There’s no arguing that personal coaching is a booming industry – a $1 billion a year industry, to be exact. This says a lot about the needs and interests of businesses and individuals, but is increased demand the only explanation?
With this growth, the coaching industry has come under a lot of criticism. I’m not going to tell you that all coaches are effective or even qualified: some of the growth in this industry is probably due to the fact there are people who view coaching, with its relatively low startup costs and lack of qualification requirements, as “easy.” They jump in without much consideration or experience. The clients who get stung by those “coaches” are likely responsible for some of the skepticism about the industry as a whole.
After several years as a career coach, I’ve seen and heard so many outlandish characterizations of the coaching industry. Here are the top five most pervasive myths about coaching:
1. Coaches are basically therapists… with fewer academic degrees. This is one of the biggest and most dangerous misconceptions about coaching, because it sometimes attracts clients who want to focus on understanding or making sense of the past. Coaching focuses on shaping the future. We’re here to help you achieve and maintain the mindset that will carry you forward. Sometimes your past is your biggest obstacle, and if it proves to be insurmountable, I’ll suggest that you talk with someone who is qualified to help you.As a professional coach, I am only qualified to work with clients who are willing, able, and ready to move forward.
2. Coaching is for girls. There are a growing number of female-run coaching groups, some of which hold themselves out as “sisterhoods” and “goddess circles.” These groups have tapped into the power of social media marketing and make women-to-women coaching look, as my client said, “like a really fun sorority for grown-ups.” (Think: exotic vacations, photo shoots, and fabulous clothes.) Coaching can contain these elements, but effective coaching is not simply rooted in girl power or friendship. There are many types and structures of coaching practices, which help clients across a wide variety of industries achieve measurable results.
3. Coaches are only interested in turning you into them. Prior to her first coaching session, my girlfriend made a confession about her coach: “She’s so high on her own happiness — I worry she’ll measure my success as a client by how close I get to being a carbon copy of her.” On the one hand, I realize that clients do sometimes feel this pressure. But what kind of credibility would a coach have if he or she wasn’t happy and thriving? None! Coaches know that they have to walk the walk if they want to be viewed as the real deal, and they would be doing a disservice to their practice if they downplayed their success to make clients more comfortable. However, a stellar coach is not single-minded about what success looks like – he or she is only an example, not the definitive model, of what is possible for you.
4. A career coach who isn’t an expert in my career field can’t help me. Effective coaching helps clients make positive changes in their lives, which undoubtedly affects the career realm. However, a coach who does not have industry specific expertise can still have a powerful impact on a client’s ability to up-level their careers. Underlying a high-level coach’s success as a coach is the fact that he or she had to be a savvy entrepreneur first and foremost, which means he or she is very familiar with the challenges and fears that come along with trying to make a major life change. Coaching yields the best results when the individual is committed to personal learning and growth, not just excelling in a particular industry. However, many coaches maintain wide networks of other coaches, headhunters, and specialists who can provide industry-specific insights, if needed.
5. Coaches get rich off lazy people who would rather pay a stranger for a kick in the pants than take any action on their own. This is synonymous with the oft-expressed “coaching is a racket.” In an industry where success is often subjective and difficult to measure, the data overwhelmingly shows that coaching can result in improved self-confidence and communication skills, professional advancement and better relationships with others. Individuals who engage in coaching are not lazy – they are showing up in their own lives, often for the first time ever. I’ve been fortunate to work with clients who are passionate and committed to achieving results, and if a prospective client comes to me unready or unwilling to dive in at the deep end of the pool, I don’t work with them. Powerful coaching can move mountains, but it takes work, faith, and energy on both Easy money? Hah.
Coaching can help you achieve clarity and empowerment. Those words might sound meaningless to you now, but an effective and committed coach will help you experience their true weight and power in your life.
There are some people who will never hire a coach, and I’m not here to convince those people that they should. However, to those who have considered it and are feeling wary, I’ll just say this: A little bit of skepticism is healthy whenever you are preparing to dedicate time, money, and energy to any activity. But don’t let those doubts or concerns keep you from doing your research. I would hate to think that these myths could be all that’s standing between you and the fulfillment you deserve.