Unpopular premise: Communication coaching is not for everyone.

In the course of my work as a communications trainer, facilitator, coach, advisor, and speaker, I meet driven professionals, many of whom are executives. They are ambitious, smart and have big goals — work their way through the ranks to the elite club of the C-suite in their organisations, or go down the entrepreneurial route.

A few weeks ago, two executives contacted me separately after my lecture and requested coaching sessions. The requests warmed my little heart because those executives decided to take an extra step to improve their communication skills.

Over the years of working at a double-accredited, globally ranked business school in Africa, I’ve received requests for one-on-one coaching sessions. Typically, after initial discussions, the sessions would begin with enthusiastic participants attending a few sessions and doing the work. But inevitably, after about two or three sessions, their commitment would wane; they would not make the time, and the coaching sessions would end.

I always found that trend a real shame because I knew how difficult it would become to restart the process without a solid reason.

So when the two executives recently approached me after the MBA lecture to coach them on their communication skills, I was delighted and honoured. But I quickly became a little sceptical. I wondered if they could become committed to the process.

I was pleasantly surprised after the first meeting with one of the executives, Ms A because I could tell her case would be different. And I was right. Her energy, focus, and determination led me to realise something significant:

Don’t dedicate time, effort, or financial resources to a business communication coaching programme — whether for public speaking or business writing until you answer the following questions:

1) What is my ‘why’?

For this first step, you’ll need to list a concrete reason, not a vague desire.

For example:

I want to improve my speaking skills to coax action, influence decision-makers, and land exciting projects. (Concrete ‘why’).


I want to improve my speaking skills so I can communicate more effectively. (Vague ‘why’).

While assessing your situation, realise that your ‘why’ must be strong enough to sustain your drive for a couple of months — regardless of your motivation or lack thereof.

Do some soul-searching.

If you cannot initially develop a powerful rationale for your desired coaching sessions, replay critical moments in your life and career. Somewhere in the unique trajectory that is your life, you’ll find a compelling reason that will justify the sacrifices you’ll need to make to pursue a coaching programme.

If you try several times and still cannot come up with a strong reason to warrant your full participation, then a coaching programme might not be the solution.

2) Is my goal SMART?

In corporateville, we’ve all been advised to make SMART goals. These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound if we want positive results.

Coaching is no different.

For example, there’s a difference between enhancing your writing skills by 30% by the end of a three-month coaching programme (measured by a test or other objective criterion) and simply improving your writing skills.

In a coaching session with Ms A, the executive mentioned earlier, I asked her how she’d rank her writing skills. She provided a figure. Then I got her to identify what ‘success’ would mean to her at the end of our three-month programme. After a pause, she provided a figure she’d be happy with, which meant her writing would improve by a reasonable percentage. After she provided the new figure, there was a shift for both of us. We both became more serious about the programme because there was a specific outcome we wanted.

So carefully think about your goal for the communication coaching programme. Make it SMART; write it down; and visualise yourself achieving the desired results.

This step will boost your determination and increase your motivation for the work ahead.

3) Am I committed to doing the (intensive) work?

This final question makes or breaks the programme. And I’ve now decided not to work with anyone unwilling to fully commit to the work.

In my one-on-one coaching sessions, I make it clear that sacrifices must be made, a lot of self-study would be required, and tasks I give must be completed. I stress the importance of discipline, which trumps motivation.

One tactic I’ve introduced recently is to tell the participant to draw up a weekly timetable where daily tasks will be listed. The attendee will decide on a convenient time every day to complete the assignment and list it in the schedule. I review the timetable in the second coaching session, and we decide on the scope.

Then we do something drastic:

We ‘lock’ the timetable.

The participant then sets calendar reminders and saves the document to Google Drive or an equivalent cloud storage facility. I remind the participant that he/she must follow through and that I wouldn’t accept excuses. The first activity in the timetable begins that day and runs until the day before the next coaching session. In that way, the participant is ‘compelled’ to do the work at a specific time every day for a week. In the next session, I review the task and invite the participant to share learning points from the week of specific activities.

Any coach worth his/her salt will push you, support you, and guide you through the programme, but if you don’t do the work, all promptings will be fruitless.

So critically assess your situation, including your finances, work demands, business commitments, and family life. Determine if you can ‘block’ the time required to do the intensive work.

Remember that a coach cannot do the work for you.

As the saying goes: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

If you cannot guarantee at least three months of sacrifices for valid reasons, don’t sign up for a short-term coaching programme. Consider a workshop, seminar or a short training programme instead. (By the way, I provide all these communication services so contact me if you need help ).


So before you announce to your inner circle that you’re signing up for communication coaching and before you pay premium fees to that top-rated coach, do some self-reflection.

To gauge your preparedness for a short-term coaching programme, ask yourself the three questions highlighted in this post (and answer them candidly). The clarity you’ll glean will help you decide whether coaching is right for you and if you should consider other options.

So now you understand why coaching should not be the automatic choice for everyone wanting to sharpen their communication skills.

But if you do decide to go ahead with a business communication coaching programme, contact me first! You already know my approach, my credibility, and my experience. I’d also be delighted to work with you.

Over to you:

Do you need help boosting your communication skills to get results? Sign up here for my free quarterly newsletters and learn best practices. When you sign up, you’ll receive my evergreen resource on giving persuasive presentations. Ensure you download that document and refer to it before any high-stakes presentation or speech.

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N.B: First image  is  courtesy  of Pete Linforth via Pixabay. Second image is courtesy of Anand KZ via Pixabay. Third image is courtesy of Geralt via Pixabay. Last image is courtesy of John Hain via Pixabay.

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