Find a Great Coach and be Coachable

John Bates in his debate heyday

I recently got this question in my online course discussion area from one of the very cool folks at, which is run by a hero of mine, Brant Cooper and his brilliant partner Aaron Eden. This participant said: “Excellent presentation, enjoying it very much. Your finding your coach was kismet. Please tell those of us without that destiny, how do we go about finding the right coach?”

She is right, I got incredibly lucky. At my local high school in Salt Lake City, Utah (out of sheer luck), I had a world-class debate and speaking coach named DL Smith who is someone I love and respect deeply to this day. I had a fabulous debate colleague named Jeff Kurrus, that’s us in the photo, HA! And, I’m clear about this: It was pure, dumb luck that I 1.) ended up with a great coach, and 2.) was coachable! I just thought DL was soooo cool that I did anything he said. Not because I was so committed to being coachable, it was just because I respected him so much. LUCKY, yes. Below are some of the smarter things that I’ve heard about finding a great coach.

Find a Great Coach.

First off, find someone who can do what you want to do, well. If you want help becoming a millionaire, I’m not the guy for you…yet. In other words, if you’re looking for a wealth coach, find someone who is wealthy. I’m getting better at the business of speaking, but what I excel at is assisting people with their content, delivery, perspective, mindset, presence, storytelling, intentionality, and so on. I won’t pretend to be a wealth coach. I’m a good leadership communications coach, though.

Look at the evidence of their work; their track record. If they have proven they can do well what you want to do well that’s the first step. Then, find out if they can actually coach others to do what they’ve done. They need to be able to articulate what worked for them in a way that allows you to emulate it. Find out what the other people they’ve worked with say about them and their ability to actually coach people. As you already know, word of mouth is the most powerful way people generate business and asking your friends or colleagues for referrals is one good way to find someone. You can ask things like: What specific accomplishments did their coach assist them with? Did they have any actual, tangible results out of the coaching? Did they like working with that specific coach? You can also ask what they’re paid, if you feel it’s appropriate.

Verify, Then Trust Your Gut.

Then, do some research on your own and if you feel good about it, have a conversation with them, and do a gut check. When I talk with people I always try to make sure that I give them some good, useful ideas just in case they don’t end up working with me, so I can make a difference for them, anyway. See if they have anything you think is insightful or useful for you in that exploratory conversation. If they’re so worried they can’t tell you anything useful until you pay them, well, that’s a scarcity approach. I believe that is less powerful than an abundance approach.

Something I think is interesting about coaching/coachable dynamic is that someone like Tiger Woods had more than one coach, at a time in his life when he was the best golfer in the world. Someone less coachable might have thought he didn’t need them… None of them could beat him at golf, that’s true, or they would have! But, they had him beating everyone else in the world for what seemed like forever! He had great coaches and he was coachable. Take the coaching. Try it out, and keep doing what works!

And, if you feel like what they’re telling you to do is not in line with your style, your desires and who you want to be, try it on, and if it still doesn’t fit, find someone else! You MUST find someone you believe in enough that you can be deeply coachable if you want to really get a different outcome. And, be ready, many times the initial changes are scary and the habits you have are difficult to change. You can always go back to your old ways, but if you want different outcomes then what you do has to change; who you are being must change.

Find a Great Coach and Be Coachable – It Takes Both to Succeed.

Find a great coach and be coachable is the first step. Next, check-in with yourself. What is your willingness to learn and embrace change? There are two really important parts of the equation. Find a great coach is the first part. Be coachable, is the second part. It takes both to be successful.

I hope that’s useful to you. Let me know if it opens up other questions for you!

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