Millions of dollars are spent annually on coaching people in corporations from the Chief Executive Officer to Managers. I’ve seen very good coaching and some so poor that it would be laughable but for the missed opportunities, wasted time, money and loss of credibility. Organizations make a few mistakes in hiring coaches and 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 I’ve seen companies try to solve with coaching:

  • Personality disorders. These are psychiatric disorders that are not amenable to coaching of any kind. 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.” A professional with validated ability is needed.
  • 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 is not derived from it.

2. The person is accountable for unclear objectives. If a coach is to be helpful, it should be clear what the coaching is to achieve 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.” Training programs for coaches need meet no standards themselves. You could start one tomorrow and be giving out certificates in no time.
  • Their methodology has a “gee whiz” factor. It’s still an input.
  • Low price. A coach must be seen as a peer of the person they are helping. This is impossible if the fees suggest low value.

5. Coaching as “standard issue.” By definition, the outcome is an input. The person was “coached” – hurray! A better question is – what is different?

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