Coaching is a Waste of Time

Is business coaching a waste of time or a springboard

Sometimes you read an article that you half agree with and half don’t. For me that was a piece on Forbes last year, headlined Why Most Business Coaching Is a Waste of Time. It seems that anyone can now be a business coach regardless of experience or training. Most then focus on the wrong things and the results are then disappointing.

The Error of Assumption

Just because someone says they are a coach does not make them one. This applies in business as it does wherever coaches exist, such as sports. If I said I was a springboard diving coach, virtually everyone would ask what credentials I have to advise and improve performance. Why? Because the danger is clear. As a qualified Leader in Running Fitness, when I coach my running club; the runners know my knowledge is basic, but more advanced than theirs.

Forbes suggests checking testimonials as a way to confirm competence. But that has 2 issues.

We live in a world of self-invention and manipulation. It’ss easy to create rafts of testimonials seemingly from real people in attempts to prove experience.

The other is the confidentiality issue. When coaching senior business people, many don’t want to provide a testimonial as it seems to expose a weakness. While being coached is a sign of strength; providing detail on the move from fire-fighting to strategic growth is not something most would put in a testimonial.

The Error of Approach

Many so-called Business Coaches overly focus on mindsets, motivation and emotions. Here they act as quasi-psychologists talking about how the coached feels about X and Y. This role is more about reducing the loneliness of being a senior manager as a counsellor and friendly ear, not as a coach. But motivation and emotions are important to the delivery of effective solutions. All business coaches must spend some time in understanding and discussing what makes the individual tick. It is not however their primary role.

What many do not do is use their experience and knowledge of best-practice systems, strategies and action steps to help the coached take their business forward. Any business theory is just a theory. Experience adapts theories to the specific situation system-wide to ensure benefits are made.

A true coach is recognised to have 3 things:

  • greater knowledge,
  • depth of that knowledge and
  • ways of sharing it to enable action.

This is the difference between an unfacilitated brainstorming session with fellow business leaders all chipping in ideas and the business coach, who can tailor and discuss those ideas specific to the situation of the person asking. For longer term benefits knowledge and experience count in a business coach. Otherwise business coaching is a waste of time and money.