What not to ask a coach

Jul 26, 2017

Below are a list topics that coaches state they get asked all the time, but they seriously hurt the relationship. If you want to create a lasting and beneficial coaching relationship, these are the questions you should avoid. Mentors/coaches are not there to give you hand-outs, or "freebies," they are there to help you grow! If your coach just gives you the advice, funding, or the connections you need without making you work for them, they would not be helping you at all! So here are a list of topics to stay away from.

Examples of things that you should not expect your coach to be able to provide you are:

1. Investment or a loan

  • Your coach is not the same as an investor. The coach is there to guide and give advice, lend expertise and an outsider perspective. Their role is not to finance your business. 

2. Access to their network

  • Never expect your coach to handout their best connections. If they want to do so, they will volunteer to. Rather, show them that you are following their advice and work hard. Make yourself into an excellent coachee and someone your coach feels they must introduce to other professional connections for the benefit of those connections, not just you. Keeping the option in the back of your mind and working towards achieving strong connections can be a great motivator, asking for connections point blank as an expectation of the coach-coachee relationship is simply unprofessional.

3. Insider/private information or trade secrets

  • This ties into the point prior. Trade secrets/ insider information must be earned by the business owner or individual through experience and time in the business. This is not the type of information shared, willy-nilly. Asking for this type of information will degrade your relationship and the coach will begin to question your motives and character.

4. That the coach will do things on your behalf

  • It is crucial to view the relationship as not one person working for the other but as a symbiotic; a mutually beneficial exchange. The coach is not there to serve you, in fact it is truly you who needs them, so treat them like their advice is appreciated and not a taken for granted. You must come ready to work! Of course the coach might volunteer to help you out with a task - but don't take it for granted!

5. General, broad questions

  • Examples include: How do I start a business? How do I scale my business? How did you start your business? Instead ask more pointed and researched questions. Know where your coach started out and where they are now. Ask about a specific point of interest along that journey. For example, you could say, “I see you began at a local bank but now work for Goldman Sachs, what was one of the key transition points along that journey?”
  • Not “How did you start your business?” but “If you were starting your business today, what might you do differently?”
  • Not, “How do I scale my business?” instead, “What is one of the key lessons you learned or hardships you faced when scaling your enterprise? What were some of the key points of growth learned from those hardships?”
  • These types of questions allow the coach to pinpoint a specific area where they may have struggled, then determine how this problem can be remedied or avoided. Maybe they now have some pro-tips on scalability in a certain market. Making sure your questions are specific means the advice you receive will be tailored and beneficial. Broad questions mean broad, bland answers. Show that you did your research.

Finding a coach can be one of the most beneficial relationships when facing difficulties in starting up and/or scaling up your enterprise. Don’t go it alone!

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