,000 more) and have an accountability partner to check in with each week? Do you want someone to help you understand the deeper factors causing you to act the way you do, and help you develop skills to better meet those challenges?

Most coaches have information on their website about their approach — either a general “About” page, or on a blog. Here’s my “About” page, and my blog, for example. This is also a great thing to ask about in an initial consultation.


5. Do the logistics of their approach match what you’re looking for?

How much are you willing to pay? Are you looking to meet with someone in-person or over video conference? Are you willing to commit to working with a coach for a year, or do you prefer someone who doesn’t require an upfront commitment?



You’ll be spending a lot of time with your coach, and paying them money. Most importantly, you’ll be trusting them with something very special: yourself.

It’s worth it to spend the time to find a coach that is a good fit for you. Please do trust your instincts.

And of course, if interested in working with me, you can reach out about scheduling a free consultation here.