I am furious (this is about ethics, people)

I am just furious. Last week I learned about a very well-known, highly polished “Success Coach” who charged a colleague of mine $10,000 for a two-day one-on-one retreat.
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That’s not even the infuriating part. Wait for it…

They met at the coach’s home both days of the retreat. Not only did this coach NOT deliver the promised results, she used a majority of the time to show off her lifestyle and then made a pitch for her $25,000 program.

Rather than bash this coach (which, admittedly, was my first instinct), I’d like to take this opportunity to share some tips to consider when investing in a training or coaching program:

  1. Have they “been there, done that”? If they are promising 2,000 followers on Twitter, check out how many followers they really have. If they are promising to help you double your income, find out whether they’ve doubled their income.
  2. Are they promising unrealistic overnight success? In general, programs promising overnight success are the ones to avoid. Any successful person will tell you there is no such thing as an overnight success. Anyone who makes this promise is probably hoping they will become an overnight success by selling you their program.
  3. Do they claim you can’t  get what they teach anywhere else? The overwhelming majority of claims of this type are false. While every coach brings a unique voice and perspective to their area of expertise, there is (almost) nothing new under the sun. This claim is generally made to elicit feelings of desperation to acquire/buy.
  4. Do they spend more than 10% of the time at their events selling? If a coach uses most of the time at an event selling (themselves), it creates tension and stirs up fears. Tension is a natural part of the sales process, but constant tension-building is a manipulation technique which creates an environment where one can no longer make rational decisions.
  5. Are you feeling desperate, needy or overwhelmed? This is the bottom line. Regardless of what someone is selling, or what their motives are, remember, the buck stops with you. Be present when making buying decisions. Be clear about what you need, and if the program presented is the best option, then invest! However, if you feel desperate, you will very likely make a decision you’ll regret. You’re allowed to step back and decide tomorrow. Be wary of anyone who pushes this boundary or tells you otherwise.

Disclaimer: Please understand that NONE of the above definitively identifies someone being unethical. In fact, because of the vast influence of a few big names in the training industry, it is almost impossible to sort them all out.

What do I mean? Coaches and Business Development Experts like me seek out expert advice when looking to grow our practices. Problems arise because the most well-known industry experts advocate the use of some of the practices above, often presenting them as the only way to succeed (see #3 above). Consequently, we feel backed into a corner, and like we don’t have any other options (see #5 above), even though it feels icky.

And yes, I do know this personally. In the past, I (cringe) used some of these methods, mirroring what I saw as acceptable business practices in my industry.

The good news is I sucked at them.

I was nervous, shaky and totally unconvincing, and people didn’t hire me. These accepted “techniques to help more people” were totally out of alignment with the way I wanted to treat fellow humans. So I tossed all of them out the window (the techniques, not the humans) and started just talking to people, finding out what they wanted, giving tons and tons of value, and then letting them decide to work with me when the time was right.

The result? Prospects feel empowered, whether they hire me or not. Plus, I teach these methods to my clients (see #1 above) so they can grow their businesses in alignment with their values, too.

Final Thoughts. Investing in yourself to work with a coach is an incredible display of courageous vulnerability, and I take that responsibility seriously. Every time someone hires me, I think, “This is one amazingly brave soul – let’s get moving!

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Reader Interactions


  1. Mallie Rydzik says

    Agh yes, I’ve already given up on these salesy techniques we’re taught as coaches. I’ve turned down coaches I was looking to hire because they came off as insincere, why would I want to look that way to my prospectives?

  2. Linda-Ann Stewart says

    So true and amen! These manipulative sales techniques offend me personally, and turn me off professionally. I simply can’t follow them. They’re designed to put the potential customer into fear, and have them make a decision from that state of mind. But if someone buys from that mindset, they can’t derive the most from the coaching or training. The flavor of it will always carry through. Great post!