About 20 years ago the word “coach” began to be used in ways Bear Bryant or Red Auerbach would never have predicted. “Executive coach,” “life coach,” “sales coach” and about every other derivative popped up.
Today you cannot spend much time on a business site like LinkedIn or business parts of Facebook without being inundated with insipid, mindless cliché-ridden advice from one of these coaches.
I believe they are almost universally fake, charlatans, in many cases scammers. There, I said it.
To make my point, I started digging into public profiles and found a recurring pattern.
Life coaches had almost zero notable career success. In one case, it was a kid who was in the management training program for a fast food restaurant. Then he appeared to attend one of those coaching schools where one writes a check, attends a few events and gets a “certified coach” printed certificate.
Now he writes books and posts clichés literally all day. I doubt if he is cash flow positive but perhaps being a new world shaman is its own reward.
Another was a former dental assistant. In her case, she apparently did not fancy looking down people’s throats, so now she is a life coach. No certifiable, verifiable success on her profile and none available in Google, the finder of all things.
Almost every such coach I see has the same profile: crappy job, desire to jump into something meaningful, no measurable success in life, attends a coaching event or several, writes a check and then is positioned to post clichés as a life coach.
I challenged one of these “thought leaders” and “international keynote speakers” who, you guessed it was also a “best selling author” you never heard of – I challenged the guy as to just who said he was a thought leader.
Then the fun started. Look, I was stuck at home, the Covid thing, and was looking for a little entertainment. So sue me!
Anyway, I challenged the guy, publicly. He sent me several fiery angry private emails telling me about his being ranked a top speaker by Forbes Magazine. OK, let’s go there.
I tracked down the article and it was written by an anonymous person, (Staff Writer), noting that there were lots of people who contributed to the article on speakers and he was one of them. OK, so this “Forbes Top 10 Keynote Speaker” took a call from a staff writer at Forbes. It gets better!
I do some marketing work and use HARO from time to time. HARO is Help A Reporter Out – a service where a reporter posts an article he or she is working on and you write in if you have something to add.
This featured speaker answered, added his two cents, and was mentioned in the article. In Forbes!
Aha! His posted version was he was a Forbes List, Top 10 Keynote Speaker. The article said nothing of the sort.
I wrote back, not privately but on his LinkedIn profile, about how he did it.
They guy, really pissed at me now, also noted in his profile that he was in the Walk of Fame in Las Vegas. Well, that’s impressed me. Cannot fake that stuff.
I Googled that as well and quickly downloaded the forms so for $2,500 I too could have a star or a brick in the Las Vegas Walk of Fame. He was there; Elvis was not. What does that tell you?
It all seemed to start with sales coaches. Most of these guys were over-the-hill, 60-year-olds with little or no hair, posting about how to master cold calling. Since cold calling is an artifact, long dead of the 70s and early 80s before people had cell phones, I knew they were too old to get hired and did not make enough dough to retire. So why listen to them?
Then the coach thing seemed to move to life coaching. This is where the cliché stuff came in. I know clichés when I read them!
When we were young, if you were a guy, every girlfriend in the 70s gave you the gift of a Kahil Gibran book. I had 6 or 7 when I went away to college. Same book.
Gibran was the absolute king of mindless clichés that sounded great and meant literally nothing. He was so popular in the 70s they built a small statue of him in Washington, DC. It is probably ripped down now by protestors who think he was a Civil War general.
The life coaches never seemed to make a buck. They posted stuff on LinkedIn and Facebook and had many responses from people saying how touched they were by the cliché. But there did not seem to be a “Buy Now” button. Even their web sites did not offer much more than download a book for $9.95.
Recently, life coaches are coming in hordes from Australia. It appears Australia water breeds sales coaches and life coaches.
Maybe they are also in Poland, Germany, Russia and Hungary but I cannot read their posts. Since I can read Australian I notice them. I do not speak it yet and do not quite understand Australian when spoken fast, but I get it, enough.
Life coaches are all over the place. It is doubtful if any but a fraction of 1% make a living at it. Probably more of a vanity thing to fill up the space left from a life empty of real accomplishment. That’s OK and likely very salubrious for them.
My concern is that this kind of insipid thinking offers those coming behind a false hope. People fail, particularly when young. We all did it.
Failure can lead to readjustments then try again, then again and eventually most get it right. It can also lead to a life coach.
The life coach, having zero success in his or her life, seems to sell that cliché. “If you stand after you fall, you will not be down.” See, anyone can do it!
People who fail need the help of those who have massively succeeded before them. And those are not the life coaches. My beef with the life coaching industry is they are impeding those who need advice from finding it where it is best – from the successful.
Life coaches harm our society because in most cases they are offering a false light in the dark to those who most need to find the harbor. While it makes them feel better and position themselves as a shaman, it can lead the unwary onto the rocks.