How to choose the right coach or mentor

If you’re not sure if coaching or mentoring are right for you – or what to expect from such a relationship – then help is at hand…

Before you start looking

Professional coaching and mentoring, like all professional services, attracts a commensurate fee. Any professional coach or mentor should be clear and transparent about their pricing structure and what you are mutually committing to. However, it is not just the cost of the programme but also how much time you are prepared to commit both to the coaching or mentoring process and also to work on your plans or goals in between.


Questions to ask yourself

  • What outcomes or performance improvements am I looking for?
  • What am I prepared to put in to the programme in order to achieve these outcomes?
  • How will I manage my time and energy to put into practice the changes I identify through coaching or mentoring?
  • How will I ensure my company or friends and relatives will support me to make the changes I want to?
  • Who will be paying for the programme and what sort of budget do I have? Note: most services are paid for over time, rather than up front, so you can spread the costs.



Structure and length of the programme

Ideally a programme should be designed to suit your precise needs in terms of structure, content, style of delivery and overall duration. This may sound a bit vague, but a programme could last from just a couple of weeks to many years. There is a great deal of flexibility in coach or mentor programme design and it will usually depend on your needs.

If you feel there is a discrepancy between what you want to achieve and your available budget or time, consider breaking down your objectives into individual goals or steps which you can approach step by step.



Delivery method

Whether the programme is face-to-face, email, telephone or video based or a mixture or these this is likely to impact on both the cost and the effectiveness of the programme. Email and telephone are often less expensive than programmes conducted entirely face-to-face. Video via webcams and internet telephony is now much more accessible and popular. For some recipients of coaching and mentoring, having the right mentor or coach outwieghs any geographic obstacles; for others it’s essential to be able to meet face-to-face regularly.

Ultimately, a programme should be designed and delivered creatively and flexibly to meet your needs, personal preferences, budget and learning style.



Qualifications & experience of the coach or mentor

There are a plethora of training options for coaches and mentors. Ask your coach or mentor for details of their professional development and credentials related to coaching someone like you. Look at the coach or mentor’s career and/or life experience and how they incorporate other disciplines (eg management, functional or business skills, psychology, sport, creative arts, HR etc) into their practice.

The most important thing is to be satisfied that they are right for you and will give you the right service to move you forward.



References & testimonials

Many coaches and mentors will ask previous clients to provide references and will happily make these available to you. Be aware that the psychology profession has restrictions on the use of references in some parts of the world. Talking to a coach or mentor’s previous clients is probably the best way to find out about the benefits of coaching and mentoring and the style and skills of the specific professional in question. Coaches and mentors also use a variety of styles and tools that may or may not suit you so it is worth asking about this area specifically.


Contracts with the coach or mentor

A written agreement or ‘contract’ is very important as this document will set out in writing what services you have agreed to, the associated costs and payment terms and what outcomes and deliverables you can expect.

The agreement will also outline issues such as termination and what monies you will owe if you decide not to continue with the programme, as well as the compensation or reduction of fees you may be entitled to if elements of the programme are not delivered. It also outlines the etiquette and expectations both parties can expect from each other.


Do I really need a professional coach or mentor?

You can find non-professional and voluntary coaches and mentors in many places including amongst friends, family or colleagues and it is not strictly necessary to engage in a formal programme. It takes a high degree of maturity and expertise for a mentor or coach to work with someone close to them as objectivity is often hard to maintain. Depending on your needs there are voluntary sector schemes available from a wide range of charities and public bodies, particularly to help people into or back to work or at specific life stages.

Consider also whether you would better meet your needs by working with a consultant or business advisor, a professional or personal training and development programme, a psychologist or some other form or professional service provider.