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Common Leadership Coaching Errors

Common Leadership Coaching Errors

New executive coaches make very predictable errors. This blog is written to raise awareness of and help overcome common leadership coaching errors.

Rapport formation

Knowing that a great rapport is massively important in leadership coaching outcomes, many new coaches start by spending a huge amount of time trying to form a great rapport with their client. Expert coaches build the rapport as part of the coaching process. That is, the rapport formation process is seamless and ongoing with an experienced coach.


Novice coaches are so keen to prove their expertise that they (unknowingly) systematically dis-empower their clients. The clumsiness that comes with learning any art, in coaching, can render it utterly ineffective. An expert coach knows that everything in coaching should enhance ownership, and ideally, nothing should diminish ownership. It takes years to learn the subtle little things that can make the difference between enhanced and diminished ownership.

Focus on technique rather than person being coached

Novice coaches try very hard to apply the techniques they have learned, often when such application gets in the way of rapport and ownership. Clients can sense where a coach’s priority is: “on me, or on the technique?”

Prejudices and preconceptions

Every coach has prejudices and preconceptions. While the novice coach is not aware of them and allows them the block productive reasoning, the expert coach seeks to become aware of her/his prejudices and preconceptions and address them before they impact performance. For instance, an experienced coach knows that their values or personality is such that they should not deal with certain types of client, perhaps on ethical grounds.

Projection and transference

Often, inexperienced and in-effective coaches complain that the person being coached is projecting on to them the role of someone who has had authority over them, or who has harmed them in some way. Expert coaches know that if projection takes place it is a marker of a less than optimal rapport. Strong and effective rapport is the most effective means of preventing projection and transference.

GROW Model

Coaching and MentoringProbably the list of the most common leadership coaching errors is headed by the use of the GROW model.

Of the four most predictive factors in coaching, GROW misses three of them.
What does that mean? That whatever someone who is using GROW is doing, it is not coaching. GROW was not designed for coaching, it not fit for coaching purpose. It was designed for objective setting.

Competent and effective coaches would never use the GROW model. In fact, when I teach coaching, I use the GROW model to teach people how not to coach. Why? Often seeing how not to do something empowers people to figure out for themselves how to do it.

The Perfect Coach Book Cover 160kIndeed, it was by trying to use the GROW model, as a young coach, and realising that it was not fit for purpose, that I generated the models published designed to supersede GROW, in ‘Coaching and Mentoring,’ Gower, 21 years ago.

If you want an easy to read, rapid introduction to coaching skills you can find that in The Perfect Coach.

Prof Nigel MacLennan

If you want to improve the performance of your in-house executive coaches or your own executive coaching skills contact Dr Nigel MacLennan here.