Myths and Truths About Coaching


By Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D


“Getting rid of a delusion makes us wiser than getting hold of a truth.” ―Karl Ludwig Borne

During my leadership training programs, I have come across with audiences with several myths towards coaching. Several people think that coaching is synonymous with counseling, mentoring, and training. They think that coaching involves huge costs; coaches are unprofessional; they provide everything on a platter; they are superhumans and ensure complete success, and women cannot make as good coaches as men. If you also have such myths, it is time to bust them to have a correct understanding of coaching. Here are the top coaching myths to bust and equip you with clarity. 

Myth 1. Coaching and training are the same.

Truth: Coaching is to provide advice, guidance, suggestions, and recommendation while training is the process of providing information, developing skills, and abilities to execute the tasks effectively. Training is often conducted in groups while coaching is often a one-to-one exercise tailored to the needs of the learners. The objective of the training is to follow a set of patterns and practices to impart skills, abilities, methods, theories, tactics, and strategies while the objective of coaching is to conduct a series of meetings mostly one-on-one exercise to inspire and facilitate goals and objectives. Most of the time coaching is an extension of training, not the other way around. Coaching is often considered supplementary to training activities. If training builds infrastructure coaching builds superstructure. 

Myth 2. Coaching is synonymous with mentoring.

Truth: People often use coaching and mentoring interchangeably as both appear to be the same because of both offer services in professional and philanthropic activities. But they are different. Coaching involves listening which is more instructional, or technical in nature. It involves questioning while mentoring involves sharing experiences, skills, and abilities to others. For coaching to work, the coachee has to accept the credentials and authority of the coach; for mentoring to work, the mentee has to genuinely relate to the mentor. Coaching is “functional” and mentoring is “relational.” Coaching is a short-term task-based activity while mentoring is a long-term relationship-based exercise. Coaching is a structured and scheduled one with a fixed duration while mentoring is an informal one with a series of meetings as and when the mentee needs advice, support, or guidance. Coaching is narrowly focused while mentoring is broadly focused.

Myth 3. Coaching and counseling are synonymous.

Truth: Coaching and counseling are different as coaching addresses the workplace challenges to remove the bottlenecks to enhance the performance of the employees.  It gives greater results to superiors, subordinates, and the entire staff in organizations. In contrast, counseling is a supportive process by a supervisor to help employees define and work through personal problems that affect job performance. In a nutshell, counseling often addresses the personal problems of the people.  Coaching focuses on prospects while counseling on past problems for redressal. Those who have personal problems seek counseling and those who have professional problems undergo coaching. 

Myth 4. Coaching involves huge costs.

Truth: The fact is just the opposite. The amount you invest in coaching is meager and the returns you get out of it are immense. Nowadays, companies invest in the learning and development of employees as employees crave for continuous learning to grow professionally. There are employees I have come across in my professional life who work in companies for a lesser salary because the companies spend a huge amount regularly on their training and development. Hence, companies invest in the training of employees as it is good for both employers and employees.0 It results in employers delivering better products and services to their clients, and the employees contributing their best for organizational effectiveness. 

Myth 5. Coaching is needed for poor and weak performers only.

Truth: Coaching is needed for both weak and good performers. Coaching is a continuous process of learning and growing with a broad mindset. My friend, Marshall Goldsmith reveals in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You that leaders have to learn continuously because what worked for them to reach a particular position may not help them reach their next higher position. The tools and techniques that worked to reach their present position might not work as currently the times and technologies are changing rapidly.

Myth 6. Coaches are critics.

Truth: The fact is that critics attack individuals but coaches address the behavior of the individuals to bring out behavioral changes and enhance performance among the coachees through their “sandwich” feedback. Sandwich feedback is a polished way of giving feedback to others. It starts by praising strengths, then suggesting improvements, and concluding with praise. Precisely, it is putting the tough news between the two tender positive pieces of feedback. Hence, coaches are not critics. They are feedback givers and are highly focused on improving others’ performance. Criticism is different from feedback as criticism is individual-centric while feedback is behavior-centric. Coaches intend to bring out behavioral changes among the coachees to perform better.   

