Top 5 Myths About Executive Coaching

Executive coaching is a great resource for organizations. It helps people clarify their goals, gain self-awareness, develop key habits, and unlock their full potential faster than if they did it all alone. But throughout my career as both an HR executive and my career as an executive coach, I’ve found that there are a number of misperceptions about this kind of coaching that keep people from seeking it out. Let’s focus on 5 big myths about leadership coaching.

1. Professional coaching is only for executives.

There’s an old perception that a lot of money is funneled away into coaching, and so the only way to get a good ROI is to focus only on the executive team. Today’s reality is that 85% of coaching goes to executives—but the number one piece of feedback I’ve gotten from these executives is that they wish they’d had coaching earlier in their careers. Plus, the fact is that coaching is actually more successful when started early. This comes down to neuroscience: studies show that when the brain learns something, it physically molds itself to that learning. This means that the earlier you develop the plasticity of your brain to think with a growth mindset the better, as this can literally rewire your habits and reactions. I’ve seen this in action when working with my mid-level manager clients: they grow through the organization much faster than if they’d waited to be an executive to get coaching.

2. Training is sufficient to develop people.

Training—whether it’s a seminar, a book, or a class—is the go-to way for most people to further their careers. But the reality is that it isn’t sufficient. At a seminar, you’re learning what they want you to learn, and not everything will apply to your situation. Worse, studies show that 90% of what you learn in training will be forgotten in just two weeks. Executive coaching, on the other hand, is much more effective  because it’s tailored to you, it’s ongoing, and it happens in the context of your job. You get coaching on exactly what you need when you need it through on-demand learning, and you can put the tailored strategies into practice right away. 

3. Executive coaching is for underperformers.

I see this a lot: someone hears they’re getting a coach, and they think, “Oh my God, I’m getting fired!” That’s not the reality: executive development is effective when an organization invests in someone they believe in. Think about high-performance athletes. They have personal coaches, sometimes a lot of them, in addition to team coaches. This army of people helps them move from good to excellent, and it’s the same for organizations: anyone who is growing can benefit from coaching to reach excellence.

4. I don’t have the time for leadership coaching.

We hear that for everything: we never have enough time. But do you have the time not to have a coach? The reality of coaching is that it happens within the context of your job. In other words, you aren’t heading out to attend a seminar that might not apply; you’re working with a coach during your job and learning as you go, freeing up time and learning to be more successful at the same time.

5. Professional coaching is too expensive.

It’s true, coaching is one of the most expensive kinds of leadership development you can get, but is it really too expensive? Again, ask yourself if you can afford not to get coaching? From a results standpoint, there can be a big cost in not coaching, especially if problems and inefficiencies are constantly draining away your time, effort, and money. The investment may be costly, but coaching has a high ROI, paying off ten times over. 

There are many more myths out there when it comes to professional coaching, but these are the top 5 misconceptions I’ve found most common. When you consider the value of leadership coaching, it’s really a no-brainer—and hopefully, these myths have helped you see that.

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