Whether you have been flipping through the pages of the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal or even Elle Canada, you might have noticed more advertisements for professional coaching services.

Coaching is on the rise, says April-Lynn Levitt, a coach with the Personal Coach in Oakville, Ont., especially in the financial services sector. That’s partly because many firms have had to tighten their belts since the financial crisis of 2008-09, and practice-management support was one of the first services to get cut.

“Advisors often find themselves isolated,” Levitt adds. “There aren’t as many offices where [advisors] are clustered together and can learn from each other.”

This absence of shared knowledge has many advisors turning to professional coaches for advice. Levitt offers some tips on how to pick the coach that’s right for you:

> Understand your needs
Before you can choose a coach, Levitt says, you must know what you need.

Not all coaches are the same, nor do they share the same level of expertise. For example, there are personal coaches, life coaches, and business coaches — to name just a few.

So your first step in choosing a coach is identify what you are looking for. Do you need help in staying motivated amid the stresses of the daily grind? Or, do you need someone who can give you specific, practical business advice on issues such as creating a business plan or marketing your services?

In addition to thinking about what you need to learn, consider how you learn.
For example, do you require one-on-one coaching services, or are you better at learning in a group environment in which you can discuss issues with other advisors? Will your coach work only with you or do you want someone who will work with your entire team?

Similarly, do you need to meet in person, or can you receive your coaching over the phone or on the web?

> Pick a style
If you’re a basketball fan, you may be aware of the different approaches of Bobby Knight, the legendary coach of the NCAA Indiana Hoosiers, and Phil Jackson, who coached the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA.

While both men won championships at their respective levels, their approaches to coaching were diametrically opposite.

Knight was bombastic, high-strung and infamous for launching into overblown sideline tirades. By contrast, Jackson is known as the “zen master” because of his cerebral and systematic approach to planning and execution.

So, while you would never expect a business coach to throw tirades from the sidelines, you should find out about a prospective coach’s style by setting up a preliminary consultation. Ask the coach about the methods he or she plans to use in helping you build your practice, Levitt says.

> Shop around
Even if the first coach you meet appears ideal, Levitt says, continue to assess candidates. Evaluate factors such as cost and your overall rapport with the coach.

“Ask lots of questions and shop around as you would when buying a car,” says Jasmin Bergeron, a Montreal-based public speaker and director of the MBA program in financial services at l’Université du Québec à Montréal. “A great coach can make a huge difference. Be selective.”

> Check credentials
Before starting to work with a coach, Levitt says, ask if you can speak to a few of his or her current or former clients for more feedback.

Start by asking situational questions, such as: “How did the coach help guide you through a difficult situation and provide a helpful solution?”

As well, ask the coach about his or her credentials or certification. For example, is the coach certified through the Lexington, Ky.-based International Coach Federation (ICF)?

If the coach is not ICF certified, that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is incapable of helping you, Levitt says. It’s just another variable to consider when you are making a decision.