March 24, 2023

3 signs of the coach charlatan

You want to develop yourself further, solve a problem, make a decision and are considering hiring a coach. However, the market is intransparent and you don't want to fall for one of the many charlatans? Here are some recommendations on what to look out for:

The well-known German TV presenter Jan Böhmermann recently took on "business coaches" who claim to be able to make any client rich effortlessly. All you have to do is book the "coaching program" and "poof" you're rich. On closer inspection, the "coaching program" turns out to be a pyramid scheme in which profit is achieved by recruiting further sellers of the "coaching program", who then recruit other sellers... at 13 levels, you will have recruited the entire world population!

It would be a shame if potential clients were discouraged from booking good coaching because they don't know who to turn to and don’t know how to recognize a quality coach. Here are a few warning signs and criteria that can help.

Warning signal 1: Exaggerated promises

A professional coach knows that the success of a coaching relationship always depends on both: on the coach who is able to listen well and help the client to figure out what they really want. A good coach can inspire clients to work out what is already (or still) working and they can make clients aware of their resources. What a good coach cannot do is guarantee a result. Professional coaches do not advertise "guaranteed success" because they know that at least half of it depends on the work of the client.

Warning signal 2: The coach has secret knowledge.

Many cult structures work by assuming the "gurus" are on a higher level of development than clients. From this "higher level" they can judge the development path of the clients and recommend next steps. The clients, of course, cannot see this because they are on a lower level. This opens the door to abuse of power. I have even heard of sexual abuse in this context. Clients who refuse to take the required developmental steps are usually told that they will never solve their problems if they do not develop trust in the guru and follow the path they have been set. Once the coach tells you that the coach knows more about you than you do: Hands off! Professional coaches know that you are the expert for your life. You know yourself best. Coaches accompany you with an attitude of curious not-knowing, which helps you get to know yourself anew and develop a broader perspective.

Warning signal 3: Intransparent payment structure

The "coaches" who have the dollar signs in their eyes follow a highly effective sales program. They lure their clients with a free questionnaire or article, then bombard them with advertisements, invite them to a free info session, where they then make a low-threshold offer for an online course, for example. In this low-cost course, however, you don’t really receive any information, but are mainly given the impression that the "real tips" can only be obtained in the expensive follow-up program. Personalized help is, of course, only available through super expensive private sessions with the guru.

The problem is that this sales structure is highly effective and that even professional coaches need to work this way. So, the structure in itself is not yet a warning sign. Your internal alarm bell should go on if in the low-threshold course you learn nothing and are mainly marketed to for the expensive course. Consider at this moment: isn't this knowledge perhaps also available for free on Google, in the library, from a certified professional? Is this knowledge really worth the price? As I said, professional coaches also need to do marketing and you will surely find free courses that point to low-threshold group coaching from professional coaches. However, don’t expect to be paying more than 400€ for a coaching session - anything more sounds like a rip-off to me, except, maybe, if there is absolutely specialized expertise involved.

Positive signal 1: The coach takes the time for a free initial meeting.

Coaching works especially well when clients feel well taken care of and understood. This is not only a "feel-good factor" but has been scientifically proven. The relationship between coach and client is one of the key success factors. So, insist on a free initial consultation and take the time to have conversations with two or three coaches. Listen to your gut feeling: do you like the coach, can you easily talk about personal things?

Positive signal 2: The coach supplies you with a contract with transparent cost structure and guaranteed confidentiality.

After the initial meeting, a professional coach will give you a contract or at least a written agreement: how often you will meet, how much each session will cost, that the coach guarantees confidentiality of the content of the conversations.

Positive signal 3: The coach can explain their coaching approach to you and provide information about where they learned coaching

Professional coaches have a sound education and can give you information about where they obtained it. It makes sense to look at the websites of these institutes afterwards as well - charlatans even invent coaching institutes and fictitious certifications! Professional coaches can also tell you how they work, according to which theories and approaches. A certification according to the guidelines of the International Coaching Federation or the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, as well as with some other big associations (here you really have to check if it is a renowned association) is also a good hint, but unfortunately also not a 100% guarantee for a quality coach.

I hope I have helped you in choosing a coach. Coaching is a wonderful opportunity to develop in conversation, to tackle your own problems, to become clearer when important decisions have to be made. For a short impression of how coaching conversations work, I can recommend our YouTube channel, where we have deposited short videos about the competences of a coach and you can also find a playlist with recordings of coaching videos. If you are now suspicious: that's good, you should be. Sounds like a low threshold offering! I guarantee you that we are not selling anything on the YouTube channel or in our free coaching meetups and exchanges. If you want to join those, click below.

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