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4 Tips for Avoiding the Coach from Hell

February 9, 2017 Jeff Lesher

 Some days, don’t you wish you could be just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz? You could simply close your eyes, click your heels together three times, and immediately transport yourself to where you want to be. Last time I checked, we’re not in Oz. Believing that we can be magically transported to “somewhere over the rainbow” is the intellectual equivalent of eating a marshmallow to quell our hunger: the appearance of substance that, in fact, immediately melts into nothing and leaves us feeling worse for having consumed it. 


Nowhere is this junk food of self-deception more apparent and abhorrent than when it comes to so-called “coaching” in the professional realm. As a person committed to always seeking to be more, do more, and give more, the chicanery of too many “coaches” with empty coaching processes irks me. As a professional who has studied and been certified in two coaching methodologies, practiced my craft seriously for more than a decade, and who greets every day as an opportunity to help people realize their highest aspirations…this really PISSES ME OFF!

How do we avoid being sucked into the vortex of coaching sleight-of-hand and ensure that we get what we actually need from a real coach? Here are 4 decision-making anchors to keep from swirling down the drain of coaching claptrap:

  1. Check credentials (and references) – Real coaches have real credentials – they’re certified, have viable experience, and a track record of helping people evolve and succeed. Having worked in a particular professional field and liking the process of helping others do that work is NOT a coaching credential. No, no, a thousand times NO! You need someone to help you find better ways to create leverage and have impact…not someone who tells you how to do a particular job or to do anything their way.
  2. Don’t buy the “Slendertone ab belt” of coaching – Have you ever been tempted to buy one those belts that promises six-ack abs just by wearing it and receiving electrical stimulation? Sounds great, right? But it doesn’t work. In a true coaching relationship, “no pain, no gain” is the truth. If a coach’s approach is to make you feel good, get up and walk out… IMMEDIATELY. A coach’s role is to hold up the mirror to your reality – some things are good, absolutely; but there are a lot of tough realities to face as well. A reputable coach’s job is pushing you to a productive level of discomfort (aka growth) in pursuit of your goals.
  3. Enlist a partner in digging deeper into the mystery of you – There are myriad assessments to help us better understand ourselves – what drives us, how we react to circumstances, and how much we’ve adapted to roles in ways contrary to our natural instincts and preferences. Your coach should be open to and proficient in reviewing your profile/results from any number of these tools. She should work with you in applying those insights and lessons learned to the work of helping you elevate – through every action and interaction.
  4. Do the work – In the end, and – quite frankly – from the beginning, the test of a proper coach and meaningful coaching experience is in the doing. Every conversation should lead to informed action. Every action should feed the next conversation, and so on. It’s simple, but not easy. Do the work and you will experience results. Simply flap your gums and you may feel better in the moment…but, just like the crash after a marshmallow-fueled sugar high, that feeling won’t last.

There’s a favored expression in coaching that goes like this: “When we seek to change behavior, relapse is inevitable.” Coaching – real, meaningful, lasting coaching – is about building the discipline to change, creating a different and better capacity to think and act, practicing new skills, celebrating progress, acknowledging when we fall short, trying again, and to never succumbing to complacency. You can try to do that alone…you know, like when you taught yourself to drive or trained yourself to run your first marathon. OR, you can choose to work with a certified coach – someone trained in the science and art of helping you to become even better. It’s up to you. Research says that coaching enhances and sustains performance. Experience tells us that we’re all better with an accountability partner. Just sayin’.

TOPICS: High Performance