Don’t Let Fear Prevent You From Reaping the Benefits of Coaching and Consulting

Written by on January 28, 2016

Leaders have to be fearless, right? They make quick decisions that can impact the future of their companies; they have to forge a trail through the corporate wilderness and bring their people with them. Yet often, “fearless” leaders are held back by just that…by fear. It can keep them from pursuing consulting and coaching – and thus elevating their performance and results. Why are they afraid – and what can they do to overcome?

The Fear Factor

In my experience, fear is the number one factor keeping leaders from improving through coaching and/or consulting. But what are they afraid of?

  • Admitting they need help. It can be disconcerting, humbling, or even painful for some leaders to admit that they are in need of help. They may feel too exposed, too vulnerable. If they acknowledge that they don’t have the answers, will it cause people to doubt their abilities? Will it erode their authority? We’ve accepted that elite athletes and musicians have coaches; it’s no different for those in the business world. The goal is to help them perform at an even higher level.

  • That the coach cannot help. A common reason or excuse is, “How can you coach me when you don’t have experience in my industry?” A consultant does have to own subject matter expertise; with coaching, it is about the person, not the specific task. A coach can successfully help a Nobel prize-winning astrophysicist without being able to so much as identify the Big Dipper. The experience a coach needs is in interpersonal coaching.

  • Talking about themselves. Some people are, by nature, private. They may want help to grow and change but they are reticent on the one topic they really need to come out and discuss. Clearly understanding that the process is confidential and non-judgmental, and having a contractual agreement that spells it out, can help allay this particular concern.

  • Failure – Or being perceived as a failure. There’s a marked difference between someone who says, “I want a coach because I want to grow,” and someone who is assigned a coach. In today’s corporate world, many people realize that coaching is not “punishment.” They are excited about the opportunity. Others see it as a reflection of their performance – and not a positive one.

I’m reminded of a client who was in this position. He said, “I know why my boss hired you, and I don’t want to talk to you about it.” I replied, “I don’t actually know what’s going on; I’m just here to coach you.”

With a clean slate, he was able to bring a new perspective to coaching – and now, he’s invested in the process. Unfortunately, that is not always the result. One employee found out that her boss signed her up for a leadership development program and quit because she took it as an insult. To her, it was a slam, not an opportunity.

The reality is, coaching is an opportunity – but it only works for people who are willing to go to that next step.

Fearless doesn’t necessarily have to mean without fear. Leaders can become fearless when they conquer their fears about coaching/consulting, and take this important step anyway.