Top Qualities in a Professional Development Coach

What to consider when searching for a personal coach to help develop your career. 

by Joanne Gouaux • More.com Member { View Profile }
Photograph: iStock

Change is a constant in life. There are times I feel nimble and motivated. During those times, it seems as though life is forging ahead on a track of well-laid plans. There are other times when the constant momentum of running a business and staying fully engaged in my personal life in a meaningful way all seem to blur from one to-do list into another. My cup bubbles over, and not necessarily in the best sense of the metaphor. When my best laid plans run up against unexpected obstacles, I often wonder what it would be like to have the counsel of a coach, a trusted advocate and mentor to help me navigate, assess and fine tune my direction and goals. I've listened to friends share their experiences with life and career coaches. Those who have had positive experiences are enthusiastic proponents of the investment.

But, I'll admit that I'm a loyal student of research. I believe in the value of doing one's "homework" ahead of time. In considering the investment in a personal and career coach, I approached the subject with my typical fervent curiosity. I read up on experts in traversing transitions and cultivating positive personal change. Next, I narrowed my focus to a career coaches who specialize in working with women in business and entrepreneurial roles.  

In the course of my research, I've come across some fascinating people, books, and video clips. Through a bit of serendipity, I had the opportunity to engage a brilliant woman in this conversation. Her name is Benecia Ponder, Certified Executive Life Coach and founder of Benecia Ponder Enterprises, a full-service, personal and professional development company with a mission to help entrepreneurs build successful enterprises and total life well-being. She is trained by the Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute, and is a thought-provoking sage, galvanized by a wealth of life and business experience. A former lawyer and business development strategist, Benecia has a concise methodology to improve work performance and effectiveness, and is equally well attuned to the emotional and spiritual needs of women in business — a high energy group, susceptible to over committing, who routinely overlook their own personal development in exchange for taking on more in all areas of their career and personal life.  

I am a passionate believer in the merit of shared knowledge, and inclusive support of fellow entrepreneurs.  Having said this, it seems only fitting to share a few key insights that Benecia outlined for me as the groundwork for women in search of a coach.      

Question: What kind of coach should one invest in? What kind of coaches should be avoided?

Benecia Ponder: The field of coaching is still relatively new and there is no set standard for the profession, anyone can put up a website and claim to be a coach. For this reason, it is extremely important that people seeking coaching services do their research before hiring a coach. The top qualities you should look for in a coach are:

1. Someone with experience and proven results. Look for testimonials and ask for referrals.

2. Someone who specializes. You wouldn't go to a criminal attorney to handle your divorce or a podiatrist to perform your heart surgery. Recognizing the value in specialization is equally as important in the field of coaching.

3. Someone who is credible. Credibility starts with the coach's credentials. You want a coach that has received formal training and adheres standards of professional ethics such as those set by the International Coaching Federation.

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