Why I don’t believe in business coaching and why it works

Why coaching works

Why business coaching works captain the in the storm

Don’t talk to me about the storms and the reefs, Coach,  just tell me we’ll be safe

I was working with a business – life coaching client recently, let’s call him Peter. Peter set a big Goal for himself as part of our work together.

Peter’s Goal was so big, in fact, that I was bothered by it. You see, I know from experience, that setting Goals that are too big are likely to have a demotivational effect and worse, can lead to disappointment.

I challenged Peter and asked him if he felt confident the Goal was realistic, and if he felt he could make it happen in the time we had. Peter was adamant. Although he wasn’t sure if he could do it, he wanted to stretch himself and “set it out there”. Peter has done a lot of self-development work and he believes in a version of the “Law of Attraction”, which loosely states that you get what you focus on in life and in business.

Goal blown out of the water

3 Weeks later, Peter rang me unexpectedly. He’d just signed a new contract that meant he’d blown his Goal out of the water two weeks early.

Wonderful news, very exciting and I truly feel Peter deserves every dollar of that success, because he is one of the nicest guys I know.

Peter said: “There you go, I knew it, when you set it out there, the Universe will provide”.

And it’s such a comforting idea, isn’t it? The idea that there is some greater power that’s going to look after you in your time of need. It’s lovely that Peter felt confirmed in his beliefs. It will no doubt help him to remain motivated to move forward in his business and that was his biggest problem prior to coming to see me.

But it confirmed my growing confusions.

I don’t believe

You see, I do not believe in the “Law of Attraction”, or it’s many variants. I don’t even believe in traditional Goal setting anymore. As a matter of fact, there are a whole bunch of foundational principles of my profession of coaching that I have stopped believing in. Consequently, in the past years, I’ve adjusted the way I work with my clients to rely only on well-established scientific principles.

And my clients achieve great things in their businesses and their lives and I am excited and proud of the work I do with them. But the experience with Peter recently makes me wonder if I’m doing the right thing for my clients.

You see, Peter is an old hand at being coached and mentored. I’ve known him for years and we have done a lot of work together. Also, Peter moves in a world where he comes across self-development gurus of many ilks all the time, and he’s convinced by the self-development messages he hears from them. What’s more, Peter and I have become good friends over the years, so he felt comfortable enough with me to push back and set the Goal he wanted to set. It worked out great for him, but not everyone has Peter’s confidence or clarity.

The many contradictions

It’s all very well for me to question myself and my beliefs. I don’t believe anything in life or business is ever black and white, there are no simple rules. Here’s just a few of those contradictions in business:

  • A business must make profit or else it’s a hobby… but… Making profit is not the Purpose of business.
  • A business must have a plan to move forward… but… Planning is guessing
  • Goalsetting is important… but… Goals are not destinations, just directions.
  • Great leaders are fiercely ambitious… but… Not for themselves
  • Systemisation is critical for developing your business… but… I’d hate to live in a world where all restaurants are McDonalds.
  • Knowing how to “close” a sale is a key skill in business… but… The most successful people in business and in life “Give without expectation of return”.
  • Growing your business is fine… but… Don’t focus on growth (focus on delivery instead).
  • Change your business, make it grow, make more money… but… Not unless you yourself change and grow first.

Life is full of contradictions such as those. Sure, it would be easier if it wasn’t and we all like the idea of winning the lottery, but even winning the lottery turns out not to be as great as we thought. (Read about lottery winners and happiness here)

And so I believe questioning myself is healthy, it keeps me sharp and pushing the boundaries. But it’s not necessarily what my clients need from me.

The shortest route

business coaching The experience with Peter has shown me that most clients simply want to get from point A to point B, via the shortest route possible, with as few detours as possible. And they look for someone to help them get there.

Maybe, when they come across me, they hear my questioning, my lack of certainty and start to wonder if getting my help might take them up the scenic route to point B, and so they’ll move on to someone who promises to take them up the freeway instead.

And that’s a shame, because the thing is, I know I transform people’s lives and businesses. I have literally hundreds of past clients who will attest to that fact.

So what I need to do is to communicate that you can trust me to take you on an amazing journey and adventure, and that like the captain of the ship, I know how to handle the storms when they come up. You don’t particularly want me to talk about the reefs we might hit under way, you just want to know we’ll be safe.

And this blog post?… It’s doing exactly the opposite… isn’t it?… Ah well, Peter loves me anyway.

Would you like to download my free 12 Question Cheat-sheet to help you find your next Coach? Click here.

Further reading and research

You may be interested in taking my ”Are you ready for Change” survey. It takes 10 minutes to complete and I promise it will give you plenty of food for thought. I’ve written more about Change (with a capital ”C”) here.

Here is the link to my webpage about all my coaching, mentoring, guidance and training services

There is a lovely guest post from one of my clients, Geoff Anderson from Sonic Sight about his experience with business coaching here

Here is an article I wrote about how to go about finding the right coach for you and here is a link to my webpage about all forms of business support that are available to small business owners.

