We pick so many things in life, from kinds of breakfast cereal to life partners.
Where does a coach fit on this continuum from minuscule, impersonal objects to relationships that in many ways “make or break” our happiness? Well, if you are like most of the brains I work with there is a true answer and there is an answer that we go with. Arguably, on one level, of course a coaching relationship carries more weight than choosing between the myriad of cardboard, sugar-infused delights that line a whole side of a grocery aisle. But do we actually decide based on this rational distinction? My experience says no way, for my firm’s research shows that most coaches are picked from an instinctual, emotionally-based center that feels right yet carries with it significant errors. Don’t believe me? Try this test*:
1) A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
2) If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?
3) In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?
*Cognitive Reflection Test, Shane Frederick
Got your answers written down? You would be surprised that fewer than half of the students at the top 8 ranked universities in the U.S. got these answers right (you can view answers at bottom of the article). Certainly intelligence and rational thinking is not lacking with such a premium sample of minds. What is going on? The brain is what is going on. We are susceptible to cognitive biases that elude our conscious awareness, and if they are present in such non-reactive, non-“unconscious trigger” areas like balls, widgets, and lily pads, can you imagine the whirlwind of illusions underneath a choice of a coach?
I share this example with you to make the case that before one chooses a coach, one has to unchoose their sense of reality as they know it —including the problem to be supposedly “solved” with your coach. This humility on the largest of scales is usually forgotten in this self-improvement process, for there is always the “perfect storm” brewing:
And when these dynamics are brewing, the brain will typically make a coach choice based on some of the following “brain loving” factors that make it feel like it ‘got a match”:
Though it is possible the coach who demonstrates these unconscious “hooks” does indeed have what it takes to satisfy you in your coaching needs, my experience as a master coach trainer and thought leader in both the neuroscience and behavior change worlds has shown these are both woefully inadequate and highly satisfying to the unconscious systems of the brain. Therein lies the coaching pickle.
To properly immunize yourself from these fundamental biases is quite difficult but not impossible. Developing a meta-cognitive (i.e., thinking about one’s thinking) strategy that helps you truly discern the fluff from the substance is critical. And so, to help with this, I lay out below what I believe are the critical factors to maximizing the coach selection choice for your ultimate success:
At the end of the day, with the growth of the coaching industry, it certainly feels like we have the same overwhelming emotion we get in the grocery aisle, staring at a great wall of cereal boxes. Though we all love the taste of sugar, just make sure it isn’t too much for there will be adverse effects….just like with the coatings you must look through to find your taste for the “best coach.”
Answers: 1) $.05 2) 5 min 3) 47 days