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A Guide For Finding A Life and Leadership Coach

Updated: May 8, 2019

The modern working world can be a stressful place to navigate and someone that is looking for support through those challenges should not have to navigate a complex and time-consuming process to find a coach.


In my journey to become a coach, I have been learning a lot about the industry. I believe that it is important that the field provides the highest standards of integrity in order to maintain reputability and be of service to those who can benefit from what it has to offer.


I wrote this guide to support people in the process of finding a coach they can trust and as a commitment of my standards of ethics. Outlined are 10 questions that you can explore as you look for a coach that will be a good match for you.


1) Do they offer a free discovery, exploration, or strategy session to see if coaching is a fit for you?


A coach that is committed to your success and to you receiving the highest value from the coaching relationship will look for a fit and not a “sale” between you and their services. For example, a reputable coach may offer to refer you to another coach or service professional who is a closer match with your particular identity, interests, and needs. A free discovery session is a common service for potential clients to determine if coaching and working with a particular coach is a fit for them. This is a great time to ask any questions you have for the coach or about coaching in general.


2) Do they have professional training, certification, or other credentials?


It is important that anyone offering coaching is truthful and clear about their training, qualifications, experience, and credentials. The largest internationally known credential program for coaching is the International Coaching Certification. The International Coach Federation (ICF) is the leading global organization dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of trained coaching professionals.


3) Did they attend a coaching program or school accredited through the Accredited Coaching Training Program (ACTP)?


The ACPT is a rigorous set of requirements that third-party coaching certification programs are required to pass and maintain in order to be a professionally recognized school through ICF. The accreditation process reviews operational standards, staff and instructor credentials and the performance evaluation of the program among other ethical standards.



4) Do they explain the model and method of coaching they use?


There is a multitude of different approaches and offerings within the coaching field. It is important that each coach define the type of coaching they are offering and be clear about what they are providing to the client. In some cases, service providers use the term “coach” to describe advising and counseling based support systems. It is important that coaching is understood as a unique method that is different from these services, in which the coach guides the client to observe their thought patterns and provides tools that support them in finding their own answers. Does the potential coach define what they are providing?


5) Do they have a clearly defined contract?


A professional coach is clear about what they do and do not offer through a written contract. The contract should include a description of the relationship between client and coach and outline the commitments they are making to the client. Part of the contract should also include the fee structure and payment details.


6) What is their policy on confidentiality?


A coach should adhere to the highest standards of respect for their clients’ privacy. A detailed description of their confidentiality agreement should be included in the contract they review with you. If they are a student, the confidentiality agreement may also include a disclaimer that your name and information be included to verify the number of hours that the coach has documented for certification purposes.


7) Do they adhere to the ICF Code of Ethics or clearly explain another code of ethics they are committed to?


Beyond confidentiality and a contract, it is important that coaches clearly identify and commit to a code of ethics. ICF credentialed coaches are required to abide by the Code of Ethics of the International Coaching Federation. If the coach you are interested in working with is not credentialed through the ICF, can they identify another code of ethics that guides their work? Do they outline this on their website, contract, or with you?


8) Do they clearly distinguish the differences between coaching and therapy?


It is extremely important that the coach you are working with can clearly articulate the differences and knows when to refer to a mental health professional. Here is an analogy I like to use to describe the difference: An athlete with a sprained ankle would work with a physical therapist in order to heal. Upon healing, they would then work with a coach to support them to play their best possible game.



9) Are they continuing professional development as a coach?


In order to provide you the best services as a client, a coach should be continually engaged in their own personal and professional development. Coaches that are accredited through the International Coaching Federation are required to complete 40 hours of Accredited Continuing Coaching Education to renew their credential every three years.


10) Do they work with a mentor coach?


Coaches also need support in their personal and professional lives. Although a coach has been equipped with a unique set of skills and tools, they can not coach themselves. It is important that they are actively working with a coach to ensure they are offering the best level of services to their clients.


Work Cited


“Credentialing” https://coachfederation.org/icf-credential International Coaching Federation. Accessed May 6th, 2019


“ICF Code of Ethics” ICF Global Board of Directors. Accessed May 6th, 2019


Meinke, Lynn F. “TOP TEN INDICATORS TO REFER TO A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL” Accessed May 6th, 2019


Robinson, Diana. “Coaching Tip: The Problems of the Twohatted Coach” COACHVILLE Coach Training Resource Center.” Accessed May 6th, 2019


Selman, Jim. Fullerton, Rick. “Coaching and Ethics” The Coaching Connection. Paracomm Partners Internation.” 2004. Accessed May 6th, 2019

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©2018 by Eric Sargent. 860.910.8641. coach@ericsargent.com Boston, MA