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Five steps to finding your perfect product coachFive steps to finding your perfect product coachFive steps to finding your perfect product coach

Five steps to finding your perfect product coach

Finding the right product coach for your needs can be a real challenge. For a start, product coaching isn't a clearly defined practice. Neither, in fact, is the term 'coaching'.

So, with such a lack of clarity on what a coach is, how do you decide whether you need one? If you do want a coach, how do you decide what kind? And when you know what kind of coach you need, how do you actually find a good one?

At The Product Refinery, all our product coaches are experienced product leaders who help can help clients find solutions to their problems through coaching, teaching and sound advice. But even with that in mind, some coaches are better matches for particular clients than others.

In this article, we'll take a quick look at the process we use to help clients find their perfect coach. It's just five steps and you can use it yourself to find your perfect product coach. So, let's jump in with the first step.

Step 1: Start with the challenge you want to overcome

It sounds simple, but getting really clear on your challenge before you start looking for help will make your search for the right product coach much easier. Bear in mind that you might need to spend a little time unpacking things to get to the real challenge you need to work on. Self-coaching with our Lean Coaching Canvas can be an effective way to start with this, as can simply asking yourself the same question several times like 'And what would that get me?' or 'And what else?'.

Step 2: Analyse your gaps

If you've got a bit more clarity on what your challenge is, you can make a snapshot of where you're currently at with it, and you can start deciding what kind of help you need.

Consider:

  • What skills and knowledge would you need to solve the problem?
  • What else is blocking you (eg. feeling overwhelmed, limited resources etc.)?
  • What have you tried so far? What did/didn't work and why?

Step 3: Define what you need in a coach

By now, you should have built up a relatively clear picture of what you want a coach to help you with, so it's time to prioritise your own requirements.

Start by imagining your perfect coach:

  • What kind of knowledge and experience would they need to have for you to feel confident that they could help you overcome your challenge?
  • What would you expect in terms of their personality and how they interact with you? For example, do you want someone who will push you really hard or who will take things at a slower pace?
  • What logistical factors do you need? Think about what budget you have available, what time you'd need to do sessions, the language they are in etc.

Now prioritise your requirements. You can use MoSCoW (Must have, should have, could have, will not have) or another system if you prefer (if you're a PM, you no doubt have a system for prioritising already). The important thing is to be really honest about the priorities.

When you review your requirements, you can consider options other than coaching. You might find that getting some help from a consultant or taking an online course is a better fit. Assuming you are still looking for a coach, though, let's move onto the next step.

Step 4: Search

It's time to find your coach. The first place to start is often recommendations from peers. If you know someone who has overcome a similar challenge with the help of a coach, just ask them about whether the coach might meet your requirements – if they do, that makes this step easy for you.

If you're using a search engine, in addition to terms like 'product coaching', consider being more specific and search for the challenge you are facing. For example, if you know you need help with discovery, try searching for the specific part of discovery you need help with, for example 'Prioritising customer problems to solve' and see if there are any coaches or agencies who have specialist offerings. You'll be surprised at how many of the people creating content on these topics are also great coaches.

There are plenty of other places to look beyond a Google search, such as:

  • YouTube – lots of coaches also create video content. You can use it to see if their knowledge and approach match what you are looking for.
  • Linkedin – there are groups dedicated to coaching and a simple search will turn up thousands of people you can connect with that you can search by the various criteria in your requirements.
  • Books – you'd be surprised by how many authors offer coaching. If there's a particular book on the challenge you've been working on, take a look at the author's website and see if they offer coaching.
  • Conferences – as with books, you'd be surprised how many of the speakers can offer private coaching. It's usually quite expensive, though.

Step 5: Shortlist and decide

It's a good idea to explore a few options when you are considering a coach, so make a shortlist then narrow it down further to get to your final decision. As you're doing that, you might want to bear in mind:

  • Recommendations and testimonials – see whether the coach has worked with similar people to yourself. The testimonials they choose to put on their site will also likely be a reflection of the elements of their coaching that they are most proud of.
  • Free consultation or taster calls – most coaches and agencies happily jump on a call to discuss your requirements in more detail. If you've already completed the steps in this article so far, you'll be really well prepared for this call and able to make the most of it.

Once you've been through this process, you can revisit your requirements and it should be relatively easy to choose the best product coach for you.

Need a little more help?

So, those are our tips on how to get yourself matched with the best product coach to suit your needs. Sometimes, though, even the working out what your challenge is can be a little overwhelming. If that's the case for you, we're happy to have a quick chat with you and help you find the right coach to overcome your challenges.

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Wil Procter

Head of Learning at The Product Refinery, Wil has been working in digital learning since the early 2000s designing digital learning experiences and building learning teams to solve the interesting problems that arise when learning and technology meet.

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