If you're reading this, you've probably been in a situation where you've needed to find someone to coach or mentor you. The reasons for choosing someone can be everything from word of mouth to someone who makes you feel comfortable.
In the book, The Little Book of Talent, the author wrote an chapter about 5 ways to pick a high quality coach. As I navigated through the chapter I found that these were a good base of qualities to look for. Most had little to do with someone who makes you feel comfortable.
1. Find a Coach Who Doesn't Remind You of a Courteous Waiter: Great and courteous waiters are nice to have at a restaurant, but not so much as a coach. Great waiters focus all their efforts on making you as comfortable and happy as possible. They take care of everything and tell you not to worry about anything. If you're coach does this, he may be really nice, but in no way are you getting better.
2. Find a Coach Who Invokes a Little Fear In You: The author wasn't talking about someone you cower down to or who bullies you. He was talking about someone who you have feelings of respect, admiration and even a small amount of healthy fear. You know this coach is going to hold you accountable to a level you are not used to. They only care about your actions and not your words. They are honest with what they tell you. This truth can many times hurt, but it's with all intention of making you better.
3. Find a Coach Who Gives Short and Clear Directions: The worst coaches are those who talk too much. You can go through a whole practice or session and get nothing out of it but a head ache. Great coaches give short and clear directions. Their purpose isn't about making you feel how smart they are, but guiding you toward a target. The author wrote, "Coaching is about creating a connection and then delivering useful information."
4. Find a Coach Who Teaches Fundamentals: Fundamentals are the core of your skill and must be mastered to be great. The greatest coaches aren't interested in the fancy pants crap. They understand what it takes to be a master. They build your foundation of skill and character on the fundamentals and are relentless about perfecting them.
5. Find a Coach Whose Had Experience and Results: The author's original 5th quality was, "Other things being equal, pick the older person." I changed it because I believe age doesn't always bring results and experience. I've met some coaches in their 20's who are great and one's in their 60's who are not. Older and more experienced coaches who have gotten results were usually learners and risk takers in their early years. They have more knowledge and wisdom to bring to the table. If they've got results, and have the four characteristics above, they are probably a good choice.