And here are three articles on how to go about finding the right business coach on Inc.com , on Entrepreneur.com and on Fastcompany.com. All worth a good read if you’re considering the idea of getting a business coach soon.

More about my own coaching background here


I used to be the smartest person in the room

throwing a tantrum

Why throwing a Big Fat Tantrum feels like a great option right now

Life feels a bit like I’m wrestling in a mud bath right now. There are a bunch of challenges and big changes in front of Lady D and myself and I’m not finding it all that easy to navigate my way through.

I know about emotional intelligence, and part of me knows that I can trust myself to ride through these challenges and changes, that I’ll come out the other end, and that life will go on. I tell myself that 58 years of living my life as I have, means I’ve earned the right to trust myself to manage, to decide and to do the right stuff.

But there’s also a hint of panic creeping in. What if this time I don’t get on top of the challenges, what if this time I slowly but inexorably spiral down into a deep black hole and what if this time I won’t find the way out?

I volunteer at a homeless support centre in Sydney called the Wayside Chapel, and I have met many people who have spiralled down into that black hole and many who don’t ever find the way out again.

Those people scare the bejesus out of me. I see them drag themselves through life, day in day out, and they freak me out. I’ve sometimes wondered how it’s possible that people allow themselves to disappear down that hole so deeply. I’ve always considered myself “better” than them, because I held the cocky belief I have the inner strength to pick myself up by the scruff of the neck and go and do something constructive.

But right now, I’m not so confident of that strength.

Crawling out of Trouble

And maybe that’s a good thing. To quote Graham Long, the CEO of The Wayside Chapel: “Whenever you find yourself thinking you are the smartest (strongest, most resourceful) person in the room… You’re in trouble.” Maybe I’ve been in trouble and now I’m crawling out!

And I remind myself that the last couple of years have brought significant change in my life and all of that change is bound to have an impact on me and to just allow it to take its course.

But it’s not that easy, is it?

There’s simple practicalities of life to consider.

It may be perfectly healthy to just let things develop as they will, but I need to get new clients, I need to find a new city to live in and buy a house, I need to make sure that things in our house in Holland go well, I need to support Lady D and I need to continue to develop my business and stay healthy.

And I’m not sure how to do all that. Actually, forget knowing how to do all that, I’m confused even about the steps to take, to arrive at that knowledge.

Lean into The Discomfort

In the past, in the days when I was more or less convinced that I was the smartest person in the room, I used to say stuff like: “Lean into the discomfort” and “Being lost in the wilderness is the only way to discover the hidden treasure” and “Trust you’ll have the answers deep inside you”.

There’s nothing like an Inspiring Facebook Meme to remind people you actually are the smartest person in the room, is there?

But it doesn’t feel so great when the shoe is on my own foot, and I’m not feeling so smart these days.

The Wave Form of Life

Graham Long talks about the wave form of life. We go from peaks to troughs and back up again. He makes the point that the impulse to stay on top of the peaks all the time, and never descend into the troughs, is the impulse of the addict.

wave form of life

And I get that, I really do. I accept that as soon as we find ourselves on the top of a wave, we’ll start heading down into the trough, every time. It’s just that these days I feel less certain about the opposite, about climbing out of the trough again. Or maybe it’s that I’m not so sure I’ve hit the bottom of the trough yet, maybe there’s a lot further to go, who can tell?

And while I’m here, what am I supposed to do? Swim? Or let the wave toss me about for a while?

One of the challenges I am currently struggling with is the fact that we’re going to have to leave Sydney, probably NSW, possibly even Australia. I won’t bore you with the reasons, suffice to say it’s a consequence of decisions we’ve made over the past 15 years. I am not regretting the decisions I’ve made, I believe they were entirely the right decisions for my life at that time, but ultimately it now means we can’t stay here.

Blind Freddy Could Have Seen This Coming

It’s not as if the situation we find ourselves in right now comes as a complete surprise. To be honest, Blind Freddy could have seen this coming 15 years ago, and what’s more, at least we have options, many more options than the people I meet at the Wayside have. But I don’t want those options. I resent being forced to choose one of them. What I really want is to throw a tantrum, stamp my feet, throw myself on the floor and scream at the top of my voice, until someone fixes things for me.

Not a good look for a big 58 year old, balding, overweight man (I tried it on my grandkids the other day, they were not impressed).

Lack of Conclusions

For the last hour, I’ve been procrastinating about how to continue this piece. One of the reasons I started writing this post was to help me clarify things for myself, and to make me feel like I was doing something constructive. But I’m stuck now. Not sure where to go next or how to finish up.

Normally, having arrived at this stage in an essay, I’d start drawing a conclusion and a lesson and then find a way to finish with my signature closing words: “I Promise you”.

But now that I’m not the smartest person in the room anymore, that formula doesn’t really work any longer. I don’t have a lesson, I don’t even have a conclusion for you…

Sorry about that.

I’ll just go and throw that Tantrum now… It will make me feel better… I Prom…


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