Fix, fluff, follow: the tools of a charlatan!

This week, I had a few encounters with the charlatan problem in coaching: everyone can call themselves a coach and since business coaching and life coaching seems like attractive careers, there are many unqualified coaches and coach trainers in the market. My fellow SolutionsAcademy trainer Chris Bekker coined the phrase: “fix, fluff, follow” for how we can recognize charlatans.


The charlatan coach or coach trainer will promise you to fix your problem. They will even tell you that they are the ONLY one able to fix your problem. Take the “wealth coach”, who will lure you into thinking that bitcoin trading is a great investment of your money or the multi level marketing company who supplies you with a “coach” to “help” you market their wares after your initial down payment of 1000 $ worth of worthless stock (I recommend watching a few Netflix series here – search for MLM and you will find some amusing, yet shocking documentaries). So any coach who tells you that a) you need fixing and b) they (are the only ones that) can fix you — hands off.

An amusing illustration: I heard of a coach / spiritual healer who would diagnose that you have cancer by spiritually analyzing your voice over the telephone. You would then be sent their medicine infused with spiritual healing powers (water, basically) and after some weeks of paying royally for the supply, you would be sent to the doctor to confirm that you are now cancer free. Tada. Sigh.

Good coaches are not about “fixing” you — they help you discover your potential and treat you like a “whole” human being and do not point out or help you discover deficits that you may or may not have.


Some coaches are miraculous beings: they are criminal profilers, coach astronauts, are the go to negotiator for the FBI, have reached higher planes of being, near death experiences, enlightenment etc. etc. If you read that: beware! While it does make sense for anyone claiming authority to have an “origin story” to make plausible that they are qualified to speak about a topic, do use some common sense before embarking on a coaching or coach training journey with these people: If they are that great, why are they targeting you? Is what they are saying actually true? When you ask them for certificates or proof, can they supply documentation?

Qualified coaches can supply documentation for their coach training, their experience and are often credentialed by a reputable body like ICF, EMCC or local bodies like the Round Table Coaching associations in Germany.


“How I lost 50 pounds in one day and became Mr. Universe in only 3 easy steps” — any slogan like that should inspire great caution. On the one hand, the promise is very unrealistic, on the other it presumes that the coach’s way of doing things, their solution is the blueprint for you. Another really unsavory byproduct of the “follow” charlatans is that they will enroll you in their program, usually find out all about your deficits (think Scientology “auditing” — just go to Netflix or youtube, you’ll see what this is) and then they will design a plan how you can follow them. Now the ONLY person who can tell that you are “ready” or that you have developed sufficiently is …. obviously THEM. So if you have difficulties with their program, whose fault is it? Yours. If you are not learning things, whose fault is it? Yours. If you want to stop the coaching, whose fault is it? Yours. Tada: Catch 22.

Coaches worth their money know that only you are the judge of your progress and only you can find your own way through the complexities of your life. Solution Focused and ICF coaches know that: we will accompany you, ask questions, be curious, appreciative and always, always honor your wishes for the coaching process including if you wish to end the coaching relationship.

To learn more about professional coaching, the ICF website on the coaching experience is a good place to start. And here is the website on the Ethics of Coaching.

If you want to hang out with great coaches and wonderful people why not join us for our meetup:

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