Minneapolis — Feb. 12
Despite the growing popularity of executive coaching, its effectiveness has been hindered by common misconceptions, said Gary Cohen, president of CO2 Partners, a Minnesota-based leadership development firm.
“Some mistaken perceptions abound on what coaching is supposed to do, or can do,” Cohen said. “There’s a naive idea that the coach is going to provide a road map for success, and there’s also the persistent psychotherapy model.
“No wonder so many coaching engagements fail to live up to expectation when the goal is so often misunderstood.”
Because managers increasingly are offered coaching as part of their leadership development, it is crucial that people have a better grasp of the discipline, Cohen said.
He cited 10 of the most frequent misconceptions:
1. “I don’t have issues and don’t need coaching.”
Many individuals think coaching is a sign of a shortcoming rather than a key tool for improving performance or building a business. Coaching as problem solving is perhaps the oldest misconception and, fortunately, it is fading away.
2. “I don’t want others to know I’m being coached.”
Instead of being kept a secret, coaching should involve others in the process, including superiors, colleagues and subordinates. Many coaches begin with a 360-degree assessment, which is an open process by nature. Openness can foster commitment.
3. “Coaching is now a standard process.”
Despite efforts to standardize coaching, there are as many approaches as there are coaches, and this will not change. Some coaches continually are developing insights into the process, and it might be wise to seek one who is on the learning edge rather than a coach whose ideas are set.
4. “Women don’t get coaching.”
Two out of three people who get coaching are probably men, and that reflects their proportionate representation at the managerial and executive levels, but this has been changing steadily. Today, at least one in three of those getting coaching are women, and their presence will only become greater.
5. “Coaching is just for high potentials.”
In fact, more people are seeking coaching, no matter whether they have been identified as high potentials by senior management. Everyone has barriers, and coaches can help identify them and build bridges.
6. “A coach needs to be certified.”
Certification might reassure your employer, but it is no guarantee of professionalism, or whether it will be the right fit for your needs. Instead, consider carefully the business experience a coach brings to the table.
7. “A coach is a kind of therapist.”
Some coaches approach their mission in this way, but executive coaches increasingly address business issues with a practical eye and do not engage in psychotherapy. Most coaching is about empathy, trust and engagement with the client.
8. “Women should coach women.”
This is no more true than men ought to coach men. Look for professionalism and business experience, not secondary considerations.
9. “A coach needs to be tough.”
There is the persistent image of the bullying and badgering coach. While this style might work for some, it is really more essential to have a rapport with a coach. If you are not comfortable, it might be time to find a new coach.
10. “I won’t qualify for coaching.”
There is no such thing as qualifying for coaching, and neither is there any need to wait for HR or top management to tap someone for this vital support. If an individual wants coaching, then ask for it.
Some coaches have a very directive approach, Cohen said.
“And the great majority try to help discover what is best for that particular individual. Telling a person what to do won’t develop leadership thinking or skills. Instead, a wise coach asks questions and asks for an invitation to pursue solutions,” he said.