Three Reasons You Should Not Hire a Coach

Posted 06.20.2013

coach-whistleAs an executive coach, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that the title of this post may not be the world’s best business development strategy. But, after more than 12 years as a coach, I think I’ve learned when it makes sense to hire a coach and when it doesn’t.

I’ll get to the reasons why you should hire a coach next week. This week, though, I want to start with three of my favorite reasons why you shouldn’t hire a coach. Through the school of hard knocks, I’ve learned that these reasons are sure fire predictors of a failed coaching engagement. That’s why when I hear one of them or sniff it out, I turn down the business.

Here they are:

It’s a reclamation project: There are times when I’m talking with an HR business partner or a leadership development specialist about a potential client and I’m compelled to ask the question, “Does this person have a future with your company?” The typical answer to that question is either a long pause or an acknowledgement that it’s dicey. I then politely suggest that coaching is not going to help that person. Coaching reclamation projects rarely work because the organization has already made up its mind. That leader is more or less cooked and coaching is the last play before they’re out the door. Why waste time and money with coaching?

My boss needs a coach: Last month, an HR director asked me to come in to meet with her and her company president because she thought he could benefit from coaching. I drove out to meet them and asked him to tell me his story. As we talked, I concluded that he was a great guy and probably a pretty strong leader. I also concluded that the person who really needed a coach was his boss, the CEO, not him. I made some suggestions about consultants who specialize in advising the founders of family run businesses and declined the work. I could have talked with him and coached him until the cows came home and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. The person who really needed a coach was his boss and he wasn’t likely to hire one.

It’s the thing to do: Even in today’s cost conscious business environment, there are organizations where the norm is that leaders at a certain level and above all have a coach. Then there are organizations where a certain group of executives all get coaches as part of a leadership development initiative. I’m usually leery of coaching engagements that are there because it’s the thing to do. What I’m looking for is an executive who needs to get different results and understands that he or she will need to do some things differently to get the different results. One of my favorite little jokes is how many coaches does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is just one, but the light bulb has to really want to change. If a leader is interested in coaching just because it’s the thing to do, they’re not my kind of light bulb.

I have other reasons why you shouldn’t hire a coach. Those are just my top three. What are the other reasons you should not hire a coach?