Is executive coaching a total crock?

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So I attended a really interesting conference this weekend. I can’t tell you about it yet because we’re still reporting the story, but I wanted to share one part of it with you all so you could tell me what I’m missing.

It was a session billed as a tutorial on the power of coaching. You know, coaching–as in personal coaching, executive coaching, coach coaching. Right, I don’t get it, either. The coach coach was this woman named Terri Levine. I wasn’t going to name her, except that she expounded so passionately on how she believes in telling the truth that I felt I must take her at her word.

She began with a long tale about how she got into coaching. It had to do with an orphan girl named Jackie whom Levine says she befriended in the third grade. Upon realizing the orphanage did not celebrate Halloween, little Terri went about collecting bags and bags of candy to present to her friend. “And that,” she announced, “was when I knew I wanted to help people all my life.”

This magnanimity led eventually to this business called coaching. She claims it’s the fastest-growing business in America, the highest-paying home business, and that there are currently 60,000 people searching for coaches.

What exactly does a coach do for someone who doesn’t play high-school ball? “We teach people to communicate better, understand themselves, ask powerful questions, listen empathically,” she said. They teach you to recognize “technicolor visions” of success. “What I do best is create million-dollar businesses.”

The audience was made up of a marvelously generous crowd of business owners who responded readily and enthusiastically to the session. I too was kind of caught up in her energy. But after a while I began to realize that she asked a lot of leading questions: “Does anyone out there want to be happier?” “Do any of you want million-dollar businesses?” The crowd gamely raised their hands.

And all this was leading to a sales pitch: to buy her $4,825 “comprehensive coaching package” (ours for just $997, plus shipping). Her package was necessary, she said, because one couldn’t just call oneself a coach if one didn’t know the four core competencies of coaching, for instance, or how to ask a powerful question.

Yet I still didn’t get it. What does an executive coach do? How precisely would one build my million-dollar business? Why would I spend $1,000–heck, $10,000, or $100,000–on someone who talks about my technicolor vision? (And I don’t mean to pick on Terri Levine; she has hordes of satisfied clients, according to the client testimonials she handed out, and she’s probably a very nice lady. If you find this post, Ms. Levine, I want you to know it’s closing in on 9 p.m. on a Monday, I’m still at the office, I’ve worked all weekend, I miss my family, and I’m feeling fat today. So I’m even grumpier than usual. I’m sorry. I probably need a happiness coach.)

Anyway, someone enlighten me on the power of coaching.

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