Don’t Get Hurt


You may argue that this isn’t a “Coaching” topic, strictly speaking, but it concerns Coaching and Coaches and so I’ve decided to feature it. If you’ve read last week’s Monday Sparkles, you’ll know that in my recent chats with some of you, I was shocked to hear of so many negative experiences with people who call themselves Coaches.

I’ve decided to speak out and give you a hands-on guide because I don’t want you to spend your money on dubious or even harmful self-styled gurus on the internet. Practically everyone can set up a website these days and claim to be an expert at something, and it can be very hard to tell the real deal from a narcissist who’s only out to make a quick buck. I also have a personal interest in people becoming more educated about Coaching, because the harm caused by some irresponsible people reflects negatively on the Coaching industry as a whole.

In the following, I’ll attempt to clarify some common misconceptions and give you a list of things to watch out for, as well as some criteria by which you can tell whether a Coach actually is what they say they are.


A roadmap for you

The problem is that the term “Coaching” has been watered down almost beyond recognition because it’s become fashionable in large companies to say an employee needs “coaching” when they actually need more training in a certain area. Coaching and Training/Teaching are two very different things.

Coaching and Teaching, as well as Mentoring and Advising, all have their place and are useful in different scenarios. It helps to know the difference, however, so you can tell if someone who offers “Coaching” is actually a Teacher or Advisor, and if that’s what you are looking for. Obviously, there are some grey areas and the boundaries between the disciplines are often a little blurry, but some general definitions do help, so here goes.

Teaching means passing on knowledge. A teacher knows a lot about a subject and passes on that knowledge to others. For example, if you want to learn how to drive a car, the most efficient way is to get a driving teacher who will show you how to drive and then help you practice until you feel confident.

Mentoring is similar to teaching in that it focuses on imparting knowledge, but it’s usually reserved for someone older or more experienced helping another person in their field. A CEO might mentor an upcoming associate, grooming them to take over in the future.

Advising is another form of teaching. A lot of so-called Coaches on the internet are actually advisors. Watch out for marketing along the lines of “I’ve learned the hard way how to xyz, and I’ll show you exactly how you can avoid the mistakes I made, and go straight to the top”. If you’re looking for advice, go for it! But this isn’t Coaching.

Coaching is a conversation between two people, in which a trained professional uses techniques and processes to help the client reach clarity and take concrete steps towards previously defined goals. There is such a thing as group coaching, but generally the group needs to be fairly small for it to be effective.


When are you not talking to a Coach?

A Coach will generally not do any of the following, and if they do, they’ll ask for permission first (I might say: “If I may make a suggestion…” to a client):

– Tell you what to do.
– Nag you to do something.
– Try to convince you of their way of thinking.
– Tell you you’re wrong.
– Tell you what you should want or aim for.


Finding a good Coach

In terms of effectiveness, Coaching is probably the most powerful and transformative of all those I mentioned, so if it’s change and/or rapid progress and development you are looking for, then Coaching should be for you. I’m not quite sure why this is so! Perhaps it’s the difference between “giving a man a fish” and “teaching him to fish”.

Signs of a good Coach:

– A recognised qualification. I can’t stress this enough. You can’t just be “naturally good” at Coaching; it’s a very specific set of tools and techniques which you need to learn and be trained in. You wouldn’t let someone perform surgery on you who hasn’t been to med school, would you? Then don’t allow anyone near your mind who isn’t a trained Coach.

– A Coach’s website will be more about you, and less about their own grand achievements. Someone bragging how they made millions, is going to teach you or advise you, but not coach you.

– Anything addressed to more than a few people (calls with 50 or more participants, etc), isn’t Coaching. Again, I’m not saying these things can’t be useful. I’ve been to webinars with hundreds of listeners, where I learned a lot. Just know that this stuff is firmly in the realm of teaching, not Coaching.

I hope this helps a little! Be safe, and never be afraid to question your Coach’s methods. If you’re not comfortable, you are probably in the wrong place. Trust your instincts and protect your interests. It’s your money, after all!

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