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How to Navigate Danger Zones in Executive Coaching by Anita Stadler, PhD

Mar 23rd, 2010 | By | Category: Business Coaching

Executive coaches must be skilled at navigating potential danger zones in order to deliver successful coaching in the eyes of all stakeholders.

Beware of common danger zones.  Beware of being asked to deliver to a client the feedback that everyone else in the organization is afraid to deliver directly.  It may serve the organization better for you to coach the client’s superior to enable the delivery of effective feedback.  Beware of being asked to discuss the details of coaching conversation with someone other than the client.  This is obviously a violation of coaching ethics, but some stakeholders may not know that, so make sure that is not their expectation.  Beware of being asked to coach a client who has agreed to being coached just to satisfy someone else’s agenda.  Since the success of coaching depends on the initiative and commitment of the client to make changes, you should personally asses the client’s motivation and readiness for coaching prior to accepting an engagement.

Know when coaching isn’t the answer.  Beware of being asked to provide outcomes that coaching is not designed to address.  You must be comfortable confronting inappropriate requests, unencumbered by your own desire to gain clients.  Pray for guidance to help you discern what will be best for the client.  Trust in the Lord’s financial provision so you can say “No” to an engagement that would be handled best with a different solution than coaching.  If you can demonstrate that you are adept at helping the organization determine whether the client would be better served differently (getting a mentor, taking a course to develop a specific skill, or speaking with a psychologist for example), you will become a valued partner for the organization.

Add to your skill set.   You can increase your comfort level in confronting inappropriate requests by rehearsing powerful questions for various stakeholders that will unearth hidden agendas for the coaching engagement.  Practice listening at multiple levels when the client is described to you so you can pick up additional non-verbal context about the engagement.  If something doesn’t feel right, use your curiosity to bring it out into the open so it can be examined in the light.

Your thoughts?  What are some examples of powerful questions you could use to uncover hidden agendas for coaching?  What’s the most creative solution (other than coaching) that you have ever suggested for a potential client?

Anita Stadler, PhD coaches Christian corporate executives who want to connect their career and their calling. She is also a full-time executive coach and leadership development consultant for a Fortune 100 corporation.  She can be reached at (714) 952-0995 or For more information, see

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