5. Understand what you need help with—and how the coach will help.

“Knowing what your needs are before you shop is important,” Maynard said. Before her first appointment with clients, Maynard asks them to answer two questions: 1) “What do I need to know about you to help you? (this gets at what your strengths and weaknesses are) and 2) “What do you hope to accomplish using my services?” (i.e., “what are your long-term and short-term goals?”)

As Maynard said, some clients will be very clear on what they need, such as help with time management and organization. Others will have a general statement, such as “I’m not sure I’m using my full potential at my job.” Maynard helps these clients get more specific to figure out “what’s getting in the way” and how to overcome these obstacles.

Create “a brief description of what…you want out of coaching” and then ask the prospective coach the following: “How do you think you’ll be able to help me? Have you helped someone else with this before?” “This gives a better idea if that coach is best for you.”

6. Don’t feel pressured to make a rushed decision.

After your initial session, “Don’t feel pressured to book the next appointment,” Maynard said. Be honest and let the coach know that you have appointments with other coaches to see who’s the best fit for you.

7. Have reasonable expectations.

Many people have the misconception that a coach’s role is to solve all the client’s problems or give them the secret to swiftly change their life.

One of Maynard’s clients put it perfectly in a magazine article when he said: “I am my own magic bullet.” In other words, remember that an ADHD coach is there to facilitate change, Maynard said. Maynard, a former chemist, chose the word “catalytic” for her coaching practice to capture this very idea. A catalyst initiates a chemical change. But “I can’t make it happen for you.”

A coach will offer their support, but ultimately, the client must do the work. “The answer is within, and I help them find that answer within.” It’s the idea that “I’m what I’ve got to work with,” and so you work from your strengths.

Also, remember that changes take time. Maynard works with new clients for about three months. This is usually when sustainable behavioral changes happen, she said. As time goes on, the length and frequency of sessions typically diminish—which Maynard uses as an indicator that the client is “learning how to self-initiate change and doesn’t need my support and encouragement and help as much as in the beginning.” She also suggested scheduling regular tune-ups (such as after six months or a year) to touch base and discuss progress.

8. Unsolicited advice may be a red flag.

Another misconception is that coaches tell clients what to do. As Maynard said, “I’d be wary of unsolicited advice.” Instead, coaches ask “those questions that need to be asked to help clients find the solution that’s user-friendly for them.”

Take the simple example of finding the best way to get organized. Unsolicited advice is: “What I want you to do is get an iPhone and then I want you to download these four Apps and I want you to start using XYZ for your calendar.” What Maynard and other good coaches do instead is to ask whether a client is comfortable using technology or if they prefer paper and pencil. They discuss the pros and cons of each, along with what’s going to be the most useful strategy for that client.

9. Trust your gut.

“First impressions matter,” Maynard said, so consider “your level of comfort the first time you meet” the coach. Remember that not every coach will be the right fit for you.

In addition to their credentials and experience, there needs to be a good rapport between the two of you. Not only do you need to trust your coach, but it helps to be able to laugh with them and even joke around about what went wrong, she said. So if the coach makes you uncomfortable or you just don’t click, it’s fine to move on to your next prospect.