Coaching horror stories, myth or fact?

Heard horror stories about coaching, or just not sure what it’s all about? With so many myths and variations around, it can be hard to get a clear view of what the coaching process involves. Take a look at my responses to some common misconceptions. Far from your worst nightmare, a coach might just be your key ally.

Myth:  Coaches are just like trainers and all other ‘expert’ instructors.
Many people expect coaches to act like trainers or instructors, complete with lecture notes and behavioural advice. In fact, the coaching process could not be more different. Coaching achieves results not by ‘educating’ the client, but by drawing on his/her individual thinking styles, strengths, and values.  With its emphasis on building on executives’ experience and know-how, it’s no wonder this approach has taken the corporate world by storm in recent years. 

Myth:  All coaching approaches are pretty much the same. 
It is best to think of coaching as a tool – a bit like a set of chiselling tools - that can be used in various ways to achieve very different results (just think Michelangelo and your local stonemason).  In fact, nowadays the term ‘coaching’ connotes such a broad range of services that someone who says they are a ‘coach’ is telling you as much about what they do and who they are as a ‘European’ is conveying about their cultural identity.  Add to this the fact that many others who provide training and advice-based or mentoring services choose to call what they do ‘coaching’, and we have a very hazy picture of coaching indeed.  For this reason, it is important not to depend on past experiences or anecdotes about coaching when thinking through our potential relationship.  Talk to me directly about how we might work together.

Myth: Coaches are really pushy and invasive.
If you believe this stereotype, coaches are all loud extroverts who ram their views down their clients’ throat, involve themselves in 360° feedback analyses, sit in on their clients’ business meetings, and insinuate themselves into every nook and cranny of their clients’ days.  I can assure you this has nothing to do with who I am or what I do.

In fact, my work with clients is always a matter of co-operation between equals.  The relationship is not that of pushy coach vs. reluctant client.  At the same time, I am not just an empathetic listener who nods encouragingly from time to time.  Rather, the coaching process is an ongoing dialogue between two mature individuals who are working together to set goals, build successful strategies, and constantly fine-tune and improve their communication.  It is a relationship that is both challenging and supportive – and it is ultimately deeply rewarding.

Myth: Coaches make decisions for you and tell you what to do.
As a coach, I work with my clients at all stages of their decision-making.  In many cases, this will involve guiding the discussion with suggestions of possible alleys to explore, or questions to clarify what is at stake.  At the end of the day, however, my clients’ choices are 100% their own.

Myth: The longer I work with a coach, the more dependent I become
Quite on the contrary – the longer you work with a coach (at least with a professional) the more you will begin to use what you have learned about yourself and others quite automatically outside coaching. With time, you will probably want to increase the intervals between sessions, and at some point notice you don’t really need more sessions for the moment. 

Alternatively, you might decide to go for a new set of goals. Or – as some clients do – keep meeting once every three months just to make sure you stay on track! Whatever your decision – coaching may be habit-forming. But you don’t get addicted to your coach.

Myth: someone must be weak, incompetent, or can't manage properly if they need a coach.
Another coaching myth that is worth mentioning. There are people who use “needs a coach’ as a nice way of saying ‘s/he‘s a waste of time as a manager.” Yet it is usually the creative, forward thinking and successful managers who employ coaches. Some people approach me when they are at the top of their game and want keep things that way—others seek out my services when they are facing very visible problems; what all my clients have in common, is that they know they can accomplish something, and they want to turn what they know into something that they actually live. The nature of my form of coaching makes it impossible for someone who is not driven, hard working and intelligent to even complete the coaching process with me, let alone benefit from it.