Are You Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth?

Gift Horse WEBFamed speaker and coach, Patricia Fripp, will often say, “When someone wants to give you their money, you take it!” There is also an old saying that goes, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” These phrases carry a similar message. The story of what brought the contemplation of these two phrases to mind follows.

Often when we entrepreneurs market, we will give products and services away for gifts at special events. Don’t we all just love these unexpected perks? It just so happens, that a colleague of mine, whom we’ll call Bill, spoke for an enterprise with around 15 employees. He provided one hour of complimentary coaching as one of these perks. Upon hearing him speak, several of the employees wanted to engage him in a coaching program. One of these was a person who had received a complimentary the one hour coaching perk. Bill faithfully delivered the one hour coaching and the employee told her boss, CEO of the enterprise, that it was the best hour she had ever spent.

Even though she wanted to engage in a coaching program with Bill, unfortunately, she could not afford Bill’s fees. Since Bill wanted to work with the enterprise the coaching participant worked for anyway, Bill offered to send the CEO a proposal. Because of their relationship Bill had provided additional perks and “sweetened the pot” in the proposal quite a bit. It was rejected. Upon that rejection, and at the advice of a mutual colleague, Bill offered the mother of all perks! Bill offered to coach three employees, including the lady who had taken advantage of the complimentary coaching. Each person would receive a battery of assessments and eight hours of coaching. Bill offered this at no charge to the enterprise. Of course, we know there are no free lunches and Bill requested in exchange, a testimonial on the enterprises’ letterhead, if the CEO saw value in the coaching results. Bill also requested another non-paid speaking engagement at one of their events. None of this would cost the enterprise a dime. The mother of all perks was summarily rejected! Bill was more than a little stunned.

This made me curious as to whether executives understand the value of coaching. Indeed, a mere four years ago, the professor from my master’s program did not. She had no idea how coaching works, why people engage in coaching or, the results it can produce. This is especially mystifying when you realize that coaching was a part of the I/O program she was teaching.

This mystery can extend into corporations. However, executives who feel they lack coaching skills, can acquire a coaching certification from several groups. Personally, I prefer to begin coaching with a set of assessments. Again, there are any number of assessments to select from. The reason I like to use assessments is that they:

  • Provide a deeper understanding of the coaching participant more quickly
  • The assessments are a great place to begin coaching
  • The coaching participant inputs the information, so the coaching participant can begin the process of self-evaluation more effectively
  • The assessment helps prioritize areas that may need attention early in the coaching process

Having said all of this, neither coaching nor assessments are an exact science. Moreover, just as with any purchase, buyer beware as there are good and not so good coaches. It is also wise to remember that while coaching does involve bits of therapy as is illustrated in a Research Report from Harvard Business Review Look for the section under Buyers Guide and the heading “Coaching Borrows from Both Consulting and Therapy” on page 97. On one hand, unless a coach is a licensed therapist, and there are therapists who both coach and conduct therapy, the coach should know his/her own limits in this field. On the other hand, a good coach needs to be able to understand when there may be a need for therapy. Upon this revelation, the coach should not hesitate to suggest that the coaching participant seek therapy. It is perfectly alright for a coaching participant to engage in both coaching and therapy at the same time. It is also mandatory that a coach understand his/her own limitations in this area.

Maybe this CEO didn’t understand the benefits of coaching, or recognize a perk. Some people don’t recognize great opportunities even when they fall in their lap! With just a bit of research on Bill and coaching the CEO would have been able to take advantage of a great perk and opportunity.

Coaching can be a powerful tool both for executives to participate in and to use for their own teams and particularly for those who are willing participants. Examples of some of the “perks” coaching provides are:

  • Learning to be a better coach to your reports
  • Boosting your productivity
  • Enhancing communication
  • Reducing conflict
  • Increasing confidence
  • Gaining clarity of values and goals
  • Improving skills
  • Having better motivation
  • Developing better leadership skills
  • Obtaining an influx of new ideas, strategies, and cognition

There are many benefits of coaching both for individuals and the entire organization. In addition, the CEO’s job would have been made easier as well. Just because something sounds too good to be true, doesn’t mean that’s the case. Always be prepared to take advantage of a true gift horse. Unfortunately, the CEO let this one gallop away.

Thank you for reading this blog. If you would like more information about coaching and how it can help your organization, call 404-320-7834, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit


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