The Biggest Challenge for Any Coach

In this, the final part of my interview series with my great friend Chris Coffey, who, along with Frank Wagner created Stakeholder Centered Coaching® back in the late 1990’s, we talk about the biggest challenge for any coach. It’s not what you might think and it’s a trap that many of us fall into. If you do, and you don’t get out, it can be the end of your coaching success. Chris gives us his best advice for avoiding this trap in the following excerpt from our interview.

Marshall: What advice do you have the people who have been certified? What do you tell newly certified coaches are some of the things to do and some of the traps to watch out for?

Chris: First I tell them, “Watch out for your ego and thinking your client got better because of you.”

Marshall: That’s the biggest problem of every coach I’ve ever trained, including myself, the ego of the coach. We want people to get better, so we can look in the mirror and feel good about ourselves. It’s all about me, me, me, me…

Chris: I’ll share a little story. Years ago, I did the first mini-survey with a senior vice president. He called me and shared great news from his boss that the boss was very pleased with the results of my client’s minisurvey and thought I was doing a great job as a coach.

I said, it was a nice compliment and that he had done the heavy lifting. All I had done was facilitate the process. My client said to me, “You’re damned right! I did the heavy lifting!”

Marshall: And, it’s true! Another thing you often say that I totally agree with is, “with clients what is the cost of them hiring me? The cost is their time.” In my coaching, I’ve worked with Ian Read, the CEO of Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, Jim Kim, President of the World Bank, the CEO of Wal-Mart, and so on. For all of these leaders, the cost of hiring me is their time. So, I am not there to waste their time.

To me, many coaches get paid on bad measures. How much time do you spend? Terrible measure… And then, does the client like the coach? A terrible measure… I don’t get paid because they love me, although most of them like me. That’s not what I get paid for. And I don’t get paid for spending time. I get paid for results. And the less time we spend to get those results, the better it is for everybody. So, I love your focus on clarity, prioritization. Don’t waste time and don’t make it about your own ego. The final thing I’d like to say in our interview is it’s my honor to work with you. Thank you!

Chris: My pleasure. Thank you, Marshall, for everything. 


Our new book, Work Is Love Made Visible: A Collection of Essays about the Power of Finding Your Purpose from the World’s Greatest Thought Leaders, edited by Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and Sarah McArthur was published October 23, 2018. The #1 New Release in Business Management on Amazon,Work Is Love Made Visible is available now on Amazon and!