The three reasons why people REALLY hire a coach

Why do people hire a coach? There are many varied reasons including leadership development; communication skills; self awareness; relationship issues; health/fitness; or in my case Work/Life Balance, and these are just a few. Having been a coach in full time practice for over 20 years, I firmly believe these many varied reasons can be distilled into three distinct reasons:

  1. The Truth
  2. A Sounding Board
  3. Accountability

1. The Truth
C-suite executives don’t often hear the truth. By the time they get the message from the folk on the floor or from the coalface, the message has been massaged. Sometimes, so much so, that it is invalid or resembles very little of what the message started out as. Like a child’s game of Chinese Whispers, the message is carried up the chain of command to the C-suite each level becoming more distorted and diluted.

Also, C-suite executives don’t often hear the truth about themselves – what VP or Director wants to be the one to tell the CEO he/she has some areas to address? It usually takes an outsider to deliver this news.

Entrepreneurs and Business Owners don’t often hear the truth, even if it is put right under their noses. They are often already on to the next thing, thus not available to listen to what is currently happening. Or they are in denial about how their great idea/business (their baby) is performing.

Professional partners such accountants, lawyers, engineers, architects, doctors, financial planners, etc don’t often hear the truth as their peers are too busy to bother to tell them. Often each partner operates their own silo as if nothing and no one else matters … even if they say they do. When we add sales quotas on top of day-to-day operations, business partners don’t have time to scratch themselves let alone listen to what their peers or subordinates are saying. Even if they do get told, the information often doesn’t land let alone be processed, when their mind and body are so busy.

2. A Sounding Board
It is not often that we get to simply speak what we think. More often than not we are interrupted, given advice, told a similar story, or simply not heard. And this is if we can ever find the time for self reflection. I’ve heard that over eighty percent of executives say that their coaching session is the only place or time in their lives that they have for self reflection. Personally, I find this sad.

Friends and colleagues mean well. They start to listen yet somewhere along the line it becomes about them and they have to share what they would do in a similar situation, or what their cousin or friend or co-worker did in that similar situation. We all do this, so we don’t want to make ourselves wrong for doing so, the insight is to know we do it and as friends and colleagues we are not usually good listeners.

Family means well too. Yet they have a hidden agenda. That is, you say too much and it will affect them and their relationship with you. What if you share with your husband/wife that you are dissatisfied with your job and want to leave? Immediately they will be thinking “Who will pay the mortgage?” “Who will pay the kids school fees?” It can be frightening for our loved ones to hear what is really going on.

Being a sounding board as a coach means we often hear things that that client cannot say elsewhere. I offer my clients the opportunity to BMW for a set period of time. We agree on say, five minutes, and then off they go… Bitching, Moaning and Whining about situations and people in their lives. They know what is said stays between us and their minds are clear to move into possibility versus being stuck in negative emotions and circumstances.

3. Accountability
Many of us think people hire a coach for accountability. In transactional coaching this may be so. In transformational coaching I don’t think so.

In over a decade of coaching clients, I find that most are already accountable. In fact some can be too accountable, and it is in our coaching sessions that they, at last, have place to let it all hang out, and not deliver/perform/achieve. They can simply ‘be’. The majority of C-suite, business owners, and partners that I see are already accountable, be it to themselves, the Board, the shareholders, employees, their fellow partners.

As a Master Coach, I focus more on WHO the coachee is being versus what/how/when they are doing. If they want accountability it is for WHO they are being between now and when we meet again. This is challenging and bold coaching. This is Masterful Coaching.

The Coaching Relationship
Remember, coaches are experts in the coaching relationship, and coachees are experts in their lives. Coachees know more about their life, their work, their family, their situation, their business, than the coach will ever know. Coaches know more about the coaching relationship by practicing the core coaching competencies, abiding by a set of ethics, and trusting the coaching process.

So why do people REALLY hire a coach?

The Truth

A Sounding Board


Yes people come for one, two or all three of these reasons. A coach offers a confidential safe space for coachees to show up and be who they REALLY are. What a privilege it is to be a coach.


Belinda MacInnes is one of the first Master Certified Coach’s (MCC) in Asia Pacific (2005) having coached many nationalities and levels of seniority across the region. Belinda is an ICF MCC Assessor and has served as ICF Australasia President and APAC First Vice President. She is also a Professional Mentor Coach.