Persuading Potential Coaches: Overcoming Skepticism

Dear Coach,

What suggestions do you have for persuading a potential executive coachee to engage me as a coach? I’ve encountered skepticism or defensiveness where the leader assumes that if he or she needs a coach there must be something wrong.



Dear Franklin,

You know, it is interesting how some leaders tend to get defensive when it comes to the idea of having a coach. They immediately assume that someone suggesting a coach means they are flawed or have some kind of problem. But let me tell you, there are a couple of effective ways to counter that misguided belief.

First, I share this terrific TED Talk from the surgeon Atul Gawande on the power and impact of coaching in all fields and endeavors.

The second thing I share with the prospective coachee is the Solomon Paradox. What is the Solomon Paradox? The term was coined by the University of Chicago researchers who put a set of questions to one set of groups and then put the same questions with a slight variation to other groups.

These questions were about serious life challenges, work, marital, family, etc. For one set of groups, the question was, “If you were faced with an ‘X’ challenge, what would you do?” Other groups got this question, “If a close friend called you and said I’m faced with an ‘X’ challenge, what would you advise?”

The researchers found repeatedly that when the person personally faced the challenge vs. advised a friend, he or she considered less information, identified fewer options, and exhibited more rigid thinking, impairing analysis.

Researchers call this the Solomon Paradox because King Solomon was revered for his wisdom when it came to advising others (recall the story of the two competing mothers and the baby.) Yet when it came to King Solomon‘s personal decisions, they proved disastrous for himself and the Kingdom of Israel. Hence the paradox.

I like to tell clients, “Even if you are as wise as King Solomon, as your coach, I can probably still help.” 😊

Best regards,


Jathan Janove is a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Master Coach and Practice Leader. You can learn more about him here. If you have a question you’d like him to address, please email us at


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