Are you on the hunt for the right coach to help you work with your neurodiversity?

Do you know what you should really be looking for in a coach?

Choosing a coach is soooo much easier if you follow the 4Cs. And if you are using your own hard-earned cash and funding the coaching yourself, you could save your cash and stress down the line.

So what are the key elements that make up the coaching chemistry? How do you find the thinking partner that’s the right fit to help you develop and grow in self-awareness and self-management?

Look for these 4 Cs, and you won’t go wrong.

1st C is for contract.

        Contract is Queen (or King). As fundamental to coaching as carbon is to human life, THE most important thing to consider is your coach’s contracting. Without it, the coaching can turn into a mess. Yes, I do mean the ‘paper’ document they issue to you as a prospective client. It’s got all the terms and conditions on, like how much sessions cost, when/where you’re going to meet, how often. It should also give you information about what coaching is and isn’t.

        A good contract will also give you some idea of the coach’s professional standing and start to put in place psychological boundaries around how you’re going to work together. You may find yourself asked for some documents/evidence like diagnostic assessments, psychometric reports. All this is good, I tell you. They want to check that they are the right coach for your development needs. It also helps you get a sense of whether you are going to get the best deal.

        If your coach doesn’t talk about contract within the first couple of sentences of considering work together, walk away. Similarly, if your coach doesn’t keep referring to the contract and making sure this is what you set out to do, they may not be managing the coaching relationship or the work outcomes.

        Contract really does rule and helps provide the administrative, professional and psychological safety that’s the solid foundation for your learning and progress.

        2nd C is for connection.

        If you can, ask for a short chemistry call to see if you and the coach are going to make a great team. 15 mins should tell you what you need to know; check in with what you are thinking when you talk to them. What are you feeling? Do you feel like they are going to give you the high support and high challenge you need to develop? Are they making you feel heard? Are they clear in the way they talk to you? Are they present with you in the conversation? Do you trust them and feel you can be real with them? Do you feel you can have fun with them, too?

        Sometimes, a chemistry call won’t be possible because you’ll be allocated a coach by your employer, for example. If this is the case, I advise you to make the most of the email communications between you to see if there’s enough rapport for an effective relationship. Ask your coach to tell you a bit about their experience, do they have any feedback they can share from previous clients? Tell them a bit about you and what you hope to get out of the coaching. And check in what you think and feel about their emails with you.

        I can tell you this straight that a good coach will be checking you out too with how you establish rapport with them. They’ll be looking at whether they can work with you.

        They won’t be looking to be your bestie but they will be gauging whether they can coach you based on how you communicate.

        Health warning: if the coach is very warm and super-friendly, that’s not a good sign. You want someone who is firm, approachable, and trustworthy in their emails/phone call and, critically, able to observe boundaries. Because, yes, you want someone to help and encourage you, but you also need to be able to work independently and not become ‘enmeshed’ in each other’s lives.

        3rd C is for compliance.

          What I mean by this is: does the coach have membership of a professional body? If it’s not obvious in their comms with you, or on their website, ask them in the chemistry/connection building bit. Because if they do belong to the International Coaching Federation, for example, they should comply to its professional requirements and uphold the ethical and practitioner competencies that go along with being a member of that professional body. Remember there are lots of coaching organisation with lots of different letters: Association of Coaching, APECs, EMCC…due diligence is called for because you need to have a skilled coach who is going to do their best to provide you with high impact but light ‘touch’ in their coaching approach.

          Bear in mind that ANYONE can call themselves a coach. It’s why coaching has got a bit of a dodgy reputation. But make no mistake, there are brilliant coaches out there with no professional membership/accreditation. How will you know if they are as good as their website says they are? At least if the coach has membership of a professional body, they will have access to some continuous professional development and must coach within the ethical guidelines, including accessing supervision which supports compliance. It also means then that if you work with them and believe you have experienced malpractice, you can complain to their professional body.

          4th C is for certification.

            Like compliance, certification can be a nice-to-have in a coach. Some practising coaches can have a level 5 or level 7 in coaching/mentoring. These can be great qualifications that help the coach work with you professionally and ethically. They will have learnt how to work only within their competence/coaching specialism and know exactly when they might be being stretched beyond their knowledge and skills and need to refer their client on.

            I’m not going to lie, though. There are wonderful lived experience coaches who also have a natural flair for coaching. They know their stuff, know what a boundary looks like in coaching and are 100% aware when they feel pulled out of their role. It’s fair to say that a qualification can mean nothing in the wrong hands. There are coaches with certificates by the bagful, and they practise in ways I’d consider unwise and inappropriate, even unethical.

            So, if the contract and connection haven’t given you enough chemistry to have a sense of whether the coach is the solution to your coaching need, look at certification and compliance as additional factors in your decision-making.

            With the 4Cs, you’ll hopefully now have some clarity about what you need to be looking for in your coach… and the chemical reaction will give you great results.

            Emma A