EP 08 // 5 Misconceptions about Leadership Coaching

Ep 08

Thought partner, cheerleader, sounding board, devil’s advocate. Leadership coaches wear all of these hats and many more in order to support their clients in personal and professional life. However, leadership coaching, like most everything, can get clouded by faulty ideas or misunderstandings. Akua is here to expel 5 common misconceptions about leadership coaching and give examples of these errors from her years as an executive coach.

With Akua, leadership coaching concentrates on building up a client’s self-confidence and self-trust. In this episode, she will define who will benefit from coaching, explain the benefits coaching has over other learning techniques, and give the difference between coaching and mentoring. Akua’s executive coaching is professional and personal development that is truly customized to the client. She discusses her techniques, including setting goals, defining actions, and supporting leaders through the process so they can support themselves beyond coaching.

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What's Covered in this Episode About Executive Coaching

5 Misconceptions About Leadership Coaching - 

  1. Leadership coaching is all talk and no action

  2. Leadership coaching is only helpful for new leaders or terrible executives

  3. Leadership coaching is therapy

  4. Leadership coaching can be replaced by books or YouTube

  5. Leadership coaching isn’t for me because I won’t be able to change

Quotes from this Episode of Open Door Conversations

  • "Coaching is a thought provoking and creative process that inspires you, the leader, you, the founder, you, the entrepreneur, you the professional to maximise your personal and professional potential." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

  • "Coaching is not about your past and it's not about fixing anything. It is about your future." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

  • "Unlike mentoring, coaching is about you. Your agenda, not my experiences." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

  • "Every single environment isn't necessarily for me. So that if someone you know rejects me, or if there's a space, and I'm told that maybe I don't fit in there, that's actually for my best and greater good." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

Mentioned in 5 Misconceptions about Leadership Coaching

Get to Know the Host of the Open Door Conversations Podcast

Learn more about your host, Akua Nyame-Mensah.

Akua is a certified executive and leadership coach, recognized learning and organizational development facilitator, speaker, and former startup executive. 

Since 2018, she has had the opportunity to partner with amazing organizations, from high-growth startups to multinational brands all around the world, to maximize people, performance, and profit.  Outside of her coaching and corporate speaking engagements, she is a regular mentor, coach, and judge for various entrepreneurship-focused organizations.

Stay in touch with Akua Nyame-Mensah, Leadership & Culture Advisor:

  • Read about Akua’s services if you’d like to learn more about how you can hire her to help you strengthen your organization’s culture.

  • Complete her contact form to jump on a call.

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Here’s the transcript for episode 08 about 5 Misconceptions about Leadership Coaching

