Created more than a decade ago, the Twelve Habits of the Toxic Mentor and the Twelve Habits of the Toxic Mentee have been quoted in hundreds of publications and training programmes. I’ve thought for a while that it would be useful to have a similar checklist for executive coaches. So here, finally, it is….

The twelve habits of the toxic executive coach

  1. Get straight down to business – time is money and pleasantries take time. Make them keep strictly to the point – keep the conversation focused and to time. Pack in as many sessions a day as you can, by favouring telephone coaching.
  2. Tell the client what his or her problem is – with all your experience, of course you know best.
  3. Make sure they have a SMART goal, right at the start. Then police them to make sure they keep to it and don’t change it.
  4. Insist they find a solution to every issue they raise. Chide yourself (and/or them) if they don’t.
  5. Interrupt and talk over them – make them listen when you think your ideas are better than theirs
  6. Don’t allow much time for reflection – fill the pauses with more questions
  7. Give their boss or sponsor copies of the session notes
  8. Spin the assignment out for as many sessions as you can – there’s always an excuse for continuing. (Compete with yourself to see how many hours you can squeeze out from one client.)
  9. Keep reminding them about your own experience as an executive. Establish who’s most important by developing your skills of patronising.

10. Build a good stock of psychobabble. Don’t worry if you don’t really understand any of it – neither will they!

11. Attend loads of conferences and short courses – maintain the illusion of continuous professional development without the hassle of deep and uncomfortable inner change.

12. Maintain your confidence by telling yourself frequently what a great coach you are.

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