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Seven Executive Coaching Myths

American music producer Rick Rubin is a formidable coach

Myth 1: Executive coaching is only for underperformers or problem cases

Duh. Think sports: is athletic, mindset, and nutrition coaching only for underperforming athletes? Indeed, not. I rest my case, your Honor. In organizations, the same goes with executives, leaders, and high performers because (you may keep that good Marshall Goldsmith quote up your sleeve, for it might come in handy at work or in cocktail parties): "What got you here won't get you there." 

A CEO I coached was once a rainmaker known as a killer, but when he stepped into the corner office, he sensed that management by fear was a dead end. Letting go of control was one of his big fears. How he tamed his "Never Enough" inner voice was impressive. Allowing empathy for self and others was his Everest. 

Inspiring is the leader who finds the courage to look straight into the mirror, let go of what does not serve anymore, adopt new perspectives, and build new skills for the next edge. 

What about you? What change do you want to see in your life? What's your next edge?

Myth 2: Executive coaching is expensive and time-consuming

Expensive? Business executives know the value of money and think and breathe Return On Investment. 

A sought-after coach for CEOs bills his clients 10K monthly for engagements at least six months, usually 12 or 18 (my rates are still below that level, but I'm working on catching up!). 

Please let me know. Do you honestly think ROI-minded CEOs would pay such fees if the returns were not at least 10-fold? 

How much value will change bring to yourself and your organization?

Time consuming? This week, a coaching client opened the session with an unsaddling statement: " Dominique, I did not want to cancel the session, but this morning, I wondered, given my hectic week, if a coaching session today was the best use of my time." I speak truth to power and never shy from challenging conversations. At the end of our call, he confessed: "Thank you, what a breakthrough!" And I replied: "Thank you! You are the source of my inspiration!" 

I do not need to be a seer to know that there are no more than twenty-four hours in your days. It's the same with mine. And as we spend our days, we live our lives. You are busy; we coaches get it. But as my good friend from Montreal, Robert Gervais, MBA, CFE, asks: "Are you good busy, or bad busy?" 

"No time for executive coaching" means it's high time for executive coaching. 

Myth 3: Executive coaching is the same as mentoring or consulting

Posts on the difference between mentoring, consulting, and coaching are everywhere on social media. The mentor says, "If I were in your shoes, I would do this or that." The trouble is, your shoes and your mentor's shoes are different: not the same zone of genius, not the same heart, not the same nervous system, not the same upbringing, not the same values, etc. The consultant gets their fees to tell you what to do: "Based on science, Harvard or MIT research, do this or do that." A good coach will do neither, but let your genius shine.

Spade: "Dom, you are a golden reflector."

Me: "Hum… A golden what?"

Spade: "Yep. You are a golden reflector. We tell you our stories in bronze or silver. And when you tell the stories back to us, it's gold."

Me: "…"


Myth 4: Executive coaching is only for senior leaders or executives

I find myself lucky: as a coach, my clients range in age from the thirties to sixties and in roles from first-time managers to C-suite executives and CEOs. 

Let me break a secret for you. The top coaching topic for C-level executives is self-awareness. Let this sink for a minute: self-awareness. In other words, and to put it simply, executives make it to the top thanks to their business skills and drive to perform but land in offices with a view with blind spots. Blind spots are costly. It is never too soon to clear the blind spots. 

On a personal note, I would have benefited dramatically from coaching earlier in my life; this is why I always keep a few spots open to coach HIPOs (High-potential individuals) as early as possible in their careers. Again, to play on the sports theme, athletes don't wait to qualify for the Olympics to hire a good coach. Duh. 

To the seasoned leader: which young leaders are you eager to support in your organization? They are ready for coaching. 

To you aspiring leader: Are you prepared to invest in yourself? It may be time to ask your boss to invest in you with good coaching. You are well worth it. 

Myth 5: Executive coaching is a one-off event or a quick fix

Coaching is a journey. My coaching engagements with executives are at least six months (unless the ask is to prepare for a keynote address). 