NOTE: Please excuse any errors in this transcript; it was created using an AI tool. Akua Nyame-Mensah 0:07 Welcome to the open door podcast. My name is Akua Nyame-Mensah Chaos respond to Aqua. And I'm a certified executive and leadership coach recognised facilitator and former sort of leader that loves supporting reluctant buyer fighting and overwhelmed leaders. I've worked with them to help them clarify where they should focus their time, and energy each and every day so that they can love themselves, love their work, and ultimately love their life. If you're looking to learn leadership information and hear different perspectives, you are in the right place. My aim in this podcast is to help you see that one of the most productive and profitable things you can do is deeply understand yourself. Understand how you show up, understand how you thrive, and allow yourself to align everything in your work in your life, and in your business to support that, think of this podcast as your weekly opportunity to receive leadership support. And remember, there is no one right way to lead yourself or others. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. Let's get started. Hello, and welcome to this episode of the open door conversations podcast. I am as always super excited to share with you my topic today. And that is five misconceptions around leadership and executive coaching. And I felt like this was a really important episode to record because I feel like for so many of my clients, for a lot of people that reach out to me, I'm the first executive and leadership coach they've ever connected with. So I wanted to record an episode really about some of the misconceptions, some of the stories I hear. And some of the things I think are a bit incorrect. And so I kind of wanted to set the record straight and share things from my perspective and share a little bit about how I approach leadership and executive coaching because everyone does it a bit differently. So at the end of the day, I believe my role as an executive coach and leadership coach is to help my clients build their self confidence, and competence and areas that are relevant to them, right. So there's a huge piece where it's really meant to be about their agenda. It's about them, not me. So before I give my definition of coaching, let me describe what a lack of competence and a lack of confidence might really look like. And to me, I think another way to look at this actually is the lack of self trust, and also the lack of self compassion. And I feel like a lot of my conversations, especially recently have really been around that. So this might look like you not taking time off or resting or taking breaks. Because maybe you're afraid that you might miss out on an opportunity, you're afraid that a team member maybe won't be able to do something correctly without you being there. This could also look like you not honouring your schedule, whether it's you've set aside time to engage with certain people, you've set aside time for certain tasks that are very strategic, you've set aside task, I'm sorry, maybe time to do some thought leadership. And so I work with a lot of my clients to make sure that they are honouring their time honouring their schedule. So they're able to get closer to whatever they described as success. This might also look like you not trusting people that you've hired or not making the most of your stakeholders or network beating yourself up being fixated on the past, or even past successes, not being able to show up and lead your team and saying things like up, I don't have the time and space to train them. Or they should already know that it's not my job to do XY and Z. And last but not least, this sometimes also looks like losing the respect and trust of investors, co founders, your family or even your team. So I really really see my role as being crucial as being a really important part of being able to support leaders of all kinds. I've worked with entrepreneurs, I've worked with leaders within more corporate organisations. I've worked with founders, but really just recognising that at the end of the day, it's not about me, it's really about my clients. So let's get into some of the misconceptions. And as I get into the misconceptions, I'll also be giving my own definition of coaching as well. So I have five I'll be sharing with you today. Let's start with Misconception Number One. Coaching is all talk and not action. So what is coaching? My definition of coaching is that and this is definitely borrowed from the International Coach Federation definition of coaching, which is the primary way in which I practice coaching and I'm also a member of this coach. organisation as well. And I'm also an associate certified coach, I think that's the level I'm at. So, for me, coaching is a thought provoking and creative process that inspires you, the leader, you, the founder, you, the entrepreneur, you the professional to maximise your personal and professional potential, okay? It is designed to really help you create develop goals to develop those goals and ultimately carry out a strategy or plan for achieving those goals. Right. So it's not just about thinking, it's not just about talking, it's really about thinking about how am I going to do this next. So it's my job as a coach to assist you in setting and planning your goals or intention, or vision, whatever you want to call it, right? It's really around also creating awareness around potential blocks, derailleurs, and of course, opportunities and your strengths, right? It's around defining actions and steps that will help you move forward. And finally, it's about supporting you to manage the process and defining what accountability means to you. So a huge part of coaching is really about moving forward. And later on, I actually have one of the misconceptions around coaching about sort of talking about the past, coaching is not about the past, coaching is about you making the most of your future by staying presence in the present. And I know I use present twice there. So it's really about making the most of now so that you can have a better future. So it's my job as your partner, right, your thought partner, to help you clarify your