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What about the coaching profession’s shadow? My concern is that sometimes we coaches – as a profession – over promise. We all make implied or direct promises – it’s called marketing. But at some point, the promises become bigger than the reality. Some that come to mind are:

“Get new clients this week, or even right now today if you put these 3 tools into action immediately.”

“Provide the finest in life coaching and business coaching through the use of our easy to learn, yet highly effective system of results-driven coaching…in 16 hours.”

“7 steps to ……happiness, success, wealth, better relationships…”

Marketing requires us to make bold statements to differentiate ourselves from each other. Yes, we compete with each other! How do we stay honest about what we can do for our clients? This crucial ethical consideration needs a great deal more attention in our profession.

Another concern for the profession is when our work is reduced to a set of fixed steps, techniques and tools. The problem is that tools are implements used to shape or change objects and the one holding the tool has unequal and greater power. When, through choice of words, attitudes, beliefs or actions, we subtly create a power differential between coach and client, or objectify the client, we have violated the very definition of the profession.

Research reported by Ahn and Wampold (2001) and applied to coaching by Eric de Haan in Relational Coaching (2008) concludes that the most important factors in successful helping relationships are 1) the relationship between coach and client, 2) the character, personality, or person of the coach and 3) the coach having considerable study and knowledge of an approach. Professional associations do a good job on the third point, but less attention is given to the other two. Our relationship and our own character are more important than our tools; coaching is highly dependent on who we are and how we work with our clients.

Enter the shadow, again.

Join me for the conclusion next week.