The Wall Street Journal and Wendy Rhoades Don’t Quite Get Executive Coaching

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Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street published a great article discussing the concept of executive coaching and therapy becoming intertwined.  Executive Coaching is a broad term in a billion-dollar industry that isn’t quite what the Wendy Rhoades character depicts in the popular Showtime series Billions in real life.  Coaching is an unregulated field with certifications and education ranging from weekend seminars to master’s level collegiate educational programs.  It is hard to walk in mainstream business circles without having met someone who is a “coach.”

What a coach means really depends on who you talk to. My point of view comes from just that, a point of view.  Many may have different opinions, but I ask, should a coach do the following?

1. Tell people what to do to change.

2. Give business direction for their clients.

3. Help with psychological issues.

4. Support and challenge a thinking process.

The answer to this question really depends on two main criteria.  First, what is the goal of a coaching relationship? Secondly, what is the skillset of the coach.  Often client sponsors and coachees enter a coaching relationship believing they need and want an advisor.  I would argue this is the starting point of a failed opportunity. Business advisors can be very helpful but are often miscategorized as “coaches.”  The underpinnings of my teaching and training through ICF (International Coaching Federation) and the Matriculated Masters Program at the University of Texas are grounded in trying to help clients make sustainable progress on whatever the topics being covered through the coaching relationship. Telling clients what to do or how to do something is limiting the growth and marginalizing the possibilities of what true executive coaching can deliver.

If this doesn’t resonate with you, let’s envision a lesson commonly associated with children. If you have a pot of boiling water and a child is going to touch it, yelling at the child not to may save the moment, but their curiosity will remain.  However, talking to the child and having them think about the situation of a fire on a metal pot that is filled with water might attack the curiosity and resolve the issue.

I would further argue it is dangerous and potentially even malpractice to provide therapy.  For all the coaches who liken themselves to the Wendy Rhoades character; you should remember Ms. Rhoades was a licensed physician, trained specifically in the area of therapy which most coaches are not.  Further, addressing therapy issues during a coaching program designed to help a leader be more effective in their business can distract from that very goal. I have had many clients who bring up matters that could be more effectively handled through therapy.  Referring them to an expert and separating those discussions from the coaching relationship often proves extremely effective. It is typical for the work between the two to inter-relate, creating an elevated opportunity to move the needle in a sustainable direction for the client.

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Andy Botwin

Andrew (or Andy) founded Strategy People Culture, LLC in 2012 with a passion for working with the interconnectivity between people and business and the fundamental beliefs in the symbiotic relationship between the advancement and success of both people and business.