A coach is only effective if the person they are trying to help is open to the concept.  It’s important that you match the right coach to the right leader and set clear expectations and boundaries.

The key to the relationship is mutual trust and respect.  If the leader sees the “coaching” as corrective action, or punitive, the trust will never develop.  The coach must be positioned as pro-active with an interest in helping develop the leadership talent and making them more effective.

It’s not coaching.  It’s an investment in top-line talent to make them better.

To maximize coaching opportunities, the business leader must demonstrate two specific traits:  Desire and Capacity.

The leader must understand the need to grow and a desire to do so.  That manifests itself in a commitment.  Leaders that have the desire will see coaching as a learning opportunity and help in reaching their goals.

The leader also needs the capacity to grow.  It sounds simple enough, but we’ve all seen “The Peter Principle” in effect – where managers rise to the level of their incompetence.  No matter how hard someone trains, if they don’t have the capacity to be a NFL player, it will never happen – no matter how much they desire it and how good the coach is.

A Confidential Confidant

The coach needs to be a “Confidential Confidant” that the leader can feel comfortable sharing concerns, worries, and fears without worrying about the information being passed on.  The most effective leaders inspire confidence in others.  A leader is the person that stands up in a room during chaos, tells others not to worry, and they believe them.  A coach needs to be someone the leader can pick up the phone and call after making that statement to help figure out what to do.

Will the leader accept coaching and see it as a positive?

Feedback and Criticism

In determining whether someone is coachable, you need to look to the past.  How have they dealt with criticism and constructive feedback?  If they have been defensive or arrogant, it will be an uphill battle.  The more resistant to coaching they are, the more important the person and process becomes.  It’s not always easy to find someone a leader will see as a peer, or have enough respect, to listen to their viewpoint and consider it.

Determine whether leader will look at coaching as a different perspective. Will they see it as additional information to make decisions, or will they see it as a hindrance?

Open to Change

The one constant is business these days is change.  Even in the largest, most efficient companies, what worked yesterday doesn’t seem to work today.  Looking to a company’s culture may give you an indication of the leadership’s ability to deal with change.  Is change feared or embraced?

Look to how the leader has dealt with change in the past.  Are they capable of making changes in their own approach?  Can they lead others in a period of change to effectively meet the company’s goals?

For coaching to work, leaders must be open about themselves and their shortcomings.  That’s why the relationship and respect is so critical.  A leader that can’t open themselves up to criticism may never address the issues that can lead to growth.


Nobody changes until they are ready to change.  Is the business leader open to making a change?

Before you can get someone to accept change, you’ve got to lay out the case.  Unless you can demonstrate how a change in behavior or process can increase outcomes, there’s little motivation to change or accept coaching.

Will they see coaching as a help, or just one more person they must check with to get the job done?

There’s an underlying humility the leader needs to express.  They must be willing to be open, put aside their own experience, and be willing – and ready – to learn.  That takes us back to Desire and Capacity.  Leaders that want to improve themselves and the organization will see coaching as an opportunity. However, even that desire won’t be enough if they don’t have the capacity.  It’s up to you to determine if the leader has the capacity to grow.