Myth 7. Coaches provide you everything on a platter.

Truth: Coaches are professionals who encourage, motivate, and help the coachees to align their goals effectively to accomplish them. Coaches don’t have any magic wand to ensure your success. They can only take horse up to the pond, but cannot force it to drink. Similarly, coaches put in their best efforts and energies to make sure that you reach your cherished goals. Coaches play a crucial and constructive role in achieving your goals provided you are willing to cooperate and learn from them. 

Myth 8. Coaches give you fish regularly.

Truth: The fact is quite opposite to coaches teaching you how to catch fish and enjoy a regular meal. They teach you the art of catching fish to enable you to become a competent and independent individual thus creating more competent and independent individuals. Hence, the objective of coaching is to make people independent and enable them to grow as successful professionals and leaders.

Myth 9. Coaches are unprofessional.

Truth: Coaches are not unprofessional. They are passionate people with good experience and who want to make a difference in the lives of others. Eddie Robinson rightly remarked, “Coaching is a profession of love. You can’t coach people unless you love them.” True coaches are highly dedicated and committed and they mean business. They enjoy associating with people and sharing their knowledge, experiences, skills, and abilities. It is their passion that makes them good coaches. The world is full of intelligent and smart people, and they know how to differentiate between coaches and quacks.

Myth 10. Coaching gives limited returns.

Truth: The opposite is just right. Research shows that the returns on investments in coaching exceed the investments. Fortune Magazine reveals the finding as follows: “Asked for a conservative estimate of the monetary payoff from the coaching they got, these managers described an average return of more than $100,000, or about six times what the coaching had cost their companies.” Also, coaching enhances employee engagement, job satisfaction, and delivers better services and products to clients and customers, and finally, enhances employee loyalty by minimizing attrition.

Myth 11. Coaches know everything.

Truth: The truth is that coaches are experts in coaching, not in other areas. They may not have domain experience and expertise of the coachees but they know the art of questioning, finding out the needs, and enhancing the performance of the coachees. With their knowledge and experience, coaches apply time-tested tools and techniques to bring out the best of their coachees. 

Myth 12. Coaching is an employee incentive.

Truth: It may sound so. But coaching goes beyond employee incentives. It is employee engagement, employee development, and employee retention tool. It can develop employees as successful professionals and leaders. Hence, limiting coaching as an employee incentive is not an appropriate statement.

Myth 13. Coaching is telling.

Truth: If coaching is telling, whosoever tells becomes a coach. In contrast, coaching is a process of handholding, questioning, listening, guiding, and sharing knowledge, and expertise to coachees. Hence, coaching is not merely telling.  It is something far beyond with tons of passion with professional ethics and etiquette to make a difference in the lives of learners.  

Myth 14. Women cannot make as good coaches.

Truth: There is no connection between coaching and gender. Anybody can excel as a good coach. I have a colleague, Patricia Wheeler, Managing Partner, The Levin Group LLC, and Publisher of Leading News who proved herself and excelled as a renowned global executive coach. She provides consultancy and coaching services to prestigious international organizations successfully. Women have a lot of patience to listen and understand others and they are good at soft skills. They can multitask, and understand several aspects better than men. Hence, women can excel as great coaches like men.


Apart from these myths, there are several other myths such as coaches ensure your complete success; and coaches are superhumans to name a few. To conclude, debunking coaching myths with truths pave the way for right understanding towards coaching, and developing right attitude towards coaches thus enabling to acquire skills, abilities, and knowledge to become a successful professional and leader.  To put it in the words of Ara Parseghian, a famous sports coach, “A good coach will make his players see what they can become rather than what they are.”

About the Author

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. International Leadership Guru is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with forty years of experience and the author of fifty books including the award-winning See the Light in You’ URL: He is a C-Suite advisor and global keynote speaker. He brings a strategic eye and long-range vision given his multifaceted professional experience including military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine. He trains a new generation of leaders through leadership education and publications. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.