Myth #1: Anyone can call themselves a personal coach.

Fact: Some, but certainly not all coaches are professionals who can help you reach your goals. One of the problems in the coaching industry is that anyone can call themselves an executive coach, life coach, personal coach. Sandy Vilas, the owner and CEO of Coach U, one of the largest and oldest coach training organizations in the world, has said, “Technically, anyone can hang up a shingle, as coaching is not regulated. Many people ‘coaching’ have no idea what coaching is as they haven’t been trained or haven’t been coached by a professionally trained and credentialed coach. There are ‘schools’ that will offer a credential after three hours of training and people read a book or watch a TV program and decide ‘I’m a coach!'” As a result, the quality of coaches varies dramatically. I strongly suggest working with a coach that is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF). Recent changes to their membership now require that members have undertaken at least 60 hours of accredited training. In addition, the ICF provides independent certification that is the benchmark for the professional coaching industry.

Myth #2: Coaching is a nice employment perk.

Fact: Coaching is as much a perk to your employees as are their computers. Employees may view coaching as a value added benefit, but the successful organizations see coaching as something much more than a perk. Done right, professional coaching can drive sales, employee engagement, creativity, workplace satisfaction, and bottom line results. Wellness programs have been shown to provide approximately a 300% return on investment (ROI). In other words, companies who spend $1 in a wellness program (e.g., exercise clubs, personal trainers, smoking cessation workshops) earn $3 as a result of decreased turnover, fewer sick days, reduced health insurance costs, etc. It’s no wonder wellness programs have experienced such tremendous growth – it makes financial sense!

The ROI from professional coaching is even more astonishing. According to a Manchester Consulting Group study of Fortune 100 executives, the Economic Times reports “coaching resulted in a ROI of almost six times the program cost as well as a 77% improvement in relationships, 67% improvement in teamwork, 61% improvement in job satisfaction and 48% improvement in quality.” Additionally, a study of Fortune 500 telecommunications companies by MatrixGlobal found executive coaching resulted in a 529% ROI. The CIPD concludes “coaching is not just perceived as a nice-to-have intervention.

Myth #3: Coaching is for 'problem' employees.

Fact: Coaching used to be a euphemism for “you’re doing lousy work, but before we can fire you we need to show that we’ve done everything we can to support you so we don’t get hit with an employment lawsuit.” According to Paul Michelman, editor of Harvard Business School’s Management Update, “whereas coaching was once viewed by many as a tool to help correct underperformance, today it is becoming much more widely used in supporting top producers. In fact, in a 2004 survey by Right Management Consultants, 86% of companies said they used coaching to sharpen the skills of individuals who have been identified as future organizational leaders.”

While coaching can be used as a tool to help improve performance, it can also be used to help top performers maintain their performance. In professional sports even the top performers have a coach – so too should top executives. A coach can help you stay focused on what is truly important.

Myth #4: Personal coaching takes too much time.

Fact: Executive coaching is a high-leverage activity. Clients can achieve remarkable progress toward their desired future in less than an hour per month of coaching. There is a wide spectrum of how coaching is delivered. Some coaches prefer to meet one-on-one with clients in an office, but most recommend telephone sessions for the ease of use, minimization of distractions, better privacy, greater efficiency, and for (yes, apparently) better connection to the client. Best practices in coaching call for between two and four sessions per month that last at least 20 and up to 60 minutes. A sweet spot for many coaches and clients seems to be three sessions per month for 45 to 60 minutes a session – a miniscule investment of time for the results achieved.

Myth #5: Coaches are like having a good friend to bounce ideas off and to keep you motivated.

Fact: Your coach may be friendly, but they are not your friend. Your coach is your advocate. They want the best from you. They will work with you to help you reach your goals and to succeed. Your coach will hold you accountable and challenge you to grow and do more than you think you can do. They may push, pull, and stretch you in ways that may feel uncomfortable. And unlike a friendship, the coaching relationship is unilateral – it is exclusively focused on you and your goals, not the coach, his family, or what she did over the weekend.

Myth #6: Coaching is only good for upper management / Coaching is only good for entry level employees.

Fact: Coaching is good for anyone who is motivated to create a better life. Initially professional coaching or executive coaching was for upper management, and some organizations still focus their coaching efforts on their top performers. For example, a column by the Economic Times titled “A Personal Coach” says coaching is “designed to help senior leaders create and execute breakthrough ideas, develop strategic pathways and set milestones. Companies across the board are similarly opting for coaching to help their high-potential executives perform in larger, rapidly-changing roles in a globalized world.”

But professional coaching isn’t just for the executive suite. The CIPD research study shows just under 5% of coaching is restricted to senior executives. Now, more and more companies are recognizing the powerful benefits of providing coaching to the rank and file employees.

Myth #7: Coaches are great for employees but aren’t needed by business owners or CEOs.

Fact: Business owners and CEOs are supposed to be the decision makers. They rarely have time in their schedules to think out loud and explore their own ideas in an uncluttered, risk free environment. Coaching is the perfect place for this to occur. A coach is an expert in the process of changing behavior rather than in giving instructions. They are there to listen and help focus your thoughts so that you can come up with the best choices for you. Unlike other professional service providers, a coach has no self interest in the outcome of your choices – they are not selling advice or opinions.

Myth #8: Coaches tell their clients what to do and give them advice.

Fact: Bad or inexperienced coaches tell their clients what to do and are constantly giving advice. Good coaches do not. Most clients realize they don’t need another parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker telling you what you should be doing. Instead, coaches help their clients explore and come up with the best choices for them based on where they are and the client’s vision for their future. Coaches are experts at the process of changing behavior, which is much more valuable than giving instructions.

Myth #9: Coaching is expensive.

Fact: Coaching can cost a great deal of money. However whether it should be considered expensive depends on the value that is obtained from it. The growth of the coaching industry shows that either there are a lot of really stupid people wasting their money on coaching each month or they are getting results worth at least the cost of their coach. If it helps you get that promotion or win that proposal is it worth the cost? According to the ICF Global Coaching Client Study commissioned by the International Coach Federation, individual clients reported a median ROI of 3.44 times their investment in coaching. Bottom line, coaching is an investment that can produce monetary rewards above and beyond the cost.

Myth #10: Coaching is spiritual and relies on 'harnessing the energy in the universe.'

Fact: I have no idea what “harnessing the power of the universe” means, and my guess is that most professional coaches don’t either. When I first started researching coaching, I was under the impression coaching involved lots of chanting, incense, meditation, and other spiritual practices. While there are many great spiritual coaches that may incorporate these practices into their session, most coaches are practical, professional, business people who are focused on tangible results, not airy-fairy mysticism. You can leave your granola and Birkenstocks at home and don’t worry you won’t be hugging any trees either – unless of course you want to.

* This list is written by Robert Pagliarini, MSFS, CFP and used by permission.

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