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Why life coaching (and other generalized coaching services) are a crock!

If you think about the best athletes, musicians, and even political candidates, they all have something in common. In order to continuously raise the bar in their performance, they engage with the best coaches, trainers, and mentors.


There is a growing recognition that coaching is not remedial, but a means of gaining perspective, obtaining specific and regular feedback, and helping to ensure that energy remains directed towards achieving individual goals. Herein however lies the problem. The growing demand has resulted in a plethora of business and life coaches. With so many choices, and low barriers of entry into the coaching profession (even credentials come easy!), how can anyone be sure which coach is the right fit? More importantly, how will you realize the value you expect from the relationship?


Based on our coaching work with dozens of clients, as well as having worked with coaches and mentors for nearly a decade, we have identified five key steps we help our best clients apply in order to maximize the return on their investment.


Be clear on your purpose: Selecting a coach is a strategic decision intended to progress performance in specific areas, while further exploiting and building upon strengths. Clearly identifying the purpose of entering a coaching relationship, and your desired outcomes, is a must if the relationship is to provide both true value and a return on your investment. Consider the last time you partnered with a business professional such as a lawyer. You reached out to meet with or discuss your needs with a lawyer, ensuring your intent for pursing a relationship was clear. In a coaching relationship, both parties must be clear on the intended outcomes.


Preparation requires interaction: Athletic coaches spend considerable time assessing the performance of their team members; identifying strengths and weaknesses. In addition to this assessment, a one-on-one discussion identifying the specific goals and ambitions of the team member is held to allow the coach to create a unique improvement plan that improves on individual weaknesses, exploits strengths, and moves each team member in the direction of their desires. Be wary of personal or professional coaches who use standard online assessments and email discussions to develop a framework for the coaching arrangement. A valuable relationship must be personalized and developed in a personalized setting to gain clarity around the desired outcomes and optimal approaches.


You don’t need another friend: An effective learning environment involves mutual respect, honesty, and candor. Most of us experience this form of relationship in academic learning and dealings with doctors, lawyers, and dentists. Information shared may be intimate, but the neutrality of the relationship allows for a dynamic of both challenge and growth, without regard for tarnishing relationships or hurt feelings. A true coaching relationship is not a friendship, and should never evolve into such. The relationship must be one of mutual respect, honesty, and trust if significant outcomes are to be reached.


Quality versus quantity: One misconception in a coaching arrangement is that the value of the relationship is based on the time spent with the coach. A quality coaching relationship is one that is based on the value obtained from the discussions and feedback. On average, the discussions I have with my mentor, Dr. Alan Weiss, last no longer than seven minutes. I don’t confuse quantity for quality. If objectives are clear, the time to discuss progress, challenges, and obtain feedback should be brief. If your existing calls with coaches have pre-determined durations, the value of your interactions is poor at best.


Don’t wear out your welcome: Achieving intended objectives or improving performance in a specific area requires only a set period of time. If a coaching assignment is to last longer than 90 days, the likelihood of the engagement providing more value to the investor than the coach is slim. Ensure that there is clarity around objectives and measures of success at the outset of the coaching arrangement. Place a fixed duration and “end date” on the arrangement at which time you can assess progress and determine next steps. If a coach is suggesting that you must have a duration of longer than 90 days, or consistently looks to extend your agreement successive times with similar objectives, chances are that the value of the arrangement is not what you desire.


Spend time thinking about the purpose of entering a coaching arrangement, including consideration of the five areas above. Armed with this information, you will then be prepared to pursue a valuable coaching arrangement, moving performance to new heights and achieving objectives that once seemed impossible.


© Shawn Casemore 2012. All rights reserved.

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