Billions of dollars are spent annually on coaching people in corporations from the Chief Executive Officer on down. I’ve seen very good coaching and some so poor that it would be laughable if it were not for the missed opportunities, wasted time, money and loss of credibility. Organizations make a few mistakes in hiring coaches but they make them over and over. The top five –

  1. Hiring a coach when a different intervention is needed. This is the most frequent cause of failed coaching engagements, by a long shot. Here is a short list of issues people try to solve with coaching:
  • Personality disorders. These are not amenable to coaching. They must be dealt with in a therapeutic manner that takes time and skill. This is not a job for a colleague or someone who believes they are “good with people.” The reason this is at the top of my list is because many coaches don’t know what it is and don’t know when they are up against it. The person needs a referral, not a coach.
  • The person is a bad fit for the role they are in.
  • Poor leadership on the part of the boss and/or refusal to be involved in the process.
  • Systemic issues that would prevent even a stellar person from succeeding.

If you want to know if coaching is the right intervention, ask someone whose entire livelihood doesn’t depend upon it. Otherwise, it’s like asking a chiropractor if you need an adjustment.

2. The person is accountable for unclear objectives. If a coach is to be helpful, it should be clear what the coaching is in support of and why it is of value.

3. The organization is trying this “one last thing so we can say we did everything.” When a client asks me to coach someone that they describe in language that makes them sound dreadful, I ask, “Why don’t you fire them?” There better be some very good reasons or coaching isn’t worth it–put the money in their package and move on.

4. Coaches are hired based on meaningless criteria. For example:

  • They are “certified.” Who is certifying the programs? No one.
  • Their methodology is impressive. Coaching is a process. Methodology is not the pivotal factor.
  • Low price. A coach must be seen as a peer of the person they are helping. Period.

5. The executive selects the coach from a group. This beauty contest approach is ineffective. Rarely will the person chosen facilitate the most change. Coaching requires the coach and the leader to have the courage to keep working even when the executive is uncomfortable. Referrals from a trusted colleague yield faster and better results.

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