I do a lot of coaching/training in effective communication and conflict resolution. I have attended trainings, seminars, and worked with coaches of my own. The one thing I have learned from every event: you never know for sure if it is going to give you anything useful until after you are involved. You either walk away with things you can apply or you don’t. Sometimes you think you have things you can apply and they just don’t work in the real world.
Many of us have been burned more than once. I know I have. I went to a seminar that was advertised to provide all ends and outs of using virtual support (among other things). There was even a guarantee that you could get your money back if you decided the seminar wasn’t for you. But here is the catch – you had to ask for your money back before the end of the first day and the virtual support stuff (what I wanted to know) wasn’t being taught on the first day. I am sad to say I stuck with it even though I felt like I knew more about the topic being taught than the instructor. I wish I had gone with my gut, left and asked for my money back because when they finally got around to telling us about virtual support the sum total of the information was “hire our company”. Clearly that seminar was a waste of my hard earned pennies.
I hear stories like that with disheartening regularity. Many businesses and individuals hold off on bringing in a coach or doing training because calculating ROI is challenging and there is a risk of the time and money being a waste. To do more than just plod along doing what we’ve always done, we need new skills and since this isn’t the Matrix we can’t just download them to our brains. We have to be taught.
As a provider and user of training/coaching services I have come up with a few tips to help you make sure you are getting your money’s worth:
How did you find this person? The majority of the time people find coaches by referral (as far as I know no one has used a search engine and randomly asked me to be their executive coach). When you are given a name, don’t be afraid to ask a few questions and really listen to the answers. It is surprising to me how often people are on the fence about their coach and still recommend him/her. They say they “don’t know anyone else and want to be helpful.” If you aren’t thrilled with your coach, find another one and please, please, please, don’t refer the old one.
Do some legwork. Once you have a name, use your favorite search engine. If the person you are thinking about hiring has no or very little information online, be concerned. In today’s world anyone who makes their living coaching or training should have a plethora of information for you to find. Do you like what you see? Is there depth to it? Does their blog provide useful information or are they talking about the latest sporting event and their kids?
What are their qualifications? The answers I get when I ask how/why someone became a coach can be absolutely frightening. I recently had someone tell me she is a coach because she “Doesn’t want to work a 9-5 job” and she didn’t finish college. Wow, need I say more?
Talk to him/her. This is where the rubber meets the road. A good coach/trainer will make time to have a conversation with you – pro bono – to find out what you need and if he/she is qualified to provide it to you. I would never accept a client who I didn’t talk to first. I want them to know me and to be able to decide if I am a good personality fit for them. (If you are thinking about attending a large seminar, this step might not be an option but personality also isn’t as big an issue.)
Be willing to make an investment. Good coaching comes at a price, both time and money. That is not to say that spending a lot guarantees a good coach. However, a good coach will have invested in gaining the knowledge he/she will be sharing. So unless you are getting a really awesome, typically well compensated coach at his/her not-for-profit rate or pro-bono, be wary of low end quotes.
Those are the tips I have for you. What did I leave out? How do you choose a coach, trainer or seminar? Have you ever invested in one that simply didn’t work for you? In hindsight, were there any warning signs? I would love to hear your experience in the comments.