Browsing through LinkedIn and other social media, I’m beginning to notice a theme.

Lots of people claiming they know how to coach without having been through any visible certification process or foundational training.

A couple years ago I had a conversation with a colleague who had recently attended Nordea’s leadership training program called “Leading Others”. In it, they spent time on coaching.

Upon finishing the course, he was convinced he had all the tools necessary to coach his employees in a crisis.

Turns out, when the crisis came, he didn’t. And he genuinely didn’t understand why none of these tools he learned were working.

The course he took lasted three days, and coaching was one of many modules in the program.

Here’s a newsflash: just like a three day leadership course does not instantaneously make you a leader, neither does the two hour module in it on coaching make you a coach.

The things that make you a leader and the things that make you a coach are one in the same: experience.

There are a relative few that I know about in the world who really understand the artistry required to truly coach a person. It is not a system or a 5 step process. It is not just the transmission of tools passed on through verbal interaction.

Coaching is a relationship. It’s something that must be built over time. There are a lot of tangible coaching techniques, yes, but without the cultivation of the inner-work and self-awareness required by a coach to truly hold space and advocate for the vision of the client/employee (not project their own judgments onto them), there is a very high risk for manipulation.

Yes, I’m using a really chargey word: manipulation.

You know how easy it is to manipulate? So easy that most of us are doing it all the time without even realizing it, because we’re so eager to satiate our own egos and give people answers and we can’t bear the waiting game of letting others discover their own genius on their own in our presence.

Businesses are not willing to invest in this long game because they’ve got KPIs to meet and timelines to follow. And they are of course a product of the people running the businesses who think in timelines and KPIs and results and outcomes rather than honoring the individual’s process. And when coaching is coming from that intention, manipulation is almost a given.

When someone is getting true coaching, they massively and fairly rapidly fundamentally change their entire lives. But it’s because it’s on THEIR schedule, not someone else’s.

Growth does not happen in a vacuum. Innovation does not happen in a vacuum. Transformation does not happen in a vacuum. Attempts to co-opt experiences, or flat out hijack them for our own interests, is easy and compelling to do. Dismantling the instinctive part of our brains that will naturally lean toward this alternative in times of higher stress requires years of practice as well as a profound inward journey toward our own clarity.

We are so eager to give titles to what we’re doing even long before it’s appropriate, and sadly, it contributes to a gross false advertising to the consumer and to the employee.

I know people across all industries who claim they’ve been coached, because their leader told them that was what they were getting. And then proceeded to tell me what their coach “told them to do.” or otherwise diagnosed them with.

This. Is. Not. Coaching.

It’s consulting.

How can we be more responsible and accountable about what we say we’re offering?