5 MUSTS to look for in a business coach

Have you been burned by a business coach recently? From time to time, in more frequency these days, I’m hearing about women entrepreneurs becoming emotionally and financially scarred after working with one.

As I was creating expanding this business to include sales coaching, I really had to consider long and hard whether I wanted to call myself a coach. Truly, I feared that other people’s bad experiences with coaching in general would drag me down by word association.

In some ways, I am very thankful to know about other people’s negative or abusive experiences with their coaches. Whether I knew the client or not, I took their pain to heart. It made me examine, on serious and honest terms, how I would self–regulate my behaviors and attitudes when I hold my clients’ very fragile hearts in my powerful hands.

A coach’s influence is huge. When that relationship is positive, a coach can truly change the trajectory in someone’s life. But when that influence is negative or abusive, a coach can rip someone’s heart out and tear down her spirit. When the unfortunate happens, it could takes months and years for the client to stop beating herself up and recover.

When I hear about this stuff, my heart swells with compassion. I’m going to share with you 5 things which I believe you must look for when you hire a coach.

This is the way I see it:

1. Mutual respect, mutual authority

The common thread in all the bad stories I hear boil down to an unhealthy relationship dynamic between the coach and the client. This unhealthy dynamic has to do with the absence of respect and mutual authority. Lots of times when clients hire coaches, they’re purchasing this relationship from a very vulnerable place. Because they may see the coach as a higher power or authority, from that vulnerable place clients are all too ready to give away her sense of self, the ability to think for herself, and the power to make her own decisions.

What it boils down to is, right or wrong, you do as I say.

Would you marry your spouse if he or she was like that?

These unhealthy dynamics don’t last because sooner or later, the client honors her inner authority and gets the hell out.

When you’re looking for a coach, look for someone who also respects you, your power, your intelligence, your right. Find someone who is not on a power trip. Find someone who has the emotional strength to recognize and appreciate who you are and does so without triggering his/her own wounds and spilling those wounds out onto you.

Work with someone who sees you as an equal or where you see yourself as their equal. Don’t become so enamored by a coach’s success that you blindly follow and leave yourself behind. You may not have as much knowledge or experience as your coach, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be treated as an equal or see yourself as an equal.

You can give your coach the room to do his or her best work to guide you and not get in your own way, but realize that the room you give must come with emotional boundaries, a line in the sand, a perimeter that cannot be crossed without doing damage to yourself. These are the things both people should come to a mutual understanding about when you’re agreeing to work with each other.

If respect and mutual authority are off kilter, i.e. when power leans wayyyyyy to one side, it’s not the foundation to a balanced, healthy relationship.

Have you ever worked with your Guides in Spirit? In my opinion, that is the healthiest model relationship that you can use to evaluate your coach. Spirit Guides always honor who you are. They know wayyy more than your ego does, but you are still treated as an equal. They’re also detached and don’t get triggered if you don’t follow their guidance. If you don’t listen to them, they still love you unconditionally and respect your choices. If you want more options, they’ll show you another way. If you doubt what they say, they’re ever patient. Spirit Guides would also never strip you of your power or ability to make decisions for yourself. They will never push you to do anything that goes against your intuition and heart.

2. Generalist or Specialist?

Here’s another helpful way to evaluate a coach before working with him or her. Is he or she a generalist or a specialist? Here’s what I mean:

Generalists don’t specialize in anything. Their knowledge is widespread, maybe a mile wide and an inch deep. They know a bit about lots of different things.

Specialists focus on one or two categories. Their knowledge is in a particular area, maybe an inch wide and a mile deep. They know a ton about a subject in particular.

What you need to figure out is if you need a generalist or if you need a specialist. What are the entrepreneurial problems you’re facing? If your problems are very specific, as in, I need major help with sales, or with my success mindset, or with SEO — go with a specialist.

If your challenges are general in nature, as in, I’m interested in getting my feet wet in entrepreneurship or learning more about different ways I can market myself — go with a generalist.

3. Coach or Vendor?

Do you need a coach or would you be better off with a vendor? Here’s the difference:

A coach is someone who guides you from point A to point B.

A vendor or a consultant is someone who does the job for you and delivers point B.

If this is an area where you must do the work yourself, hire a coach.

If this can be handled by someone who does the work for you, hire a vendor.

4. Knowledge or discernment?

When hiring a coach, check in with yourself to see if you’re looking for knowledge or if you’re looking for discernment. Here’s how to tell:

Gathering knowledge means acquiring facts, figures, principles, do’s and don’ts. The knowledge was learned by someone else, which is then organized, passed down and presented to you. You merely need to study it, remember it and apply it. If you are having trouble with marketing and you hire a marketing coach, you are purchasing his or her knowledge of marketing. You’ll be given facts, figures, principles, do’s and don’ts.

Discernment goes beyond knowledge. Discernment means cultivating a deep and profound understanding, judgment, interpretation or clarity about something. It’s about developing an acute and keen perception. That means, learning to see yourself better. Learning to interpret your journey better. Learning to envision your business better. And when you discern better, you choose better.

In some ways, discernment trumps knowledge. For example, what if a coach told you to remove all of your free content from your blog, because in his or her experience, free content leads to suffered sales?

If you have trust in simply knowledge (do’s and don’ts), you’ll proceed as told.

If you have an openness to learning how to discern what comes your way (your own perception, keen understanding, judgment, interpretation), you’ll proceed only if it fits in with your vision for your business.

Go ahead and gather knowledge — acquiring that as you start is important. But don’t stop there — learn to discern next.

Here’s another analogy: Do you simply want to know what are the Ten Commandments? Or do you want to cultivate your own spirituality and come to your own understanding of it? The same can be said about business, marketing and entrepreneurship.

5. Appearances

This one is a biggie. Many of us, myself included, get wowed by the life and lifestyle of successful coaches. That person went through considerable inner struggles to get to where he or she is, and that strength deserves major respect and admiration.

I think it’s wonderful to look up to someone because he or she may be broadcasting the image of success that you see for yourself. If someone else has arrived to where you want to be, you naturally feel very hopeful about your own prospects. It’s very healthy.

As you look up to someone though, see past the appearances. Ask yourself, is there another person behind the persona? Look beyond the glitz and glamour. Look beyond the 6 figure or 7 figure promise. Look beyond the testimonials and praise. Look beyond all presentation, beyond all what you can see.

When you look beyond it, do you still like what you see? Are they living congruently with their teachings? Is there another person behind the persona? Do they have any unresolved shadow wounds that will get in the way? Does their ambition seem too eager? Do they give you the hard sell?

Bottom line: can I trust this person with my life? Is this person truly here for me?

I hope these 5 pointers have been helpful to you. Lemme know how things work out in the comments below.

Hi, I’m Ana Coeur

I teach entrepreneurs how to create their business straight from their soul. I offer a complete Intuitive Business Suite to help you create, design, write and sell all from your intuition. Here’s the services you can take advantage of to empower your business: Intuitive Web & Brand Design, Intuitive Copywriting and Intuitive Selling. If there’s anything I can help you with, I would love to hear about it! You may email me at anaatintuitivepicture.com

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1 Comment
  • October 2, 2013

    Excellent post Anni! You really hit the most important aspects of a respectful, nourishing relationship. This is a fantastic post for helping folks make decisions, about what is they require.

    I’ve had some experiences with my children’s coaches, that have made me never take these relationships for granted, as they have so much impact on lives, and how we view ourselves.


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