Coaching is having a moment. Whether reflected in pop culture—episodes of “Silicon Valley” and “Billions” come to mind—or through a quick scroll of your LinkedIn feed, it seems that lately everyone is either seeking an executive coach or claiming to be one.
While it’s great for a spotlight to shine on the value of developing better leaders, there is a risky side to coaching’s popularity as well. CEOs who are thinking about hiring an executive coach need to be aware of these risks in order to avoid potentially disastrous results for both their organizations and themselves.
Consider this real-life situation. A senior partner at a major private equity firm had received negative feedback about his ability to delegate. While he did not really see this as a problem, the firm got him to agree to meet with an executive coach to work on this essential leadership skill. The coach had come highly recommended, and the two shared an instant rapport and started meeting frequently. But what emerged over the next few weeks was not what the organization needed or had expected. It turned out that the executive reminded the coach of her beloved, recently deceased father. As a result, the coach lost all objectivity and fell into the role of an advocate, essentially reinforcing her client’s incorrect beliefs that the negative feedback he received was unfair and not rooted in fact.
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