(Authored by InnoChan Solutions and taken from an Advice piece supplied to Supply.ie)
Coaching/Mentoring/Consultancy/Training are all terms that, for some, are interchangeable. Increasing business closures in the current climate has seen the growth in the numbers of people trying to set themselves up as Coaches with a view to working with individual and/or business clients. For potential clients, this can be a dangerous practice.
Coaching, Mentoring, Consultancy or Training are not practices that one can simply ‘set-up’ in and be ready to work with clients. Similar to other professions, there is training involved in these disciplines. There is insurance required and there are professional bodies and associations who monitor members and have grievance procedures for when things go wrong.
You wouldn’t hire an accountant for your business without checking his/her qualifications and credentials (including professional membership). Accountants manage your finances, while a business coach is likely to be working with you on your entire business (including finance) and/or your life, so why would you hire a Coach, Mentor, Consultant or Trainer without the proper qualifications, insurance or memberships.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many people who have the commercial experience and potential to make great Coaches, etc. but without the suitable training to harness that expertise and to be able to make a real difference for their clients, they are likely to ‘stumble’ their way along, charge fees and provide little real change for clients.
So what should a company look for when seeking to hire the services of a Coach, Mentor, Consultant or Trainer?
In short you should be looking for Experience, Qualifications, Insurance, Track record, Professional memberships/associations.
Experience – When it comes to experience, prospective clients must make sure that the Coach, etc. they seek has the experience to handle their issues. You wouldn’t pay your mechanic for advice on a stomach bug, would you? Commercially, it is a good idea for Coaches, etc. to have ‘walked the walk’ when it comes to offering their services to business clients. This means they should have substantial commercial experience, preferably in multiple roles and functions. The more experience they have, the more likely they will be to understand the commercial environment and to be able to offer real assistance.
Qualifications – This is probably the greyest area in the field of Coaching, etc., but from a client perspective it is imperative to ensure that your Coach, Mentor, Consultant, or Trainer has suitable qualifications which will provide them with the tools and techniques to be able to help the client. A word of warning; there are many ‘Coach’ training programmes available (some are even FETAC accredited), but not all are ideal training forums for coach training. For example, there are Correspondence based FETAC Coach Training programmes available. In these programmes, there is no face to face coach training and no skills demonstration prior to certification which would ensure the trainee coach has mastered the techniques they will require. All is not lost, however, there are numerous accredited programmes for people who want to train as Coaches, Mentors, Consultants or Trainers, e.g. the MA in Applied Coaching (a full masters degree programme). The important point is to make sure the prospective Coach, etc. is Qualified with recognised (and preferably international) qualifications such as those offered by bodies like the ICF (International Coach Federation) or the AC (Association of Coaching).
Insurance – Insurance is your protection as a client and ALL professional Coaches, Mentors, Consultants or Trainers should have it. By and large, having insurance ticks two boxes; (1) it provides protection for the client and, (2) most insurance companies will not provide cover unless the Coach, Mentor, Consultant or Trainer has suitable qualifications and is a member of a recognised professional body (they will require copies of certs to prove qualifications and membership), so being able to provide insurance details implies training and membership.
Track Record – What work has your Coach, Mentor, Consultant or Trainer done in the past? What companies has he/she worked with? It is easy for a Coach to ‘say’ s/he has dealt with company x or y. They may even have a testimonial on their website to that effect. Prospective clients, should view testimonials and track record as a reference of a new employee and check them. Do not be afraid to contact a previous client and as them about the Coach, etc. A genuine Coach, Mentor, Consultant or Trainer will welcome this and even encourage it.
Professional Memberships/Associations – A professional Coach, Mentor, Consultant or Trainer should be a member of a recognised professional body. Such organisations only allow membership on production of accepted qualifications. Virtually all have programmes of continuous improvement and development for their members and some have a progressive credentialing process, e.g. the ICF ACC, PCC and MCC credentialing system which is based on a log of Coaching hours (which is spot checked for accuracy and work). Membership of a professional body is also proof that the Coach, Mentor, Consultant or Trainer is serious about their business and industry. Again, using Accountants as an example, most companies will not hire a new accountant unless s/he is a member of one of the Accounting bodies.
Is there anything else to look out for when thinking of hiring a Coach, Mentor, Consultant or Trainer? Well yes; when discussing a Coaching, Mentoring, Consultancy or Training programme does the Coach, Mentor, Consultant or Trainer mention the need to draw up a written contract for the programme. In the Coaching environment, it is ethical practice to have a written contract for each programme of work that is provided. Such contracts lay out the duties and responsibilities of the parties on both sides of the arrangement. Contracts also detail the pricing structure and the grievance procedure involved.
A Coach, Mentor, Consultant or Trainer can help a client (business or personal) to make real and effective changes to their business and personal lives and prove to be excellent value for money. However, the key lies in ensuring the professional who is ultimately hired is just that; a Professional and not someone who thinks s/he is.