Seven things you should keep in mind when you engage a coach:
A coach is not a consultant;
A coach is not a therapist;
You need to be committed to changing;
You need to have realistic expectations for success;
You need to tell the coach everything that is on your mind;
You gotta believe!
It’s up to you to do something.

We often say to our clients, you will get out of this coaching program what you put into it. Although sometimes there is an ah-ha moment, usually growth in management and personal effectiveness comes with work, persistence and patience.

Here’s a list of seven (it’s always seven!) things you should keep in mind when you engage a coach:

1. A coach is not a consultant.
Consultants are retained to solve problems; a coach is engaged to help you solve your own problems yourself. In particular, AFS Consulting provides coaching in interpersonal effectiveness: the art and science of influencing others to do what we need them to do. We don’t provide coaching in the mechanics of management, dealing with specific operational, strategic, planning or marketing issues – that is more like consulting.
It is useful for the coach to have good understanding of organizations and sound business acumen; and he/she needs enough information about your actual situation to challenge you with relevant questions. He may even provide helpful suggestions, but don’t expect the coach to solve the problem for you.

2. A coach is not a therapist.
Your sessions with your coach may be extremely restorative for you – it is always helpful to have someone listen to you empathetically and provide support. But if the problem is a deep-seated psychological issue, your coach isn’t going to solve that for you either. It would be very unwise if your coach even presumed to try, though he may be very experienced in observing human behaviour, and may even have an opinion. A good coach may help you identify that the problem is more than situational and can encourage you to find the help you actually need. As Rajesh Setty* suggests, you get a coach because you can benefit from figuring out how to perform more effectively or even to resolve dysfunctional organization behaviors, but not when something is

[seriously] broken.

3. You need to be committed to changing.
The changes you need to make to become a more effective manager/leader/person have to come from you. And oftentimes we shy away from doing the really hard work of dealing with our own personal effectiveness. It’s not a matter of, “I’ll make the change if it’s not too inconvenient”.

4. You need to have realistic expectations for success.
If your goals are overly ambitious or you seriously over-estimate your true talents and abilities (and motivation, see 3 above), you will not get the results you should from your coaching program. On the other hand, if too simple, not ‘stretchy’ enough, you won’t realize useful change. Coaching is more than providing you with some insight or awareness; it’s about converting insight into real performance improvement goals.

5. You need to tell the coach everything that is on your mind.
Some coaches are pretty good at ‘mind reading’ or at least will recognize when there is more to this story than is being told. And a really good coach will challenge you to tell the whole story. But why make it so much work for him, or yourself. If you hide crucial details, the solution you come up with will be suboptimal.

6. You gotta believe!
Of course you don’t engage your coach on blind faith. You’re entitled to test and challenge your coach to ensure that he/she has the knowledge and insight and strength of character to challenge you and help you grow. But if you doubt the coaching process will yield any useful outcomes, you would be right!

7. It’s up to you to do something.
The coach will help with awareness, and seek your agreement on desired goals and development plans, but without action nothing will result. And only you can take action and realize your goals. The coach guides you and encourages you, but you have to play in the game.

As Setty claims, for most people lack of knowledge is not the problem; lack of [correct] action is.

*Adapted from Rajesh Setty’s blog,