Firing an executive coach, part 2 | Inquirer Business

Firing an executive coach, part 2

Last week, we discussed the case of a reader who was unhappy with the executive coach he and his cousin hired to guide them as second-generation managers in their family business.  There was a mismatch between the expectations of the client and the coach, with the latter unable to respond to the needs of the former.

Most executive coaches perform at least one of two functions. Developmental coaches focus on softer skills such as communication and work-life balance, which, though essential for any business, were not the immediate needs of the client above.  Performance coaches touch more on management aspects such as strategy implementation and division of labor, which the client says are more pressing issues at this point.

I continue my response to the reader below, directly addressing him.


My reply: The consultancy business is booming, and it is not difficult to find another management, human resources, or executive consultant.  What is harder is to find a good coach who can match your needs.


It would be wise not to pay for several sessions upfront.  Most good coaches will agree to a fee paid after every session, as in the case with doctors.

Even if they offer a discount for a package, why go for the whole thing just to be penny wise, but pound foolish?

You probably found your coach on the Web or through media, and while this may often work, a wiser move might be to listen to word of mouth.  You say your family business is not yet a top multinational, so why did you pick a coach whose experience has likely been confined to executives who are used to a structured, hierarchical and traditional organization?

Get a coach who can be more fluid, particularly one who has coached the next generation of leaders in family businesses.

Ethics prevents me from recommending one coach over the other, but I assure you, effective coaches do exist.  If done well, executive coaching can work.

Not a panacea


“Executive coaching is not a panacea that works for everybody every time,” says Susan Grace Rivera in “Forbes Philippines” (August 2015).

“Organizations that want to use this potentially powerful tool must create the right conditions for it to do its wonders. Among others, these are: one, establish a clear link between executive coaching and organizational goals; two, executives keen to work with a coach set the agenda and embrace the accountability for change; three, choose the right coach; and four, agree on measurable outcomes.”

Does your family business meet the criteria above?  Does it have the “right conditions” for an executive coach to flourish?  Have you decided on “measurable outcomes” and “accountability”?  I am not sure, because unless your business is extremely professionalized, an ordinary one-size-fits-all coach might not be your best bet.

What should you do now?  You can try to salvage the coaching sessions by requesting, or even demanding from your coach that he focus on your needs, or else you will terminate the contract.

If you have paid the total amount for the whole package, and the coach will not budge, try to settle the matter amicably—perhaps you can postpone the sessions to a future date, when your role in the family business is clearer (aside from finance, what other responsibilities do you shoulder, for example?) and your expectations are more realistic about what this coach can offer.

Or you can ask the coach to recommend another coach from the same company who can be a better match (unless the coach works on his own).

The worst case is—and I know no one likes to hear this—chalk this up to a lesson learned.  Albeit pricey, this experience can help you “not be taken in,” as you say, by an expert just because he lists popular corporations as his clients.

Your family business is uniquely yours.  You don’t have to compare your business with that of others.  Take pride in that.

For streamlining of operations though, an executive coach may probably not be the ideal consultant, unless he knows the ins and outs of your business.  Instead, a production management specialist, an operations research expert, or even an IT consultant might be more helpful.

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Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the board of directors of Ateneo de Manila University’s Family Business Development Center. Get her book “Successful Family Businesses” at the University Press (e-mail: [email protected]).  E-mail the author at [email protected].

TAGS: client, executive coach, expectations, family business, firing, mismatch

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