Center for Executive Coaching

13 signs that you might be a lousy executive or leadership coach

Every day I get calls from people who ask, "Do you think I'd be a successful leadership or executive coach?"

There are clear attributes that a successful leadership or executive coach has. However, sometimes we learn more from counter-examples than from examples.

With that in mind, here are 13 signs that you might make a lousy leadership or executive coach, and should consider another field.

1. You have delusions of grandeur as a best-selling guru. If you want to be the next Dr. Phil or Oprah, I congratulate you on your ambition. However, perhaps you should start out with a clear vision of the types of people you want to coach, the problems they face, and the value you can bring to them. Otherwise, you have a narcissistic fantasy rather than aspirations to be a coach.

2. You suffer from soft thinking. Clients don't need platitudes or cliches. If you love to spout motivational slogans from "Successories" posters, you might want to consider another line of work.

3. You need a formulaic, idiot-proof approach to coaching. Coaches know how to think on their feet and improvise. They are quick thinkers. It is fine to take a few moments to pause with a client and collect your thoughts. However, if you need some sort of "if they say this, then I say that" script, then coaching probably isn't for you.

4. Friends, family, and colleagues tell you that you need to be more patient. People change at their pace, not yours. Patience is a requirement for coaches.

5. You tend to hide behind credentials, or think that having a credential will solve all your problems and have clients hire you on the spot. Even the ICF MCC credential won't sell engagements for you. Nor will a brand from a franchise or even a well-recognized and respected firm. Ultimately, the client is buying YOU and you need to be willing and able to explain why you can provide value, and build rapport and trust with prospects and clients.

6. Business development scares the s*** out of you. At the Center for Executive Coaching, we receive rave reviews for our marketing materials and support. But they mean nothing if you are not willing to take action.

7. You are highly theoretical or academic. Academics can be great coaches, but they have to help clients find a practical path to results. Theories are fun to discuss, but coaches understand how to shift conversations from ideas to commitment, action, and results.

8. You love drama and have lots of it in your personal relationships. Coaches cut through drama. They don't get sucked into it.

9. You can't see why anyone would hire you as a coach. If you can't see why people would hire you, no one else would either. You have to have a sense of value and know that you can contribute to others.

10. You tend to push your passion onto others, be a bit self-righteous, or constantly offer unsolicited advice. Coaches put aside their personal agendas, and help clients choose their own path. They know that they can't coach people who aren't open to being coached!

11. You talk more than you listen. Great coaches realize that the key to helping clients get better comes from listening to them and then sharing that perfect question, tool, or distinction. Listening is more effective than lecturing, teaching, debating, or talking on and on about your world.

12. Your life is a mess, or a borderline mess. It is a sad but true fact that many self-proclaimed coaches are kind of nutty, and not in the endearing way. There seems to be a problem in the coaching world where people whose lives are a mess work through their own issues by becoming coaches and trying to help others. We all have areas to work on, but make sure you don't need more help than you can give before you get into coaching.

13. You have experienced a transformational weekend and want to bring that feeling to others. Congratulations on your new revelations and great experience! Unfortunately, executives and leaders don't wake up in the morning saying, "What I need today is a bit of transformation. Let me do a Google search for a transformational coach." Instead, you need to take a grounded, realistic look at the problems people in a particular market face, and devise solutions that solve their most pressing problems. Take them fire walking after you help them resolve a problem that is putting their organization or career at risk.

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