05/27/2011 03:27 pm ET | Updated Jul 27, 2011

5 Signs They're Probably Not a Coach

As more and more people seek to run their own businesses, find their way through difficult financial situations and, in general, have the best life they can manage, many have turned to professional coaches for guidance and support. Coaches can help people and institutions grow past the limits they've set for themselves and generally keep things moving forward in a world that often trends toward inertia.

The problem lies in the fact that as the field grows, more and more people want to get in on the trend and the designation "coach" is being adopted by just about anyone looking to sell their services -- no matter how far from legitimate their claim.

The following guidelines should be of some small help to help you decide which coaches NOT to hire:

  1. If they have a certificate in coaching but no real life or business experience in a "real job" then no matter what international coaching board has credentialed them, they are apprentices and not coaches. Hire them at your own risk if you want, but don't pay full price.

  • If their rate is low and their experience is questionable, they're probably not a coach. My wife is a VERY effective home and small business organizer and, with the depth of what she accomplishes with her clients in improved results and time management, I have added her company as a resource for my coaching company. She and I find it fun when we see people whose last job description was house cleaning and now they're billing at a higher rate than other maid services, but drastically lower than an actual organizer. We literally have seen former maid services that have re-named themselves as "household organizers" or "clutter coaches" (no kidding).
  • If they do the job for you, they're probably not coaches, but consultants. If you were ever at a little league game you've seen a coach tell the kid how to get more hits, throw and field better, but you don't see the coach taking the at bat for a kid or out in left field shagging flies. It doesn't work if the job gets done for you; how can you learn and improve that way? A coach should not make you dependent on them for the long term, but empower you to succeed on your own.
  • If they have more than one job title, they're probably not a coach. I just found a "coach" in one of my Linkedin networks who is a CPA/Accountant, Financial Advisor and Life Coach. How does that work? These are usually those people who think they have a knack for telling others what they should do or think they have a gift for giving advice. If that were the case then 90% of parents-in-law (not mine of course) and my unemployed cousin, the one who everyone says "isn't living up to his potential," would be in the coaching business.
  • If their business card contains the word psychic, they're probably not a coach. Seriously, I ran into someone on the street the other day and he introduced his friend, "She's a coach too!' His friend shared her card and it said "Psychic Coach." Let's just call them an numerologist, astrologer, tarot card reader or whatever it is they actually do and, if you go in for that sort of thing, hire them for that purpose -- but not coaching.
  • I suppose it's not fair to leave this topic as just "who you don't hire" but the "how to hire a coach" topic is probably enough to fill another totally separate article and I'll take a stab at it for next week, including recommending one or two people who are world class coaches with proven results.

    In the meantime, I'd love to collect some stories about coaches, good or bad, that anyone would like to share below.