goals, whether those are personal or professional. And I think a key thing here is also to recognise that our personal life and our professional life are really intertwined, right, we try and maybe compartmentalise them or separate them. But ultimately, like they are, they're combined, okay. And so then right after helping you clarify your goals, it's my job once again, to help you achieve them through planning, action. And ultimately, and probably most importantly, reflections are really building that practice that that reflection muscle. So another way you can think about this is that I am really here to help you identify your areas of strengths, your areas of growth, build a development plan, based on those goals, right, I'm really meant to be that person in your corner, that cheerleader, if that's something that resonates to support, and also challenge you, I love playing devil's advocate, right, I can also be a sounding board. So I work with a lot of new founders, especially around being a sounding board. So they can really think through some new approaches, right, a thought partner. So I've also worked with some leaders who maybe are a bit older to be more of a thought partner, because they want to get someone or work with someone who's like completely, from maybe a different perspective, a different generation, right. And then of course, ultimately, to hold you accountable. So I also love working with leaders because they have to show up, right, they have to be there. They want to make sure they get whatever homework or challenge that was assigned to them before we get to the next conversation that we're going to have, okay. And there's also something magical about investing in yourself and then showing up for yourself as well, that I think happens when we're thinking about coaching. So there is a lot of action right there that coaching is about taking action about moving forward and doing things differently. And I do this through a simple but incredibly effective three step process that I've talked about in some previous episodes, where I'm talking about really supporting and cultivating their self awareness so that they understand with their areas of strength, and maybe areas of growth are simplifying engagement, so really breaking down things, so they don't seem so overwhelming. And they can start to take those first steps, whether those first steps are about leveraging themselves or leveraging others. And then last but not least, making sure that they've set expectations that they can exceed. So really thinking about how they can set goals or a vision or intentions that really resonate, so they can really move forward. And then write continue to cultivate their self awareness, right continue to reflect it's a constant process, right? So it's a super simple process that I teach my clients that they can move, and they can start to use moving forward even when they're no longer working with me, right. So it's not just about identifying the problem or challenges or issues. It's really about helping you build your knowledge, helping you build your own self confidence and trust in yourself that you can find the resources you need to build your knowledge and then applying and recognising that you can be really resourceful that you can brainstorm that you can leverage these tools moving forward. So you can apply whatever you're looking to apply to achieve, what your goals are. Alright, so that's really that first, that first misconception that leadership coaching, executive coaching is all talk and no action. It's not true. The second misconception that I have here is that leadership coaching is only for new leaders, new CEOs, new founders, or leaders who are terrible and bad. Right. So I sort of alluded to this in the first one that I shared, and it's not most of my clients actually have been in leadership positions or even running their own businesses for years. So here's the thing the world is constantly changing, constantly evolving. So what has worked for you previously is probably not going to get you to your next level. So for me, coaching is really a way of committing to your continual and continuous growth, you can benefit from a coach at any point in your career or any point of your business's growth, right. So here's the thing, right? Coaching is really used for so many different things, it can be used for overcoming internal blocks to success. So as a coach or a coach can really help you identify your innate preferences, whatever your limiting beliefs may be, and any assumptions that may be keeping you from taking action in your personal or professional life so that you can get to the next level. And the thing that coaching can be used for is for improving professional and personal relationships and communication. So I actually do a lot of role playing with my clients, I think this is actually something that's incredibly effective. So they can practice things out, they can think about what is the outcome, they can think about different approaches when they're engaging with people who are different from them. So they can make sure that they're not only being effective, but building productive relationships, right. So I really can partner with leaders to help them close that gap between things between how things are and how they would like them to be coaching can be also used for ongoing personal professional development. So together, we can set goals, work on the skills, right, so we can think about what are some of those skills that you need, who you can leverage in your existing network, once again, I also am sometimes leveraged as well to help them work through some of these skills as well, so that you can become the leader and person that they want to be. Okay. Another thing I also do with my clients, so with my one on one clients, they do have access to me. So they can get in touch if they have a challenge. And I'll typically respond within 24 hours. So this is what I describe as situational support. So coaching can be incredibly helpful for situational support. So whatever challenge your work or your life throws at you, I can support you or a coach can support you through those tough situations, whether it's preparing for an important meeting, a