Top Ten Misunderstandings about Coaching

What do some people think when it comes to coaching? Well, they think the wrong things. Here are ten of the most common misunderstandings I've seen or heard from coaches and non-coaches alike:

  1. Coaches mostly give advice. People who know next to nothing about professional coaching assume it’s a lot like mentoring or advising. It’s not. Telling people what they should do is not very effective, which is why coaches help clients tell themselves what to do.

  2. Coaches never give advice. Too many novice coaches think they can never have a thought or give an opinion to a client. The best coaches are thought partners who offer advice now and then, but do so in a way that always keeps the client in charge of deciding what advice to accept, reject, or adjust.

  3. Coaches need to be experts. Some people think if you’re going to focus your coaching in a specialty niche such as C-suite execs, real estate, small business or personal finances that you need to know pretty much everything there is to know about that arena. Not true. Clients and other third party experts can bring much of the wisdom into those coaching relationships.

  4. Coaches need no expertise. There are two kinds of expertise in coaching: content (what we are talking about) and process (how we are talking about it). Coaches share the process expertise with clients, sometimes with the coach being more of an expert and sometimes with the client and coach being about the same. Some coaches find it helpful to have at least a working knowledge of the content if they specialize in coaching certain types of clients, but the client is always the overwhelming expert in their life and work.

  5. Only wildly successful people can coach. Some novice coaches wonder, “Why would anyone work with me?” They mistakenly think that only people who’ve won a gold medal or launched a successful IPO or grown a huge church can coach. But the opposite is often true: successful people sometimes have a hard time being in the second chair as a coach who helps others succeed.

  6. Anyone can coach successfully. While lots of people can coach well (no matter personality, or career history, or demographic), it’s not true that anyone can become a successful coach. At CAM, we have trained all types of people to become professional coaches, but some people lack the communication or other people skills to be good at it. Others lack the drive or skill set to actually get clients. Successful coaches can coach and can attract clients.

  7. Great coaches have to sell, sell, sell. Speaking of attracting clients, some seemingly successful coaching agencies are nothing by marketing engines running at full throttle. Most coaches don’t spend the majority of their time getting clients, they invest their time with clients.

  8. Great coaching sells itself. On the flip side of #7, it’s a myth that great coaching sells itself. All coaches have to give some effort to attracting new clients, retaining their current clients, and reactivating paused clients (I happen to believe there is no such thing as a “former client”).

  9. Coaching is like therapy. Thank goodness this one is false. After all, coaches are not trained, qualified, or licensed to provide medical or therapeutic help. Coaches don’t work with people who are clinically depressed, mentally unstable, or recovering from emotional trauma. Instead, we work with relatively healthy, functioning persons who are preparing for what’s next.

  10. Coaches don’t deal with emotions. When a client shows emotion, beginner coaches often get either sucked in to emotion or spooked by it. Emotions are data – showing that the client is experiencing real life in both thought and feeling. While coaches don’t deal exclusively with emotions, we are able to make space for clients to express anger, sadness, hope, fear, awe, joy, and lots of other emotions.