What a Leadership Coach Won’t Do For You

March 11, 2013 — 7 Comments

Have you ever considered hiring a leadership coach? Do you know someone who has a coach? Contrary to popular opinion, coaches are not just a luxury service for the rich and famous (as one of my past clients once believed). Writers hire writing coaches, speakers hire speaking coaches, actors hire acting coaches, and quarterbacks hire quarterback coaches. Why should leaders be any different?

Leadership CoachingMany leaders hire a¬†coach when they want to gain clarity, explore future opportunities, form an action plan, or resolve a leadership challenge. They share conversations either on a regular or intermittent basis. Coaches are champions of the clients’ vision. But coaches aren’t saviors. Let’s take a look at some of the things a coach won’t do for you.

A Leadership Coach Won’t Solve Your Problems

In addition to the reasons listed above, leaders frequently hire a coach when they need help solving a problem. Here’s the bad news first: other types of professional relationships (consultants, trainers, counselors, etc.) may attempt to solve your leadership challenges for you. A leadership coach won’t. But here’s the good news. The coaching relationship is designed to keep you in the driver’s seat – meaning the coach’s role is to provide the framework and proactive support you need to identify root issues and generate solutions yourself as you work together. The next two points show how.

A Leadership Coach Won’t Tell You What to Do

Once again, many professional roles are built around the expertise of the provider – what they know that you need to know in order to succeed. When you hire them, you are buying their expertise and usually get some sort of knowledge download. Coaches have knowledge, but they a very reluctant to simply dole out advice. Instead, they ask powerful, open-ended questions and listen while you fill in the blanks. (For a sample list of questions a coach might ask, click here). In this way, coaches help get to the root of both the issue and the opportunity instead of superimposing a solution onto you. Even though a coach has expertise, they start with the expertise you already possess as the leader and expert of your situation. Even though a coach sometimes gives advice, for the good ones it is rare and never unsolicited.

A Leadership Coach Won’t Let You Off the Hook

What happens when a consultant delivers a solution that doesn’t work? Where does the blame rest? You’ll probably answer those questions differently depending on whether you are the consultant or the client! But a coach is upfront about whose responsibility the desired outcome lies with. (Here’s a hint: it’s with the client – not the coach.) This expectation allows the coach to partner with the client in custom-designing an action plan that the client will operate between (or after) coaching engagements. This plan then becomes the basis of future conversations.

If you would like to speak to a coach regarding any ideas or challenges related to leadership development, strategic thinking, change, talent management, teamwork, communication, learning programs, employee development or just to find out more about coaching, visit my Coaching page, or simply contact me.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, speaker, and thought leader. To learn more about his services, visit NathanMagnuson.com/consulting or follow him on Twitter.
  • http://www.mondayisgood.com/ Tom Dixon

    Love it! As a career coach myself, I couldn’t agree more. I can’t solve the problem, but I can come alongside you in solving the problem.

    • http://www.nathanmagnuson.com/ Nathan Magnuson

      Yep – it’s really a different mindset, esp. when you are first learning how!

  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    Great points Nathan! A coach can only share their knowledge and experience and hope the other person can use it in their situation.

    • http://www.nathanmagnuson.com/ Nathan Magnuson

      Yep, and the best coaches start with where the client is instead of their own knowledge base. My coach training was definitely a transformational experience.

      • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

        So true!

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