Coaching engagements typically start with a chemistry call, a first conversation in which we seek a double Hell Yes. Are you excited to engage in a coaching journey with me? Hell, Yes. Am I excited to coach you on your change journey? Hell, Yes. Less than a double Hell- Yes is a no-go. 

I always start my coaching call with a powerful question: "What would you say three years from now if you called to tell me that you had just lived the best three years in your life, professionally and personally?" I want you to dream of where you'll go three years from now, not tomorrow. 

New outputs require new behaviours. The adoption of new mindsets supports new behaviours. Change takes time, commitment, and discipline. Coaching as a quick fix? Keep dreaming. Saying Hell Yes to coaching is committing to change daily. 

Welcome to the fun game of life; it's worth the ride.

(Tip: there is a reason why James Clear's Atomic Habits is a popular book; it's a good one. I also recommend Shirzad Chamine's Positive Intelligence). 

Myth 6: Executive coaching is an unregulated and unprofessional field

You won't need to hire a coach affiliated with a recognized organization. There are excellent coaches out there with no coaching credentials or affiliations. Although I coached leaders and executives for over ten years with no coaching accreditation, I eventually chose to be accredited by the International Coaching Federation for the following reasons:

1- Accredited coaches adhere to a high standard code of professional ethics. I once had the bad experience of working with a talented coach who lacked a clear ethical framework for her practice. Not good. I chose to terminate the coaching engagement. I hope you can select a coach with an impeccable framework of ethics.

2- I transitioned from consulting to coaching. If you read my previous post, Myth three : Executive coaching is the same as mentoring or consulting, you know that mentoring, consulting, and coaching are different modalities. To unlearn my consulting habits and develop powerful coaching skills, I underwent an 18-month training and certification process (I am a Certified Co-Active Professional Coach - CPCC - Co-Active Training Institute ) accredited by the International Coaching Federation. To develop as a coach is also a journey. Professional coaches pursue continuous education and work under supervision. You are the expert in what it means to be YOU. When you select an accredited coach, you choose as a guide a trained expert in coaching. 

Myth 7: Executive coaching is good, but expect no magic

If money is a measure of success (and in my book, it's far from being the only one), then Rick Rubin is a successful man. As a prolific music producer, his net worth is 250 million dollars; not an Elon Musk type of wealth, but certainly more than the average woman or man. He majored in philosophy. He plays no instrument. He does not have a voice. Questions: How did he find success as a music producer? What magic trick did he have up his sleeve? Answer: Rick Rubin is a brilliant coach. His genius is to know how to coach musicians to blossom into their genius. 

Your coach is there to help you tap into your genius and blossom. And if, as a leader, you choose to develop your coaching skills, in turn, you'll do magic and help those around you blossom. 

"I don't even know what a traditional producer is or does. The job is like being a coach, building good work habits and trust. You want to get to a point where you can say anything and talk about anything. There needs to be a real connection." - Rich Rubin.

If money is not the measure of success, then what is? Maybe the brightness of your eyes, perhaps the size of your smile. And if you think this is too poetic, think twice and remember Rich Rubin's zone of magic and skills (and his net worth). 

There is a definition of success I like. It is not mine. I borrowed it from the Boston Philharmonic conductor Benjamin Zander:

"I have a definition of success. For me, it's very simple. It's not about wealth and fame and power. It's about how many shining eyes surround me." - Benjamin Zander. 

The producer and conductor don't play the instruments but are great coaches. Great coaches will see you tap into your magic.

May you inspire us greatly with your genius and magic,

PS1: Dare greatly with leadership and executive coaching.

Feel free to drop me a line or schedule a call to explore how you can make the most of executive coaching.

PS2: What type of Renaissance leader are you? 

A philanthropist, an evangelist, a corporate hacker, a purpose warrior, a soccer coach, a Jedi, a seeker, or an explorer? You can find out here.

PS3: The Leader's Journey

The Leader's Journey is a monthly newsletter with tools, resources, and voices of inspiration to call forth the courageous leader in you; check it out and subscribe here.


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