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The Power of the Coach

Writing by Edward Rosenfeld, Director, Growth & Transitions Practice

From business coaches to personal trainers or life coaches, it seems that everyone has a coach today. Whether your goal is to shape up a flabby sales team or a flabby abdomen, there is a coach out there for you. If you are going to shell out the big bucks for a coach that will help you achieve your goal, the big question is: does coaching work, and why?

Apparently, aside from any special knowledge or experience that your coach may have (more on that later), when it comes to achieving a defined goal that you have set for yourself, the simple act of paying for the service is key. Paying creates accountability to another person; when we are only accountable to ourselves, it is too easy to put off the behavior necessary to achieve our goal. Besides, paying for coaching means that dollars are at stake, and who enjoys throwing money away?

The proof is to be found in the business model of Stickk, an online coaching company. At Stickk, you make a “Commitment Contract” to achieve a specific goal. If you do not achieve the goal, you lose a specific amount of money that you have pledged. The Contract will ideally be with a “Referee” of your choosing that provides you with someone to be accountable to (the Coach). No special expertise is necessary for the referee. You are being held accountable, and are paying for it.

The New York Times reported a test that showed that with financial penalties, the chances of success are 72% compared to only 29% without penalties. Having a Referee or Coach alone improved results to 59%.


An interesting distinction has to be made between whether you are buying motivation, expertise or savvy when you are engaging with a consulting firm. The answer is all three. Here at ITAC, we have Consultants on staff who are highly competent subject matter experts. Our Client Advisors have the “grey hair” — offering savvy advice from the vantage point of experience. But an often unarticulated role that we play is that of the “Coach”. We work with business owners to decide on a course of action, and then in both paid and unpaid roles, we help them to stay on track with accountability and “skin in the game” that would not exist otherwise.

Please also see Creating Accountability in the Family Business.