Thinking About Using a Business or Success Coach? Watch Out

John McKee

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It seems that the idea of using a business or executive coach to get ahead or to deal with roadblocks is now becoming very acceptable.

I have been involved with coaching since 1988, when I was first appointed to work with other senior executives at the company I worked then. In all those years, I have never seen so much interest and value attached to the use of a certified coach before this year.

Want some proof? In the last couple of months, I have appeared on more television and radio shows than I did in all of 2004. I've been invited to speak about the value of coaching on ABC Network News, on Fox, and on NBC. AND I'm booked to appear on 2 more shows as of this writing.

So why am I concerned? And why should You be?

Item 1: Be a Smart Shopper

I spent a fair amount of time in the retail business. I learned that when any product or service becomes very popular, a lot of similar-looking-but-not-as-good copies will soon hit the market.

Be aware that this new level of ‘coaching awareness’ is bringing with it some real frauds and charlatans. If you have any thoughts about taking on a coach, I suggest you ask them 3 questions: 1. “Are you certified?" If so, that alone should reduce the chances that they are selling snake oil or touchy feely stuff that won't do anything to help you move ahead.

2. " Have you actually done what you coach?" This is a pretty good indicator of your chances for success as well. I don't think Tiger Woods would use a coach who'd never actually swung a club.

3. “What professional associations do you belong to?" If they are affiliated with either the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches or the International Coach Federation, you know they've got some credibility . Why Care about Industry Associations?

Item 2: Coaching Should Pay for Itself. Quickly

Ever met anyone who's used a therapist or counselor for what seems like forever?

Although Woody Allen seems to have a made a good career about joking about his various therapists; for the rest of us the wrong choice can be disastrous.

My advice - don't take on any service provider if they can't tell you what to expect from your joint work. You wouldn't use a contractor to upgrade your bathroom without a commitment - why gamble with your career? Many executive and business coaches - including me - offer a guarantee of performance. This can take the form of either a ‘full satisfaction or your money back’ program or a return on investment (ROI) that's agreed to upfront.

Last year I was part of a 4 person team which did an industry analysis for the International Coaching Academy. We found many studies which proved conclusively that good effective coaching can provide an ROI of up to 500% over time.

Get a commitment. Read the Wall Street Article

Item 3: How Long Does It Take?

People always ask me, “How long would I need to work with you?" It's a good and fair question.

Based on my experience I can tell you this: Hard, concrete results can witnessed often as little as 4 sessions. But it can also take as long as the client wants to continue. And that's the point. If you decide to work with a coach of any kind, set targets for achievement and ‘by when’ dates to monitor your progress.

If you are moving ahead at the speed you want - stick with the coach. Otherwise - try someone else.

About John M McKee & - With 30 years experience including executive suites and boardrooms across North America, John has unique insights and expert skills for dealing with the challenges and opportunities facing anyone in business or in transition between employment. His consultancy, is a reflection of his desire to share what he has observed, learned and practiced in organizations ranging in size from start-ups to billion dollar corporations with thousands of employees. He is a frequent invited speaker at industry events, and has been an expert guest on network TV and radio programs. Reach John at


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