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Debunking the six most common executive coaching myths

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In the ever-evolving landscape of personal and professional development, coaching has emerged as a hot topic, sparking passionate debates and myriad opinions. With its surge in popularity, it’s no surprise a swirling vortex of misconceptions has followed in its wake.

Let’s set the record straight, dispel the myths and unveil the reality behind leadership and executive coaching.  Coaching has transformative power.  Let’s debunk the most common myths that may be preventing you from tapping into the incredible power of coaching.  

The biggest myths include: 

  • you need a coach to achieve success

  • coaching is only for individuals who need remedial help

  • coaching is more effective in a one-on-one setting

  • coaching is the same as therapy. 

  • coaching is a quick fix

  • coaching is only necessary for struggling leaders who are performing poorly. 

These top myths may be keeping you from a valuable resource, so it’s time to separate fact from fiction and uncover what coaching truly entails.

MYTH #1 You need a leadership coach

Needing a coach is one of those things that’s up for debate. Some of the most successful people out there swear they don’t need one, while others swear by it. Who’s right? 

Here’s the secret: it’s not about what you need, it’s about what you want.

‘Want’ is what really matters when it comes to coaching. 

If someone insists you need a coach but you couldn’t care less and aren’t open to their opinion, then don’t force yourself into it. You don’t want it, you’re not ready, and you aren’t willing, and that’s totally fine. There are other ways to get what you want, so do yourself a favor and listen to your gut on this one. Coaching only works if you’re all in. 

The real question you need to consider when it comes to coaching is, do you have the burning desire to make a change? Are you facing a gnarly challenge that’s got you scratching your head? If you’ve tried every trick in the book and still feel stuck, maybe it’s time to bring in the big guns. 

So, if you’re up for the challenge and are ready to be nudged out of your comfort zone, coaching could be an exciting path for you to explore. It’s like having a personal cheerleader, a source of wisdom, and a no-nonsense mirror of truth rolled into one. 

MYTH #2 Coaching is remedial 

Okay, let’s just drop the idea that coaching is a remedial investment. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about coaching and a myth that often acts as a barrier. 

Coaching isn’t about fixing what’s broken or slapping a band-aid on your problems. Coaching is about unleashing your full potential through self-awareness and taking your game to the next level.

You’ll find a partnership in a coaching relationship. The support of a coach will empower you to tap into your strengths, explore new possibilities, arrive at your own answers, and break through the blockers holding you back. It’s like having a personal trainer for your mind and soul.

Forget the idea coaching is only for those who are struggling or in dire need of help. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Coaching is for the ambitious, the go-getters, and the high achievers who refuse to settle for mediocrity. At the end of the day, it’s for those who crave growth, success, and a kickass life.

Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur, a seasoned professional, or just someone hungry for personal development, coaching is your secret weapon to unlock untapped potential. It’s about harnessing your strengths, gaining clarity, and unleashing your inner badass.

So, let’s put an end to the misconception coaching is remedial. It’s time to embrace coaching as the powerful tool it truly is—a catalyst for transformation and creating your dream life. 

MYTH #3 Coaching is better 1 on 1 

Let’s address a common misconception: the belief that one-on-one coaching is always the superior choice. While it is true that many CEOs and founders opt for individual coaching due to scheduling flexibility, a group setting with a skilled coach can be just as impactful.

Joining a coaching group might initially make you feel hesitant and vulnerable. However, the true magic of group coaching lies in the power of community. Being witnessed and supporting others in a group setting can create a profound sense of connection and growth. Sharing experiences, whether big or small and embracing vulnerability in a supportive environment can lead to transformative insights and positive change.

In group coaching, it’s not just the person in the spotlight who benefits. By observing and empathizing with the journeys of others, you can have lightbulb moments and gain valuable wisdom without even being in the hot seat. 

When you step away from a defensive mindset, a degree of separation is created to help you break through your own mental barriers by watching others break through theirs.

On the other hand, personalized coaching offers a different set of advantages. If you have deep inner work to explore or desire individualized attention, one-on-one coaching is a perfect fit. 

Individualized coaching provides a safe space for you to open up, examine your authentic feelings, and dive into confidential matters you may not be able to share in a group setting. A one-on-one relationship with a coach creates a depth of understanding to help your coach detect your blind spots, triggers, and strengths. The more you share, the more they can coach you and your specific needs. 

Both group and individual coaching have their merits. It’s worth experimenting with both to determine which environment best suits your growth and development. The most important thing to remember is if you’re looking to grow, investing in yourself is always a wise choice, regardless of the coaching format you choose. 