firing, so I had a client recently, who was actually let go of several people. And so we talked through what is the approach? How can we make sure we leverage the values of their business when they're communicating that this person is no longer a good fit for this organisation? Right. So also difficult conversations as well. All right. So last, but not least, coaching can also be used for career and business planning and transitions. So I can really be a thought partner when it comes to planning your next move and help you outline your vision, right? What is success look like. And for me, when I'm thinking about this second misconception of coaching, being only for new leaders, or CEOs, or people who are not good leaders, like I know that when I first started off, especially that I would have loved to have someone that I can bounce ideas off of who was neutral, and who wasn't part of my family, because my family got really tired of me asking them stuff and sort of trying to talk through things with them. And it got kind of heated as well. Colleagues, right? I don't want my colleagues to know everything that's happening, right, just like I don't want my boss know, everything that's happening. And I know, I certainly had issues with telling my team things that they shouldn't have known, right. And once again, those are things that really can be an issue. At any point of your career, at any point of building a business, it's not just about being new to it, right? Every single time we're doing new things, we're iterating we're innovating, right, those things are going to be new at some point in time. And you could always leverage a thought partner or someone to support you without judgement at those points in time. So another key thing here is I will say I actually do believe in attempting or trying something by yourself, if possible, before looking for coaching support. And I recently had a potential client who actually reached out who was transitioning from being sort of an individual contributor at a high level, though, within sort of the investment space, and to a startup and sort of, we wanted to get some support leading, you know, a new team and building a new team within a startup that he was building out. So, you know, he had never built a team and wanted support. And we spoke and he ultimately decided that he wanted to attempt to get a bit more experience and leverage an existing network and some of his other founder friends before working with me. And I completely understood where he was coming from, right, because I think that there's a lot of value that comes from trying things and then getting some support to figure things out and really take it to the next level. So it's something that I completely understand. Misconception Number three, coaching is therapy. Coaching is not therapy. So here's the thing, there are some therapists that are coaches, but the two are very different. And I should know because I've used both and continue to use both. And a key thing to also keep in mind here is that even coaches have coaches right. So even people who've been doing this have been building their business have been supporting all different types of people also have people that support them. So here's here's just a little bit of how I think about the difference between coaching and therapy therapy. Unlike therapy, coaching is about your future. It's not about your past and it's not about fixing anything. Okay? Another thing that's different from coaching that typically comes up is mentoring. And I'm a huge fan of mentoring. I provide some level of like mentoring, typically at no charge for lots of different types of organisations, but it's not the same thing as coaching. Alright, so unlike coaching, alright, or unlike mentoring, okay, coaching is about you, right? Your agenda, not my experiences. And just to expand on this one a little bit more. Mentors are great. And like I said, I've provided mentorship services. I'm a mentor, and different types of organisations. But they will usually give you advice, which is different from coaching, based on their own experiences and perspectives. So that's their own limitations. So really just recognising that when you are reaching out to someone to be a mentor, so a mentor, civically, someone who has been there done that a coach isn't necessarily an expert, and most coaches, and I also believe this, find that you are the expert in your life. So it's not about telling you what to do, but supporting you with your own vision, your own thoughts, your own goals. Another thing that typically comes up when we are thinking about coaching, unlike coaching, right? Or I'm saying this backwards, actually, so unlike consulting, it is about your solutions, not my thoughts. So when you work with a consultant, usually the consultants giving you this as the solution, and you need to do X, Y, and Z. So it's very prescriptive coaching is not prescriptive. So here's the thing, though, I will leverage mentoring and some consulting approaches when given permission by my client. So I will sometimes put on a different hat depending on what my client needs at that point in time. And sometimes I will offer my opinion, but I typically will let them know in advance and say, Hey, like, is this something you're open to hearing? Are you open to this? If I feel like it will be helpful, potentially, for my client to get my perspective and opinion as opposed to holding space as a coach? So really just recognising that different coaches can use different approaches, you should ask them how they do it. But coaching is not therapy. Okay? That's that's a huge thing. There. It is not therapy. As a coach, right? I am supposed to be on your team, I hold you accountable. I am your advocate. But I am independent, as well, right. It's really just recognising that. And the key thing here is that my job as a coach is to help hold different perspectives from you, right, because often we're limited in our growth by our own limited self awareness. And so I might be able to see a situation in different way or in a way that you might not be able to. So that's really what I'm meant to do. I love playing devil's advocate. That's like my favourite thing to really