I get it. I have seen problematic coaches up close and personal. I even see people supporting these problematic coaches even though they know full well how unethical/bullying they are. Never underestimate how desperate some people are to have a high profile and high income - and how many people will hang onto their coattails, hoping to catch some of their success by osmosis. Never mind the destruction these people cause with their narcissism, gas lighting, and general poor treatment of other humans.
It's completely disheartening.
And then there are all the scandals - like the recent outing of a 'coaching' cult which generated a lot of discussion, mostly discussion that ignored the fact no coaching actually occurred in the cult itself.
Yet, the idea that there is something uniquely dangerous about coaching has always seemed problematic to me.
Literally anything that promotes human flourishing can also be used in a poisonous way. Even water! Drink too much of that stuff and you could actually kill yourself.
Throw our inherent humanness into the mix and what do you get...? An environment where people are going to grab for power, money, influence, and attention at the expense of other people.
This seems quite an obvious outcome.
Just like if you have a welfare system then some people are going to cheat it.
Just like if you have relationships then you are also likely to get abuse.
Just like if you have restaurants then you are also going to get food poisoning.
Does this mean that we need to fight to eradicate the misuse? Of course it does! Does this mean that these things are 'dangerous' or 'inherently bad'?? Obviously not. There is something almost lazy about the kind of cynicism that rejects something outright just because of the challenges that are involved - its shadow side. Abandoning the whole endeavour is not an option! Instead, I see it as a call to focusing on finding and cultivating the good in it - and absolutely not tolerating the bad.
So why do people want to reject coaching outright instead?
I think the answer lies in people's discomfort with two things: 1. emotions and 2. mind control. Telling someone how to think and feel is just about the easiest way to get someone's back up. So if you do that professionally (in their eyes - in reality, coaching is the opposite of that!) - then you are not to be trusted. I guess there is some truth in that. Working on emotional and mental wellbeing IS a big deal and it should be done ethically.
So what do we do about this? The answer is that as consumers we need to trust ourselves to choose our coaches based on stuff that matters - NOT how shiny and convincing they are but instead on how genuinely safe and seen we feel in the presence of this person.
And as coaches we need to BE a safe space for people and we need to insist that our own networks are healthy, supportive and loving. We need to create worlds away from the charlatans so that people have somewhere to land that isn't just hero worshipping whoever has the biggest audience. We also need to keep sharpening our own swords and honing our crafts - something I think gets neglected in favour of pursuing business growth.
I teach coaching skills so I am biased. It's in my own professional interests to make sure that the industry survives and is respected. However, my experience has shown me time and time again how powerful coaching can be and how transformative it is for people. It's helped me through some huge transitions. It's given me a lot of light. I want that for other people too!