5 Myths About Successful Coaching - and What's More True! | By David Frank Gomes

Coaching Myths being Revealed by Man With Hammer

One of the ways I think coaches can help themselves become more empowered is being familiar with some of the central myths around coaching. The truth is, although business and executive coaching is fairly ubiquitous, personal coaching is still in its infancy. And there are a tremendous amount of sticky sweet self help slogans out there that I believe do more harm than good.

I believe we've created a narrative around coaching that involves creating some kind of perfect life,  in a perfect bubble, where everything is magical and everybody knows their purpose at every moment.

And this implies that in order to be a masterful coach, we must first have a perfect life, in a perfect bubble.

The coaches I have coached over the years have all had central themes that haunted them in moments of doubt:

  • "I'm not good enough."
  • "What right do I have to be doing this work?" and
  • "I can barely get it together myself."

We've all been there, and that's ok, it goes with the territory. But I have arrived at a conclusion I think is more helpful: "Every thing is perfect as it is, and there is always room for improvement!"

So, you can breath a sigh of relief because it's not about perfection, but more about creating the space for brave conversations and to have a process to help others explore their lives from a fresh perspective, in a safe and non judgemental way.

You don't need to be a perfect person to be a masterful coach.

I realized that in some form I was hearing these narratives again and again, so I thought it might be interesting to explore the big 5 myths I see - especially the ones I feel don't reflect the true spirit or power of coaching. And when you recognize them, you'll be in a much better position to help people understand what the essential work of coaching really is.

MYTH #1: Coaching is about peak performance, goals and problem solving

We often spend so much time at work focusing on outcomes and hammering on results, that we leave fulfillment by the side of the road and forget to savour the steps and moments along the way. And we often forget why we're doing what we're doing in the quest to hurry up and get there.

The question we all face is… how do we start to enjoy ourselves on our journey to success, if we don't figure out how to enjoy the ups and downs along the way?

The Reality: 

  • It's not about problem solving, but problems get solved.
  • It's not about performance, but performance improves.
  • It's not about goals, but they are achieved more easily.
  • It's not about results, but results improve naturally.

So, one idea it's important for coaches to communicate to potential clients is that coaching is not about making life problem-free, but about giving depth and value to your experiences that come from mindful living and thinking.

Instead as coaches we tap into the human need for collaboration in a non judgmental way. We support people to empower themselves, find their own answers and support and nurture that process.

MYTH #2: You need to be a rock star to coach one

This myth is incredibly popular in our niche obsessed world, especially for executive coaching. In essence, it's the idea that in order for a coach to be effective, they must have a resume that matches or exceeds the client's. So if your client is running a Fortune 500 company, the coach should have run one too.

But a similar track record doesn't mean an ability to coach effectively. Of course, every masterful coach must have the ability to understand the heartbeat and rhythm of the industry and what the client is trying to accomplish, but the "just like me" myth is flawed because it assumes that the right fit to take your game higher is always someone who knows what you know.

A coach that too closely mirrors the client may share the client's blind spots and biases, and it may not take the client anywhere other than deeper into what they already know.

The Reality: The reality is that executive coaching is about the softer skills of developing a leadership presence, refining the mission and purpose of the organization and how to formulate and present an overall vision that influences and creates a culture of inspiration. Organizations are already filled with nuts and bolts experts. Instead the client often needs the opposite kind of person to coach them to get somewhere new in thinking and outlook - not someone who looks good on paper and seems familiar.

You've probably heard of rock stars like Jon Bon Jovi, Annie Lennox, Cyndi Lauper, Phobe Snow or the Dave Matthews Band. However, I'll bet you haven't heard of Katie Agresta, their renowned coach and vocal trainer! You really don't need to be a rock star to coach and mentor one...

MYTH #3: Personal coaches only help you reach personal goals. Business coaches only help you reach business goals.

Some clients want to focus on personal goals such as relationships, time management, work-life balance, stress reduction, simplification, health, etc. Other clients may be more interested in professional or business goals such as developing a leadership presence, getting a promotion or becoming more of an influence, starting a business, or leaving the corporate world to find a more meaningful heart centered career.

A masterful coach is someone who is accomplished at helping others create change in their lives. A masterful coaching space is created when you listen to the very best in others, even when they can't hear it in themselves.

The Reality: Everything is connected to everything else in our lives. Once we stop carving ourselves up into little slices, we can see the whole picture with increased clarity. So, it's not about finding the right TYPE of coach, but instead about the client finding the right coach for them, at that moment in their lives.

MYTH #4: Successful people don't need coaches. Coaching is for lightweights who can't succeed on their own

Coaching isn't about fixing, it's more about fine tuning.

It would not be a stretch to say that modern living has been designed more around stress than health, more for speed than quality and more for endless growth than sustainability and happiness. So, a sustainable lifestyle needs to be designed - it doesn't happen magically on its own.

Look around at your world. Except when we're in nature, everything you see is purposefully designed. The society you live in, the corporate culture you work in and the processes you use. And perhaps most importantly the way you think and operate on a daily basis has been designed; by you.

An effective coaching and mentoring relationship helps people to unravel the complexities of daily life and design a richer, more meaningful experience. It's not about cotton candy self-help slogans and positive affirmations. It's about skillful living.

The Reality: People who take life seriously have coaches; amateurs do not. Coaching is about optimizing yourself. It is foundational. I believe our world needs more conscious design, and it begins by creating work and play that is balanced and purposeful, rather than just a endless rat race to run till you die.

MYTH #5: Personal Development is a luxury, not a necessity

Coaching conversations are compass conversations, without borders and judgments. This compass points at cultivating a richly expressive and meaningful life at work and in society. It's about identifying how to make your life more alive, finding a holistic approach to living a balanced, prosperous lifestyle.

Is this a luxury? I don't think so. There are two skills we must concern ourselves with if we want to live satisfying lives, without going crazy in this modern life we live. One of these skills teaches us how to make a living. The other teaches us how to live.

The Reality: Many people focus only on making a living, at the expense of how to live. It is in striking a balance between the two, that we find the optimal flow state. If you want to enjoy the success you build, you need to design how you think and operate, or someone else will do it for you. And guess what? Most likely, they don't have much planned for you.

Coaching is the power of WE instead of ME.

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Contributing Author:

David Frank Gomes is Coach → Catalyst ← Mentor at Whole Life Coaching. He unravels the dilemmas of career, ambition and relationships in the complexities of the 21st century by working at the intersection where dreams crash into reality.

Learn more about David & see all their articles here >>

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  1. Laurie Malloy

    As a minimalist and coach this really speaks to me! Love the line coaching isn't about fixing, its more about fine tuning. Thanks for the insight!


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