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10 Questions To Test Whether Your Coach Is A Fake by David Goddin

This week is ICF’s International Coaching Week and it’s a great opportunity to celebrate & discuss coaching. Each weekday I’m hosting blogs from a variety of authors exploring an aspect of coaching. You can read all the posts this week here & follow them on Twitter using #coachingblogs.

The topic for today is “10 questions to test whether your coach is a fake” which has been suggested by Neil Morrison (@neilmorrison).

This post has been written by yours truly (@changecontinuum) – I hope you enjoy it!

10 Questions To Test Whether Your Coach Is A Fake

1. Do they like the sound of their own voice?

I’m continually struck by the ability of some coaches people to continually rabbit on about themselves without any recognition (or social grace perhaps) that you might actually have something to say… Coaching is never about the coach, their ego and their self importance.

2. Do they hear you?

Connected to point 1 is the ability for some coaches people to not listen to their client let alone hear them deeply. They sit there with the client, silently appearing to listen but when they come to speak or enquire you realise that they’ve not heard you at all… In all likelihood they’ve been wrapped up in what they want to say next rather than what you need to say next.

3. Do they harass you?

A client of mine was recommended a “first class” coach by their Group HRD. They met, discussed the coaching need and focus but the client chose not to proceed. The recommended coach person then aggressively pursued a non-existent sale culminating in them accosting the prospective client outside their office in the street! A robust discussion ensued including the threat of legal action and the harassment stopped. Incredible but true…

4. Do they show the value of their values?

Whatever model you use, the fundamentals of coaching sit on a bedrock of values & ethics. Charging clients extortionately because they are naive or you think you can get away with it is unethical. Creating dependency so the coaching relationship doesn’t end is contrary to what coaching is. Abusing your position as coach undermines everything.

5. Do they think contracting is for Procurement?

Core to any coaching relationship is what we call ‘contracting’.  This will often be enshrined in a legal contract but its purpose is to agree upon how you and your coach will work together including expected outcomes, confidentiality, stakeholders and a range of other potential factors important to the relationship. This may never include pricing let alone terms & conditions. Any good coach knows this and makes it a core part of how you engage.

6. Do they show how they believe they are qualified to coach you?

Qualifications and accreditation are good signs of skills. Industry body membership can show commitment. Experience of working with clients in similar situations is often relevant. Their confidence that the coaching relationship will be successful is important. All of these could be faked but in my experience, as a package, they are demonstrated meaningfully by good (& great) coaches.

7. Will they walk away if it’s not working out?

It’s not expected but it happens that sometimes things don’t work out. It’s important in all coaching relationships, that if the coach feels they can’t help that the coaching stops. The best coaches will be the first to tell you there is a problem.

8. What would they advise?

The role of advice in coaching is a little niggly but at it’s heart is the belief in the client directing the agenda and not being led by the coaches own agenda. Within this, it’s seen as counter-productive for the coach to actively give advice as part of the coaching. Any coach that tells you what to do isn’t coaching.

9. Who can I talk to who would recommend your work?

Recommendation remains a strong factor in how people & organisations select coaches. It’s very hard to recommend a fake unless you don’t know what you’re talking about. Every experienced, successful coach will have clients who are willing to (perhaps in confidence) endorse them.

10. What does poor coaching practice look like?

In all my experience, the good (& great) coaches know very well what poor practice looks like either from research or from observation. I strongly suspect that any fake won’t be able to talk intelligently about poor practice or any of the above points.

I hope that helps! What else would you add?


7 thoughts on “10 Questions To Test Whether Your Coach Is A Fake by David Goddin

  1. Would add-
    They drive / steer the conversation because they know what’ s best for you as they have the experience
    They don’t see coaching as a learning experience for both of you – they are the masters with wisdom
    They never show / share any weaknesses


    Posted by Vera Woodhead | May 21, 2013, 7:20 AM
    • Hi Vera – great additions and examples of poor coaching practice. Maybe we should do another blog soon on all those Poor Practice indicators!


      Posted by David Goddin | May 21, 2013, 9:23 AM
  2. Great post, David. I found #7 the biggest challenge I had when I first started coaching. My ego told me I was a good enough coach to help and I persisted, even when it was clear the clients weren’t engaged in creating the change they claimed to want. Lessons learned.

    So, my #11 would be, a great coach will hold you accountable, a poor coach will accept your excuses and let you slide.


    Posted by broc.edwards | May 31, 2013, 12:29 PM
    • Cheers Broc – that’s a good bit of learning to share and I think everyone goes through that when first starting coaching others. I think it’s actually a sticky area for ‘manager as coach’ to deal with… another blog I think!

      I like your #11 – if I may, I’d suggest a little tweak in the language to “a great coach will make sure you hold yourself accountable, a poor coach will accept your excuses and let you slide”. A nuance but brings it back to the individuals (potentially changing) agenda. Hope that sits well with you!


      Posted by David Goddin | May 31, 2013, 2:50 PM


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