People choose to hire professional coaches for a variety of reasons. Generally, there is an area of their business or personal life that could be working better. A business owner wants to increase his revenue by forty-percent this year. An executive director wants to improve the cohesiveness and strategic thinking of her team. An author wants to promote his book but doesn’t hold people’s interest when he speaks. A woman in her fifties wants to begin dating again.

Even when people are not sure what they want or how to make their life better, people choose to hire a professional coach because they believe that something else is possible. They recognize that investing in a coach gives them an opportunity to move past what they currently see and know in order to design a new reality. They are willing to take a leap of faith and do the work.

There are standards in place for coaches and the training programs that provide their education and certification. Asking a coach about his or her background and certification   is one way to gauge the level of training and experience a person has. Most reliable training programs are accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF). A coach who has invested in the training and certification process will welcome an inquiry about her credentials.

Yet the single most important thing that makes a coach worth the investment is not something that can be measured on paper or truly assessed before engaging. The most important thing a coach can do is to earn the client’s trust that the coach will see the client with new eyes in each and every interaction.

Before each call or meeting with a client, I take a moment to meditate and visualize. I envision my client with his or her full potential expressed. I free my mind of any stories I may have created about my client based on our previous interactions. I get excited to see who my client is today.

In a coaching relationship, clients often share what they feel are their greatest flaws, shortcomings, or vulnerabilities. During interactions with a coach, clients may be insecure, confused, meek, or overly authoritative. It is the coach’s responsibility to be with clients exactly where they are in that moment. After the interaction is complete, a skilled coach returns to center and brings no presumptions or expectations to the next meeting. Through this process, clients are free to create themselves exactly as they want to be.

Coaching is a transformative process and the speed at which people recreate themselves surpasses any other process I have seen. I am honored to be a part of my clients’ processes and to be able see how much they transform from one week’s meeting to the next. I am mindful that each client’s pace and process is unique. Yes, I review my notes between our sessions, yet the single most important thing I can offer my client is complete freedom to express the ways they have grown since our last interaction.

What question can you ask to gauge a coach’s ability to do this? I suggest people ask the coach about his or her process. Ask her what she does just before she gets on a call with a client. Ask him about what he sees is his role in his client’s transformation. Listen carefully to the answers and see what resonates with you.

The real test, though, is what you experience when you engage with the coach over time. Does your coach reference pieces of your perspective or story that you have already moved past, or does your coach ask questions that continually keep the process and conversation moving forward? How well does your coach affirm and see your potential in each and every conversation? At the end of an interaction with your coach, how is your energy level? Do you leave the meeting feeling enthusiastic and called to action?

Engaging with a coach is an investment of time and financial resources. Be sure that the person you have chosen to work with is working for you. If it is not a good fit, trust in the value of coaching and find another person who can pace with you in the way you need.