The Ken Blanchard Companies has hired a lot of coaches since we first opened up our Coaching Services division back in 2000. We currently have 153 coaches in place to work with managers and executives in organizations all over the globe.
To assess whether the coach has the level of competence we need, we always have them coach one of our senior staff members. Rookie coaches who really don’t know what they are doing stand out like a sore thumb during this exercise even though most are very well meaning. Their lack of experience usually shows up in one of nine ways.
You can tell someone is a rookie coach when they:
- Worry too much about creating relationship. Clients tend to give a new coach the benefit of the doubt as long as they perceive the coach to be competent and caring. Coaches don’t need to spend hours getting every detail of a client’s life history.
- Ask too many questions to satisfy their own curiosity rather than getting to the heart of the matter. Good coaches sift quickly for what is relevant and ignore the noise.
- Let the client go on too long about their story. The narrative is important insofar as the coach or client needs it to write the ending—but detailed plot twists just waste time.
- Ask a bunch of why questions to assess motive and purpose. Many people being coached don’t know the why of anything and will go in circles trying to figure it out. Why is to be used on very rare occasions to help the client get through layers to reach what’s real and true.
- Get too hung up on accountability. Holding people accountable is taught aggressively in many coaching schools. To be fair, some clients really want and need it—but many don’t. So it’s wise to check instead of insisting on an annoying practice that can come off as parental.
- Step over opportunities to challenge the client about attitudes, beliefs, or potentially unproductive behavior. It takes some courage but it is part of the job. I have worked with clients who said they had worked with other coaches they characterized as being “too nice.”
- Ignore inklings that the client is not getting value from a coaching session or engagement.
- Take the client to task if they haven’t done their homework. Coaches aren’t schoolteachers grading people on compliance. If a client doesn’t do what they say they will do, it is a useful sign that they tend to overpromise and underdeliver, aren’t working on the right goals, or aren’t as committed to the goal as they thought. All of these are potential data points the coach can use to move the person forward.
- Fall for it when a client asks “What do you think I should do? or “What would you do?” Coaches can and should definitely share useful proven models, concepts, and general rules of thumb to help a client think through and make sound decisions—but a coach’s actual opinion is rarely germane. If a coach does share an opinion, they should name and claim it as their opinion, and be ready to explain what the opinion is based on, whether it is experience or research.
Everybody has to start somewhere, but the challenge we face in providing coaches to executives in organizations is the need to put our most experienced and effective coaches in front of clients. For us, learning on the job is something we can’t afford. The good news is that new coaches can move ahead much more quickly by identifying any of these possible errors in their own approach and practicing alternative approaches that are more beneficial to clients.
With practice, new coaches will soon find themselves having the productive engagements that we—and all coaching organizations—look for.
About the Author
Madeleine Blanchard is the co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.