Ambits mentor John Bailey tackles the coaching industry in a three-part series.
This article focuses on business-related coaching with the aim to:
The article covers quite a bit of ground. To make the content easier to process, it is structured into the following three parts. While the storyline flows best when reading those in order, each part stands by itself, so jump right in and read it in the order that captures your interest.
Part III: Coaching Selection
A strong track-record in sports coaching, business academia, climbing the corporate ladder or entrepreneurial success, and the ‘force of personality or indefatigability’ often are characteristic of such individuals; none of those are evidence of good coaching ability in business contexts.
Stronger yet, such assumptions are at the foundation of ill-advised coach-selection decisions, which enable “The Very Real Dangers of Executive Coaching” and ‘an alarming number of situations (in which) coaches do more harm than good.’
Three points warrant particular consideration:
This does not bode well for business environments’ ample contribution to and share of anxiety, burnout, depression, and other psychological disorders. It also raises concerns regarding coaching of high achievers and “promising” executives, as the article “The Shocking Truths about Executive Mental Health” reveals. ‘Although rarely talked about, mental health issues are rife among company founders and leaders…78% of people running a business recognize they are suffering from some mental health challenge.’
‘4% to 12% of CEOs exhibit psychopathic traits’ vs. ‘1% in the general population’ though ‘in line with 15% in prisons’ and ‘other estimates (in the executive suite) landing between 8% and 12%.’ ‘One route to grabbing power for the highly intelligent psychopaths is to climb the corporate ladder.’ It is also ‘not at all uncommon to find narcissists at the top of workplace hierarchies’, and ‘studies show that almost all psychopaths are narcissists and manipulators.’ Or take depression ‘as the #1 reported condition…in 30% of (entrepreneurs)’ vs. ‘7% in the general U.S. population’. Indeed, ‘seniority (authority) may be linked to depression’ and ‘CEOs may be depressed at more than double the rate of the general public.’
But, ‘high-powered individuals often do not want to admit vulnerability’. ‘It is a well-known fact that with most executives and professionals, job performance is usually the last area of life to be affected by the deleterious impact of [mental illness and] addiction’, and ‘those who seem resilient, maybe…the ones least likely to ask for help or admit to being unwell.’ ‘The fear of admitting and talking about mental health does not go away because someone progresses in their role; in fact, it probably gets harder.’ And those fears are expressed as ‘20% feeling ostracized, 34% reflecting badly on the ability to do the job, 36% hampering career, 52% being judged unfavorably by colleagues.’
Combining such mental disorders with one or more of the latter coaching limitations ‘can actually make a bad situation worse’ both for the person suffering from that disorder and their environment suffering from them. ‘Misguided coaching ignores—and even creates—deep-rooted psychological problems that often only psychotherapy can fix.’ Yet, coachees may condone this as having a coach is often less stigmatized than talking about mental health and getting therapy. As management guru Warren Bennis observes, ‘a lot of executive coaching is really an acceptable form of psychotherapy.’
Consequently, a distinction needs to be made here up-front between ‘a “problem executive” who can be trained to function effectively (through, e.g., coaching) and an “executive with a problem” who can best be helped by psychotherapy.’ To ensure the best support and help for their employees and the health of a company overall, ‘companies need to draw on both psychotherapists and coaches' expertise with legitimate skills’ “Legitimate” being the operative word in this context!
The traditional coaching school of thought is that a coach does not require in-depth knowledge of a coachee’s specific context to achieve an effective dynamic. There certainly is much to be said in favor of a coach being unbiased and maintaining the curiosity of a “learner’s mind.” Much good can come from that.
Much good can also come from a coach knowing what they are talking about in a specific context. While context-specific “filters” may create bias, they can also accelerate getting to the salient points, thus enabling a more efficient dynamic.
For Business Coaches, in particular, I see clear advantages for those who combine deep & relevant business expertise with strong coaching ability and who can carefully balance the coach/mentor/consulting scale in their work. This enables them to ‘move easily from discussions of improving an individual’s performance to conducting interventions that can help entire business units capture or retain market share.’
Either of those options can generate great coaching results. The more the coaching dynamic focuses on a mentally healthy coachee's behavioral performance, the less the coach needs to be a business-domain expert and vice versa. Consequently, the context and goal(s) of a given business-environment coaching relationship need to be considered well, and the appropriate coach chosen accordingly.
Now let us say you have heeded the advice & criteria in this article so far and have several coaches to choose from, all of which, on paper, have the necessary training & credentials, relevant practical experience, and references/testimonials. Well done! You are a discerning buyer of such services already.
The decisive importance comes down to two additional dimensions:
‘Choosing the right coach for you is really important.’
A good ‘personal fit is really at the heart of what makes a business coach the best for you.’ Chemistry is all about how you feel about your coach when meeting in person, particularly for the first time, ZOOM calls included, and thereafter.
This is all about the coach’s ability to quickly create rapport with you, put you at ease, and create a safe environment where you feel good about granting permission to this person to have a trust-based relationship and conversations with.
It is that instant, limbic-brain emotion you get within the first seconds that you should “feel” for carefully. Some may call that intuition, inner voice, energy, vibration, gutfeel, sensitivity, and so forth. Trust it here!
But there is something well above and beyond all the latter aspects, making for an even more congruent coaching foundation. That is the coach’s behavioral track-record and resulting philosophy.
It is the deeply ingrained behaviors manifested consistently over time, which directly reflect and provide tangible evidence for the underlying values & beliefs that the coach holds dear. And that spirit comes from a deep place, their core.
How to unearth evidence of that?
Simple! Ask, listen & look for the following:
…of this article
Here is to promising beginnings of your coaching journey!
The purpose and character of the use of this article are nonprofit and for research and educational purposes. No copyright infringement is intended.
Regarding fair-use, much of the original imagery here has been transformed. Credit goes to www.quotefancy.com for the Dee Hock quote artwork, as well as the following sources https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48681048-chemistry-it-s-like-magic-but-real and https://irmedicalcenter.com/head-heart-gut/.
Our newsletter is about leadership development through business mentoring.