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A good coaching outcome requires a good coaching relationship. Asking the right questions in the beginning sets the tone for a strong coaching partnership.

And finding a good coach isn’t just about the coach’s credentials. For a one-to-one coaching partnership to work, a strong match on several fronts is required. A coach who was great with your friend in marketing, for instance, may not be the best choice for you.

Here’s what you need to know about choosing a coach and establishing a solid partnership.

To begin with, you should ask yourself What do I expect from this coaching engagement? What is my purpose? What am I trying to accomplish? What kind of commitment am I giving?

Consider the expectations of your boss or organization, too. Whether you choose your own coach or are assigned one, you want to be sure that the coach has experience and skills that will help you face your goals and challenges.

As you get underway, the two of you will likely have a face-to-face meeting to get a good feel for each other and begin to build rapport and trust. You’ll want to make your goals and expectations as clear as possible; the coach will also be clear about his or her approach and expectations.

You’ll want to consider the practical aspects of your coaching relationship by asking these 4 questions:

  1. How will coaching sessions take place? One benefit of executive coaching is that professional coaches can work with you in many ways: face-to-face meetings, by phone, by e-mail or in combinations of these. Think about your preferences and talk to the coach about the ways he or she works with clients.
  2. What kind of schedule will work best? Talk about the frequency of coaching sessions, but also consider when and how the coach is available to you at other times. Is the coach accessible when you need to report and acknowledge progress, or discuss barriers and problems, or get questions answered about the process?
  3. How is confidentiality handled? Coaching requires you to reveal a lot about yourself and your organization, and it’s only effective if you’re willing and able to do so.
  4. How are fees and payments handled? Even if coaching isn’t paid out of your pocket, you should understand the financial arrangement. Do any coaching services incur additional costs? Under what conditions are you charged for cancelled appointments? What happens if you are forced to discontinue the coaching engagement?

Remember, coaching is a 2-way relationship. You have your responsibilities and the coach has his or hers. Your job is to take an active role in the process and to be receptive to new ways of understanding yourself, to new perspectives and to new ways of acting.

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