Finding the Right Coach To Accelerate Your Growth

In a previous article, we highlighted the benefits of working with a professional coach, whether you’re a corporate executive, entrepreneur, solopreneur or anything in between. Now, learn how to hire the coach that’s right for you and how to structure your working relationship for success.

We’ll hear from two Atlanta businesswomen on this topic: Jodie Charlop, a professional coach, and Tricia Dempsey, founder and president of Agile, an IT staffing and consulting firm.

How do I get started working with a coach?

First, identify areas where you would benefit from working with a coach. Once you’ve identified your pain points, Charlop and Dempsey suggest reaching out to your network for referrals.

Schedule a time to speak with each coach in person or over the phone. Charlop recommends interviewing two or three coaches. “Even on referrals,” she says, “you have to connect with people. I would want someone to be more informed before choosing than giving it a try and not being comfortable.”

What questions should I ask prospective coaches?

  1. How would you help me work toward my goals? This is their opportunity to showcase their skills with a mini-coaching session. Pay attention to the questions the coach asks you and how you feel during the mini-session. “Growth is about getting out of your comfort zone,” says Charlop. “Find somebody you feel comfortable growing with, somebody you feel comfortable being vulnerable with.”
  2. What type of executives do you work with the most? Look for a coach who specializes in working with people in similar situations as yours, whether it’s entrepreneurs in startups, middle management or executives at larger, mature-stage companies.
  3. In which industries do you have the most experience? Look for depth of experience in your industry rather than a specific number of years. The more experience a coach has in your industry, the more value they can provide. Also, an advanced degree or a coaching certificate/certification is helpful but not necessarily an indicator that the coach will be right for you. 
  4. What results have you achieved with your clients? If coaching is an investment, then a good coach should be able to prove how they deliver a return on that investment. Also, take note if their success stories protect the confidentiality of their clients.

Additional questions for consideration:

  • How did you get into coaching?
  • What would your other clients say about you?
  • What else should I know about you to help me make my decision?

How often should I meet with my coach?

Charlop and Dempsey agree that coaching is very goal-specific, so your meeting schedule will vary. Some projects may require frequent meetings, while others may work better monthly.

Pacing is critical. You need time in between sessions to work on your goals. According to Charlop, you want “enough sense of urgency that you’re taking action but not so much that it feels like a third job.”

What are some red flags when it comes to coaches?

  1. Coaches who take a “therapy” approach. Over the years, Dempsey has experienced a few negative coaching experiences. She says, “When I’ve hired coaches who wanted to focus more on therapy issues, I end up being disappointed with the results.”
  2. Coaches who promise unrealistic results. If a coach paints a picture that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Always have a written contract that clearly states how sessions will be structured and billed. And don’t forget to have them sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Beyond your typical ROI

Coaches help you grow as a leader, but the benefits have the potential to reach far beyond you and your business. Charlop says it best: “If you can change one leader, you can change a culture. You can have so much impact by setting off that ripple effect with one leader, one team, one division, one workplace. If you can build a better ecosystem for people, then we have time to go home, love our families, grow our communities and make the world a better place. If the work I do is helping build leaders, it’s not just helping businesses be more successful. It’s helping build vibrant communities.”

If you’re ready to make the leap from good to great, that first step is up to you!


Jodie Charlop is a professional coach who helps clients transform from technically brilliant producers to powerful leaders by tackling blind spots that may be stealing their leadership power. With more than 25 years of experience in corporate and professional service settings, along with advanced study in psychology and human behavior, her coaching and consulting experience spans Fortune 500 and high-growth public companies, pre-IPO start-up ventures, government agencies, professional service firms, and educational institutions. Prior to her coaching career, Jodie held senior- and executive roles in professional services and technology firms in Atlanta and Silicon Valley. She successfully launched a professional development and career strategy coaching program for the Emory University Alumni Association and is co-creator of Emory Coach Chat. She has served executive education programs as a guest coach in the Emory University Goizueta Business School and as Adjunct Faculty at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. Today, Jodie teams with her coaching and consulting partners at Exceleration Partners on leadership initiatives that integrate best practices and pioneering approaches. Catch Jodie for a coffee at Roam Dunwoody or reach out at [email protected] or 404-378-6793.

In 2003, Tricia Dempsey founded Agile, an innovative IT staffing and consulting firm that speeds time to talent by matching great people to great opportunities, enabling clients to drive business results and create competitive advantage. Agile has consistently been recognized as one of the fastest growing companies in the US by Inc. Magazine, Staffing Industry Analysts, and the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Most recently, Agile has been recognized as a 2017 Best Staffing Firm To Work For by Staffing Industry Analysts. Agile is a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Employment Enterprises (NYSE: JOB), a specialty staffing services and solutions company with 14 locations across the United States. Agile is a values-driven organization committed to community involvement and charitable causes. Through Agile on the Green, the firm’s annual golf tournament, Agile has raised more than $320,000 for Komen for the Cure – Greater Atlanta Affiliate. For more information, visit www.gotoagile.com or call 678-722-8200.

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