Here at the Center for Executive Coaching, we avoid words that other coach training programs use, usually because other programs use words that are not results-oriented or that do not fit with the ways that executives and leaders think and speak. For instance, we avoid the word transformation, even though many coaches love that word. In this blog post, I suggest that coaches stop using it in marketing messages, on their websites, and in descriptions of how they work with clients.
Here are three reasons why:
First, while coaches associate the word transformation with lots of benefits, leaders often do not, and this does not make for great marketing. Many coaches associate the word transformation with positive benefits because many coaches have attended seminars that call themselves transformational. These coaches have had great personal experiences attending these seminars, and often that’s what got them into coaching — they want to bring that experience to others. They have witnessed all sorts of growth by the participants in these seminars and perhaps experienced some themselves — whether rebuilding relationships with family members to whom they haven’t spoken in years, walking on hot coals, or becoming aware of and overcoming some automatic way of being. So to them, the word transformation is a good, even a great thing.
However, to executives, transformation is just another buzzword. They haven’t attended those seminars. They haven’t studied the distinctions in transformational approaches. The word transformation doesn’t mean much to them. If anything, it tells them that the person using it is yet another empty suit using hopeful sounding jargon with no substance or credibility behind them.
Plus, have you even met a leader who woke up saying, “I want to be transformed? Let me search Google for a coach who can help me.” I haven’t.
Executives want to hear about how they can solve their most pressing challenges, and these involve time, money, innovation, market share, overwhelm, change, mobilizing talent, and understanding and preparing for future trends. They want solutions to these challenges.
Coaches who focus on those issues and how they can help will have an easier time attracting attention.
Second, the math doesn’t work. If you add up all of the coaches who have graduated from so-called transformational coach training programs, there are something like 20,000 of them. One would think that if we had so many transformed and self-proclaimed transformational coaches out there, the world would be a much better place. If each of them reached just one world leader, and one big company CEO, there would be something like 5 coaches per “big-time” leader. Hunger would be on the way out. Terrorism would be stopped. Israel and Palestine (and other Arab countries) would get along. The US government could start to reduce its national debt and the Republicans and Democrats could get along. People would start losing weight and start saving more for retirement. Companies would constantly look different than they did a few years ago. Oh, and self-proclaimed transformational coaches would be getting all the credit for this. Not happening.
I know a few cases in which a few really great coaches have helped leaders and organizations to make massive differences in their companies, things that could be called true transformation. However, for the most part, the top coaches I know bring significant value to their clients — but not to the degree that we would use the word transformation. Careers advance. Change accelerates. Cultures become more effective. Clients have more time and less stress. Financial results improve. Strategic plans get executed. There are fewer conflicts.
So in addition to the first rule of marketing — use words that are associated with benefits — let’s follow a second rule: Under-promise and over-deliver. When you use a word like transformation in your marketing, you are making a massive promise that you probably can’t keep. You should probably stop doing that.
Third, you can’t measure it. How do you measure transformation anyway? When a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, we can measure that. How do you measure when an executive transforms? How do you measure when a company transforms? What do you put in your proposal under the objectives section as metrics for transformation?
It’s too fluffy. So stop using it in your marketing.