MYTH #4 Coaching is therapy 

Coaching and therapy are two distinct fields with some similarities but also many differences. Both are focused on helping individuals achieve personal growth and development, but they differ in their approach, goals, and scope.

The two go together well. I have almost always had both in my life for myself, a coach and a therapist. But the distinction between the two is sometimes unclear, so let’s go over that. 

The difference between coaching and therapy

Typically, a therapist is somebody who helps you to understand who you are now and maybe what you want now based on understanding what has happened in the past. In general, therapists help you work with your own psychology and with a lot of rich understanding of how the psychology was formed. It is also a treatment for psychological disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and trauma. Therapists work with individuals to identify the root causes of their problems and develop strategies to overcome them. Therapy is typically a longer-term process. Therapy may be more exploratory and focused on helping individuals gain insight into their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

A coach, in contrast to a therapist, works from the here and now. There is a lot less emphasis on the past and a lot more emphasis placed on creating the future.

Coaching is a creative process aimed at helping you achieve specific goals and making progress in your personal and professional life. Successful coaches help you get clear on what big mountain you want to climb. This is where you develop your vision. You can get discouraged at this point because when you’re thinking about the mountain you focus on all the barriers and obstacles that will make it difficult. A great coach is going to be skilled at reminding you to bring your eyes up and to focus on the mountain ahead. 

It is forward-looking and goal-oriented, with a focus on identifying and achieving specific objectives. Coaches help individuals identify their strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan of action to achieve their goals. 

MYTH #5 Coaching is a quick fix

Some may believe leadership coaching is a quick-fix solution to solve all their problems overnight. We all wish life could be so simple, right?

Coaching is not a quick fix. It’s a process, not an event. It may not take a long time, but it does take time. Even more important than the time, getting the maximum value out of coaching requires effort and commitment from both you and your coach. It takes hard work and a willingness to learn, grow, and implement new strategies. Your growth through the coaching process takes effort, self-awareness, inner work, and dedication.

Progress may not always be immediate. You must commit to a series of sessions and actively participate in the process. A coach will work with you to identify your goals and develop a plan of action to achieve them. This plan may include specific tasks, action steps, and strategies you must implement in your daily life. It may take time to see the desired result, but with patience and persistence, the benefits of leadership coaching can be significant and long-lasting.

Another reason coaching is not a quick fix is it requires a high level of self-awareness and inner work. To achieve personal growth and development, you must reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This requires a level of introspection and vulnerability that can be challenging. An effective coach asks powerful questions that invite you to examine your ways of operating, patterns keeping you stuck, and the role you play in holding yourself back. Self-awareness is the thread connecting all personal development. It’s not necessarily easy, but it is worth it. 

MYTH #6 Coaching is only necessary for struggling leaders who are performing poorly

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, many successful leaders seek coaching to help them refine their skills, learn new strategies, and enhance their overall effectiveness. Leadership coaching is not a sign of weakness, but rather a proactive step towards continuous improvement.

Each leader is unique, and coaching is tailored to address specific goals and challenges. A coach works with you to develop a customized plan tailored to your unique needs, strengths, and challenges.

Coaching can benefit you at any stage of life or work! Contrary to popular belief, coaching is not just for leaders who are struggling or underperforming. Coaching can be useful for anyone who wants to kick ass at meeting goals, gain greater self-awareness, and achieve personal and professional growth. Coaching is not just for leaders or executives. It can be useful for anyone, regardless of their role or level of experience (and that includes your home life as well). Whether an individual is just starting out, seeking the next level, or looking to make a career change, coaching can provide you with the guidance and support needed to achieve your goals.

How? Through collaboration. Coaching is a collaborative process. You set the vision and your coach provides guidance, support, and a healthy dose of accountability to help you stay on track and make progress. 

Coaching is a valuable tool for personal and professional growth benefitting individuals at any stage of life or work. Remember, coaching is not a prerequisite for success, nor is it solely intended for those in dire need. It is not limited to a one-on-one format, nor is it interchangeable with therapy. Coaching is not a quick fix, nor is it exclusively reserved for struggling leaders. The goal of coaching is transformation, unlocking your untapped potential, and creating a better version of yourself and a better life. 

I hope you now have a clearer understanding of what professional coaching truly encompasses and the incredible possibilities it holds for your growth and development. Don’t let these myths hold you back any longer—embrace the power of coaching and embark on a path toward self-discovery and achievement. With the help of an experienced coach, you can unlock your full potential and achieve greater success and fulfillment in your life.

Photography by Kelley Raye //

Dr. Caneel Joyce is a CEO Coach and social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

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