My name is Lisa, and I am a recovering control freak. Recovering,
because I don't think one ever totally exorcises the control freak
instinct. We may push it aside for a while, but it always reappears
when situations get tough, or when struck by the romance of soapbox
Shakespeare himself could not have written as good a soliloquy as I
have heard from fired-up coaches thinking they were Henry V ready
to battle the French. Henry was a ruler, not a coach. We are
coaches, not rulers. Soapbox coaching is a common behavior for
control freaks. By grandstanding, we become the focus of the
conversation and offer advice.
Control freak coaches mean well. We want to help leaders succeed,
and we have a good idea of how to do that. We have coached hundreds
of people and think we know what will be most helpful for our
client. The president is asking ME for advice? The director is
turning to ME for sage wisdom? What a rush to the ego!
These are the two most common barriers to great coaching:
- Newly trained coaches with no business management experience
head into a client office with little more than learned coaching
- Experienced and talented coaches temporarily forget that
coaching should focus on the client. They perform instead of
It's not easy to resist the allure of elocution when a senior
executive looks at you with eager eyes and asks a question. Many of
us love to stand up, talk extemporaneously, and draw impressive
diagrams on whiteboards while getting high on the attention and the
It is not easy to resist, but we must. Our success as coaches
depends on our ability to keep our inner control freak at bay.
There is profound power in letting go of power. Great coaches are
conversation catalysts. We don't make things happen. We create the
dialogue that best enables things to happen. We don't make the
leader. We offer the leader a safe place to bring out his or her
greatness. We don't invent solutions. We facilitate a creative
space where solutions are born.
We are most successful when we offer our clients a vision of an
easier way to success. We do not become part of the project, but we
influence it by facilitating conversation. For all the control
freaks (or recovering control freaks) out there, here's the
- See the control freak. You might need to ask a co-worker to
confirm your conclusion about whether you are a control freak.
- Change your definition of success when coaching. I am
successful when I help facilitate the greatness and success of my
client. I am doing the coaching process a disservice when I succumb
to soapbox coaching.
- Relish in the power and influence that comes from providing a
- Become a great facilitator and catalyst.
As coaches, we know that the ego is a common barrier to our
clients' successes. Our ego makes us do strange things. No matter
how much fun it might be or how much applause we would earn, let's
save the speech for another day and situation.