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How do I find the right coach?

I really believe every leader needs a coach.

By Shawn Lovejoy

By Shawn Lovejoy

Real coaches have a relationship with their players. The best coaches serve you in both a personal and professional manner — and that means you need to treat the selection of a coach accordingly. That means being prudent in your search, because the right coach will be someone you ‘do life’ with. You’ll share with them on deep, personal levels.

Hiring a coach is a lot like making any other hire … but, it might be your most important hire. You must be wise with this hire! If you get it right, it won’t be an ‘expense’ — it will be an investment in your own growth and the growth of our organization.

This, of course, begs a big question …

‘How do I select the right coach?’

You do it by assessing the coach and the fit with you and your organization. It isn’t a simple task. Much like any hire, we need to assess this hire through the lenses of:

#1: Chemistry: If you set this up correctly, you will do life with this coach on a consistent basis. You definitely don’t want to dread the time with your coach — you want to look forward to it! As such, selecting the right coach sometimes comes down to one thing: FIT. We call that ‘chemistry.’ 

To gauge the chemistry potential, ask yourself a handful of
key questions:

  • Could I envision myself spending lots of time with this coach?
  • Did my initial interaction with the coach seem forced? Or, did it flow?
  • Did it feel like this coach understands me?
  • Was I encouraged / invigorated after our first conversation?

#2: Competency: A coach’s biography, or résumé, is important. It gives you a hint as to what the coach has actually accomplished.

At some level, you’re looking for someone who’s actually been a practitioner. You’re looking for a coach who has been where you need to go — and has the scars to prove it.

So, what should you be asking yourself as you review the résumé? This:

  • Where has this coach been? What has he / she actually accomplished?
  • Has this coach ever done what he / she is encouraging me to do?
  • Has he / she ever led something that grew? What is the largest organization he /she ever led?
  • Does this coach have references? Are they individuals whom I respect, know, or have at least heard of? Can I can contact a reference or two? 

#3: Character: The right coach doesn’t have a wake of short tenures and burned bridges in his past. The right coach can be trusted. The right coach is a “vault” when it comes to the information you’ll share. The right coach is someone you look up to — not just because of what he’s done, but because of who he is. He’s a focused, disciplined leader. He seems to have a healthy work / family rhythm, and appears to maintain healthy relationships.

Here’s how you can tell if your potential coach has real character:

  • Does this coach have healthy relationships? Who are they with?
  • Who is this coach currently learning from?
  • Who does this coach look up to?
  • How did this coach become a coach? Did he / she suffer a moral failure out of their prior vocation or “go out on top”?
  • Can I trust this coach? Has he / she mentioned any information from another client that might have violated the client’s confidence?
  • Does this coach seem to model the way in his / her own life? If I become more like my coach, will that be a good thing?

While every leader needs a coach, the type or coach you need might morph over time, depending upon your and your congregation’s needs.

One that thing won’t change is the fact that selecting the right coach takes work and effort — along with the reality that being coached isn’t always easy. Our effort will require discipline. The process can be grueling.

The scoreboard, however, will prove it’s been worth it.

Shawn Lovejoy is founder & CEO of CourageToLead.com, where he and his team coach leaders, pastors pastors, and helps them all conquer what keeps them up at night. Previously, Lovejoy served as founding and lead pastor of Mountain Lake Church in Cumming, GA, and directional leader of churchplanters.com and the annual Velocity Conference. He has written several books, including The Measure of Our Success: An Impassioned Plea to Pastors (Baker Books, 2012) and Be Mean About the Vision: Preserving and Protecting What Matters (Thomas Nelson, 2016).


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