3 Myths about Coaching

Prospective coaches and even trained coaches have beliefs about coach training, growing a coaching business, and the act of coaching itself. Below are 3 myths about coaching.

1. The client has all the answers.
Coaches never give advice or suggestions, right?! Many coaching purists believe this to be true. They believe they just need to ask the right questions and the client will figure out the answer.

If the client had all the answers, why would they need a coach? While an effective coach will have the skills to elicit many answers from their client, sometimes the client just does not have the answer. If they’ve hired you for your expertise on a topic or with a situation then you probably know the answer or solution they need, or could consider, in that moment.

When I first started coaching I was faced with this situation. I was working with a client who was having a challenge with fitness and weight loss. Having been taught that the client had all the answers, I was hesitant to give her suggestions based on my years as a fitness and strength training consultant. Yet it seemed ridiculous to me to have her try to figure out the answer on her own. I realized in that moment that I could ask her questions until she hopefully arrived at an appropriate solution or I could ask her if I could share what I knew from my previous experience as a fitness consultant. She opted for the latter.

As a coach you may need to wear different hats. You can ask the client if it’s ok for you to put on your consulting or mentor hat when you feel it is needed.

2. All the learning takes place during the coaching call.

As a new coach you may think that the client needs to get a big ‘ah ha’ during the coaching call in order for the session to be a success. Learning often happens in the space between coaching sessions when the mind has had time to process the call.

Think about a time you were faced with a challenge. You may have talked with a friend, colleague or family member about it and they may have offered some solutions. Yet none of the solutions felt right. Then you’re out for a walk or in the shower and voila – the answer flashes right before your eyes. Same concept.

You just need to coach during the session. Don’t worry about getting the person to some place. If that’s your focus, then two things may be happening. One – your ego is in the coaching relationships. Two – you may fear that a client will drop you if they don’t get an ‘ah-ha’ each session. Two things you can work on with your coach.

3. You need to be your client’s friend.

You’ve probably read articles stating that hiring a coach is like paying someone to be your friend. Would you really want a friend or family member to coach you? Think about it. Our friends and family will be affected, for example, if we want to change our high-paying career for one that is more fulfilling but pays less. How can they coach you from a non-attached place? For the most part – they can’t. They have a personal agenda, knowingly or unknowingly.

Does your client want you to be their friend? Some may. What your clients need is for you to be willing to risk not being liked in order to support them. They need you to ask one more question when it gets uncomfortable, something a friend may not do. You may be the only person in their life who will tell them a hard truth or to hold them to a higher standard or vision of themselves. A coaching session may be the only time a client gets heard.

If you are your client’s friend, you may develop a personal agenda for them, which interferes with your coaching.

In summary, it’s beneficial to question your perceptions or beliefs about coaching. If someone tells you that this is the way it’s done, ask for the reasoning behind it. Perhaps they do it that way because another way was never tried.

Related Post: 3 Myths about Becoming a Coach

7 thoughts on “3 Myths about Coaching

  1. Rey Carr

    Great descriptions of three assumptions often made in the coaching world. I like the way you’ve given examples from practice in each of the three as to why that assumption is more of a stereotype or myth.

    I particularly liked the way you stated that you’d ask for permission to share your wisdom/experience instead of just steamrolling the client into listening to your story.


    Rey Carr

  2. Paul Guibord

    I do agree with your comments here Sue. One of the things that has served me well over the years is being flexible, resourceful and adaptive. It’s nice to learn the theory but a lot of what I learned in books and classes throughout my years in IT do not compare with what I have learned in the field.



  3. Sue Post author

    Thanks for sharing Paul. Theory can help form a basis but real life adds twists and turns that aren’t in the books! It really comes down to trusting yourself and listening to those inklings. There’s nothing wrong with saying that something doesn’t feel right.

  4. Sue Post author

    Thanks Rey. Your comment reminds me how important examples are as they serve to bring clarity to a point. Otherwise more assumptions could be made.

  5. Hilary

    Great post! I’ve been hearing more and more lately that clients don’t have all the answers. My training school has stressed that they do and it appears to me from my experiences with clients that they don’t necessarily. I think as long as you ask permission and remain unattached to the outcome of your suggestion that it is ok to make them if needed.

  6. Diana

    Thank you so much for posting this. I agree with it all. However I wanted to comment on the first one about coaches never giving advice. I was taught this too. But when I set up my website I decided to call myself “life coach/mentor/consultant” (although I’m thinking of changing the consultant part but can’t say why or to what now). I think I knew intuitively that there would be times when I would do all three. I’m still a fairly new coach (6 months) and I can tell you with the clients I’ve had so far I’ve already put on the mentor cap. There are times when a client simply is dumbfounded. But I still pefer not to give advice. I DO prefer to give suggestions. The difference? Advice to me is more like telling someone what you think they “should” do and a sugesstions is well, simply that, a suggestion. It leaves it more open. And you can do this in the form of a question such as “What if you tried this…?” or “What if you did this…?” You’re not telling exactly and you’re putting the ball back in their court and hopefully encouraging them to make their own decision.

    Thanks, Diana

  7. Pingback: Myths in Life Coaching « Jeffrey T. Sooey

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