do as a coach. I love the what ifs as well. So that is Misconception Number Three. Misconception Number four, I can just read a book or watch YouTube videos. I love this one because I love books. I love reading. And I also love YouTube videos. So here's the thing. Books are static. Of course YouTube isn't. But you can't find all the answers you need in a book or on a YouTube video, you also can't find the answers you need probably in this podcast as well. So one of the most common questions I will get is What books should I read what books will make me a better leader. And I get this all the time, because I think a lot of leaders think that a book will drive success and will sort of unlock everything. So they sort of are looking at leadership as if it's a course that they can get an A plus in or maybe at least a B plus in and building a team building a business. Being a leader leading yourself leading others is not something you can get an A or an a plus in. And it's really important that you recognise that in order to be able to show up and be effective, right? You need to be open to trying to failing to experimenting, to feeling to engage in and so you can't just read books, you really just have to use them, right? So it's not about memorising something or trying to quote the author, it's about making sure that you are trying to understand whatever is being said, and that you're implementing those concepts and ideas, right? It's not about impressing other people, right? And that's something I see a lot in this space, like people are like, Oh, I read that great book, have you read it, like, I want to do that with my team. And that's great, but really recognising that it's about implementing that knowledge. And so if you are very busy, you don't have much time, it's gonna be really hard for you to think through and reflect on how you're going to implement something. And that's why I really think working with an accountability partner working with a coach working with someone who can support you with this. So you can integrate, it can be incredibly helpful. So yeah, you can read a book or watch a YouTube video, but it's not the same as working with someone or having someone support and having someone hold you accountable for actually implementing that knowledge. And that's why I think it's so much more valuable to actually try and fail or try and succeed than just trying to read a new book. And for me, this is something I find incredibly important. Different coaches do this differently. But I would never assign my clients a book to read. Okay, they come To me, because a lot of times they're overwhelmed because they're firefighting because they feel like they don't have the time. So no, I'm not going to assign a book for someone to read, because that's like way too much work. And there's probably a lot more important things that we could probably do with your time. And I mean, this is just a little quick little segue or story. But you know, when I first started my coaching consulting practice, I was doing some outreach, and I went to meet actually a founder, I would say, yeah, quite a well known founder, he's doing really well for himself. I was in Nigeria at the time. And he specifically was talking about this book, and was like, oh, yeah, I really want to implement some of this book, it was the Netflix book, or one of the Netflix books around culture. But the thing is, a huge part about leadership is modelling the behaviour that you expect of others. And so if you're not going to walk the talk, don't talk it because your team is going to see right through it. And so this particular CEO that I visited, this particular founder I visited, literally was talking about wanting to build a culture similar to Netflix. But within the one hour conversation we had, he like, picked up his phone several times, he had to leave and get up to do things with his team. He was distracted, right? So he couldn't even give me one hour of his time. And yet, he felt like he was going to be able to create this Netflix like environment or culture within his organisation. So really just recognising that, you know, there's a lot of times a disconnect between sort of what you're reading, what you are willing to actually do to implement something, and a coach can really be helpful in helping you see those gaps, see those blind spots, and really support you on creating something that makes the most sense, not just for you, but with whatever you're trying to create as well. Another thing here, when we're thinking about YouTube videos, how to videos are not a replacement for practice. I do this as well, like, I very much overestimates how my abilities can improve after watching other people sort of perform it or talk through it. And so yes, videos can be very helpful for exposing you to new ideas, showing you maybe how things are done. But they're not as effective when you actually need to do them and actually practice them. So many skills are easier seen than done, and knowing is different from doing it. And that's why the misconception I wanted to share number four is I can just read a book or watch a YouTube video doesn't typically hold true. And that's why I think leadership coaching can be incredibly effective and holding you accountable and supporting you with building new skills. So you have both the confidence and competence to be able to show up and move forward. All right, the final misconception that I wanted to share around leadership coaching, or why maybe you wouldn't want to work with a leadership or executive coaches, I can't improve. This is how I am right. This is just me. And this is actually what I believe for the longest time, I remember when I first actually moved back to Ghana, I was so upset because I couldn't find an opportunity. And I kept feeling like I was hitting a wall I wasn't getting through. I remember getting so upset and telling people around me like this isn't the place for me. You know, nobody likes me like, What is wrong, like what is happening? And I would just be like, Yep, this is it, this is who I am, I'm not going to change it, things don't have to change, they have to just accept me with who I am. And here's the thing, I learned that there's a