Several years ago when I was running continuing education programs in business at NYU, two faculty members approached me about creating a program in coaching. As an intrapreneur, I championed the program and also took the classes. Coaching is a very valuable skill set, so as an entrepreneur, I’ve benefited from having coaches to hold me accountable, set and keep goals for starting and running a business.

I’ve been out of the “business” of coaching for a while, but I asked one of my former classmates, who has since taught in the NYU program about the best way to find a coach. Cindy Cornell, Principal of the Hoshin Group, told me that, these days, coaching can mean different things to different people.

What To Expect 

“As a coach, I focus on the individual having their own answers, and I facilitate them getting those answers. They can’t expect me to have better answers than they do about their own business or their life,” said Cornell.

Coaches see your potential. A coach asks curious questions and helps you to get clear about “what you want to create or invite into your life or business. They also try to stretch you to move farther than you’ve done on your own. If you say you’re going to call 5 leads this week, a coach will ask you how you’ll do 10 instead. You’re bringing all the content to conversation. I’m helping you to organize and see it in a different way and come to different conclusions than you might have come to on your own.”

Coaching Plus Expertise

If you have a specific area where you need both coaching and expertise, some coaches find a way to balance the two, without making it a full “consulting” relationship. “Its an important distinction to be aware of,” said Cornell, “I just hired a coach to help me get my book out by June. There are goals and accountability, but there’s also an expectation that he’ll provide some answers for me.”

In addition to book coaches, there are coaches for business growth, relationships, and I’ve even coached and provided expertise on social media for several executives. The Internet is literally filled with people who want to offer their expertise as a coach. So be wary.

How do you find a coach?

The best way is to ask friends or colleagues ask if they know someone. If they do, and ask if they’d have a good rapport with you. “The number one thing needed is a good rapport,” said Cornell, “You as client need to be comfortable so you can be open, honest and vulnerable in the coaching relationship so you can move forward.”

If you don’t have a personal recommendation, Cornell highly recommends the International Coach Federation (ICF) website.  They have a section for tips about hiring a coach, questions to ask, and a video about how to select a coach. Those coaches are certified through ICF, but you should still perform due diligence. Ask for referrals, interview several coaches or even a sample session. Coaches that subscribe to the ICF code of ethics consider confidentiality of strict importance. Cornell said, “You should expect that one of the first things a coach will tell you is that conversations are privileged and confidential.”

How Much Will I Spend?

As in any profession, there are people who will charge a lower rate, and top earners with books and regular speaking engagements at the top of the food chain. Coaching rates can vary from $50 an hour for those starting out to $500 for top coaches and over $1000 an hour for those famous coaches.

Cornell says that her rates vary based on the client. “I will do pro-bono or charge a minimal amount for folks who I know can’t afford coaching. Then there are executive and corporate clients who are investing time and money, and I’m bringing not only coaching experience but several decades of business experience so they’re happy to pay higher rates. To determine what you should pay, think about what are you trying to achieve, and what is that worth to you.”

Cornell was in accounting and finance before coaching, and she wants people to be delighted with their investment.  “I hope writing a check is something they do with pleasure rather than thinking about paying a bill.”

Coaching in business, like in sports, is about helping you reach your highest potential. That means you’ll have do to work each week, otherwise you won’t see improvements. Ultimately, you also have to suspend disbelief and think about how things could be, rather than how they are. “I’ve seen people move from a place of challenge to happy successful lives,” said Cornell. “What you put in is what you get out of coaching.”