Why Business Coaching Gets a Bad Rap & How to Hire One

An effective business coach works toward your vision, not their own agenda

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

A colleague called me recently feeling deflated after she had received one of those free business coaching sessions where the coach tries to sell you on working with them.

My friend shared with the coach where she was at in her successful practice, impacting many clients, creating new programs, and making six figures, with a goal to double her income.

In response, the coach said, “If that’s where you’re at and that’s your goal, ‘You are playing grossly small.’”

Where the heck did this scale of measurement come from?

This judgment, projection, and criticism are exactly why coaching gets a bad rap. Because the coaching industry has become more about the coaches than the clients.

As soon as coaching becomes about whatever the business coach projects on the client, instead of the clients’ goals and hearts desires, you are in a pool of ego, identity, imbalanced masculine drive, projection, scarcity, and power struggle.

There is a time to call people out for “playing small.” This is when they have a clear desire they are not owning up to, they are limiting their potential in THEIR vision, and there are mental or emotional blocks keeping them from moving forward.

You can say that it’s a limiting belief to not set goals that are triple or more their current income.

I say it’s limiting to compare yourself in a field where the expectations have become to make seven figures to have “success.”

I measure success by how aligned my lifestyle is with my values. Health, freedom, and autonomy are a few of my most treasured values. And quadrupling my income in one year is not in alignment with any of those.

Effective business coaching is client-led. This begins in the sales process.

It is not useful to the client to come from “let me tell you why you need to set more massive goals which I project on you through my ego and scarcity…and then you’ll need to hire me to tell you how to make those goals happen.”

Creating income is a form of freedom and is a valid goal. But to what end? Where are you trying to get to? Here is one of my favorite quotes on prosperity:

“Let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need. It frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you already have. When you make a difference with what you have, it expands. What you appreciate appreciates. You can’t get to prosperity through the portal of more…only enough.” ~ Lynne Twist

The “portal of more” is not enough, never enough. Is $250k enough, is $500k enough? No number is enough when you are looking for external validation and identifying yourself through how much money you make. (Here’s a prosperity practice to feel more abundant.)

This programming is an infiltration from our super-sized consumerist culture.

And I’m shocked to see it in an industry that is known for empowerment and personal growth.

It wasn’t always this way.

Back in 2003, when I became a Martha Beck certified coach, coaching was about supporting people to clarify their values and live within those values, to move through limiting beliefs that were holding them back, and to take aligned action steps toward their authentic purpose.

This was so early in the coaching world, you still had to explain to people in California what life coaching was. It was still new and it was coaching in its purest form. It wasn’t mingled with consulting so much and there wasn’t an established industry culture of what it “should” look like to be a coach. You made it up for yourself.

If you hire a business coach to help you create what they want for you, instead of what you want, you are engaged in a special kind of self-sabotage.

If you decide not to sign up with a business coach you’re not aligned with, you are not “playing grossly small.” You would be playing small if you plugged in to someone else’s vision for you life instead of creating your own.

No where in my coaching training, or any sales training I’ve gone through was I taught to tell the client what they need and then tell them they need me to help them do it.

This is manipulation. In this scenario, the client becomes the coach’s minion. The client ends up trying to create a life or business they didn’t want in the first place because it’s coming from the external instead of the internal.

It doesn’t work. No matter how amazing that coach’s business system or program is, if the vision the client is working toward is not aligned for them on a heart and soul level, it won’t stick.

I’ve seen coaches who were amazing sales people sign on clients who are not aligned, and I’ve seen breech of contract, lawsuits, and drama.

When my clients set goals, I dig deeper to understand what it is about that goal that they want. What is underneath the goal? What value is underlying the desire? Why do they want what they say they want? Is it really their vision or are they “shoulding” on themselves? Are they committed to making it happen?

If the desire and vision doesn’t connect with the client at a deep level, at the heart and soul, it will not only be unsustainable, it won’t flow, and it may even drag them down. This is especially true for people who are already hard on themselves.

Moving to the next level of your life and your business, is about becoming that next version of yourself. It’s about sloughing off all the programming and bullshit stories that you cling to, but are not authentically you. It’s clarifying and focusing on your values and speaking and acting from them.

In order to grow, some people need more pushing. I am not one of those people. My clients are not those people. We push ourselves too much and need to gently integrate the parts of ourselves that create pressure. We are learning to listen to our gut and create more balance and sustainability in our lives.

Before you hire a coach consider these action steps:

-Review their web-site, read their bio, and read testimonials

-Ask colleagues why they have worked with to see if they can refer someone.

-Get to know their approach before you talk with them. Get on their email lists, watch their videos, attend a class, etc.

If you are considering hiring a business coach, ask yourself the following questions:

Why are you looking for a coach?

Where are you now and where do you want to go? Why?

Why is that important to you?

What do you want to get out of working with a business coach?

What would make the experience more than worth the resources you invest?

Once you meet them, do you feel a sense of trust in them? Is this someone you would look forward to connecting with on Zoom or phone often?

What kind of balance of challenge and support works best for you?

When you talked with the coach, did you appreciate their sales process, and did you feel heard?

Some coaches can support you to figure out what you need and if it’s a fit because they ask questions and listen. Be sure you’re clear on the kind of coach you are shopping for, so you become more of who you are in the process instead of giving your power (and money) away.

I’ve seen coaches coach people “into their greatness” but it doesn’t land because it’s a projection and it doesn’t come from the client. I’ve seen coaches who intuitively tell the client what’s best for them, even if the client doesn’t vibe with it. And I’ve seen clients believe what the coach said to them about who they are or what they should want and beat themselves up with it.

This is simply not effective. It’s an ego trip for the coach and any kind of impact is short-lived for the client – if not traumatic with long-lasting impact on self-esteem.

If a coach dictates unattainable goals for a client and the client fails to reach those goals, where does this lead the client?

Right into a puddle of “not enough.”

This is may even be where the client began. Self-worth is such a huge factor in creating and receiving the life you want.

Giving one’s power away to someone else is not the way to build up self-worth.  Instead, it is a vicious cycle that results in one more person having a bad experience with a coach who probably doesn’t even realize what they are doing.

Another reason business coaching gets a bad rap is that some coaches have a cookie-cutter system or a one-size-fits-all step-by-step success path. This model is more about who they are and what they want than what the client wants.

Are you kidding me? Business is not an algebra problem or a fool-proof recipe.

I’ve been in those programs and heard countless stories from those who’ve tried them. They are not effective for everyone because they do not take into account the client’s personality, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Yes, people can learn from them, but the percentage of people who get the results touted in the testimonials is small.

The most effective business coaches are listeners. They listen to clients, they ask questions that pull out the vision, desires, and values of their clients. They challenge and support them to become their best selves. The coaching-client relationship leaves the client feeling stronger, more confident, and more self-trusting. They are more capable and prepared for than they were before they started.

This is why I’m still a coach. The opportunity to connect with and support someone who wants to create more freedom and choice in their life and more value in the world is a priceless gift.

Those who want to evolve their life and/or their business deserve to have support from a business coach that honors and respects where they are at, THEIR vision, and their strengths. No matter what anyone else says.

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