lot of things I could get better at if I wanted to. But most importantly, that I could focus on my strengths and leverage other people to support me, I also learned that every single environment isn't necessarily for me. So that if someone you know rejects me, or if there's a space, and I'm told that maybe I don't fit in there, that's actually for my best and greater good. Why would I want to be around people who don't support me who aren't open to working with me or constantly want to judge and expect me to justify myself. So I really feel like this is an important misconception to mention, because so many of us think that we are static that we can't change that we can't develop. And it's not true. So I'm sure many of you listening to this have probably heard of this concept or idea of the growth mindset. And I think it's such an important mindset for us to keep in mind. But also recognising that we should probably spend more time on our strengths and really leveraging that and getting complimented supported by other people who can do other things probably better than us. And that's absolutely fine. So when I think through some of the things that I thought I couldn't get better at that I was at a point where this is it, it can't go up from here, there's some things that really come to mind, or there's some things where coaching was incredibly helpful for me and through getting coaching and becoming a coach and being able to coach myself and one of the things I love to do is share these tools and resources with my own clients. So they can do this for themselves moving forward, right, I want them to have sustainable processes moving forward, so they don't always have to lean on me. That's a huge part. Here's what comes up. So the first thing that really comes up is the fact that you know, I am not a touchy feely person and I thought that in order to be a leader, that I needed to be like a very touchy feely person this also might be related. to the fact that I'm also a woman. So I just felt like in order to be successful, I needed to Yeah, just be just a little bit more touchy feely, like more in tune with my emotions and like, hug everyone, or something along those lines. But here's the thing. I'm not a hugger, I really liked my personal space. And my team actually nicknamed me no touchy feely. So I legit like my space. And so one of the things I learned was that I can still be open to sharing my perspective, I can still be open to sharing my emotions. And I can still be the same person, right? I am still the same person, but I can optimise how I show up, right, I can put on different hats if required, right. And I can reflect on my goals and vision and make sure I'm incorporating the people I'm working with so I can bring them along. And so when I'm thinking about the fact that I'm not a touchy feely person is sort of sharing with my team, like, hey, you know, I do like my personal space. But I want to make sure that we have a really collaborative environment, how can I make sure I do that. So really being open and getting curious to how I can create a space by really leveraging my own personality and my own strengths. Another thing that comes to mind when I'm thinking about this misconception of I can't improve my skills. I'm just who I am. And you know, leadership coaching, executive coaching can't help me because I'm just this is just who I am. This is how I am is around public speaking. So you know, a few years ago, I swore I never would ever get up and do public speaking again, because I had to do something when I was working for an organisation where I got up and I was pretty much like blasted by a reporter who told me that like, I should change my accent, I need to you know, completely like repeat everything I said, and blah, blah, blah, he just got for me, like it really triggered me and really hurt my feelings. So I could go on and on about the examples of things that I did not think I was capable of doing. And I'm doing them now so I public speak now like I literally speaking and having conversations is my job. And a few years ago, I would have told you I don't do small talk, I can't do this, I can't connect with people, I can't talk to people I can't get up and, and do presentations and all those are all things that I got support with through coaching. And I was also able and I still do this coach myself even getting up and doing this podcast like I know, like how to coach myself so I can show up because doing these things is really important to me right is really aligned with my vision for where I see myself. And that is really what coaching is all about. It's about giving yourself the opportunity to explore what else is possible in a safe and non judgmental space. So you can continue to build the skills and continue to coach yourself even after a session is done. Alright, so that is what I wanted to share with you. Those are the top five misconceptions about leadership coaching, executive coaching, about really being able to show up and be your best self as a leader that I wanted to share with you. So if you keep hitting a wall, you keep self sabotaging yourself, you keep maybe not honouring your time you keep not following through, or you know you can achieve so much more, please get in touch. All right, you can also check out my resources to help you get started on this journey to really being able to show up as the inspiring and productive leader I know you can be everyone can benefit from a fresh perspective. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen. I hope that you enjoy the rest of your day. Stay safe. Stay safe. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to today's episode. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please share it with your friends. We can continue this conversation on social media the links to my socials so that is LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. You can find them in the show notes. If you tagged me in a story and include the hashtag hashtag ask Akua I will share a special little gift with you. Thank you so much once again for your time and I cannot wait to share my next episode with you stay safe and sane.


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