Coaches & Coaching Programs – Not All Are Created Equal

How do you know if a coaching program will work for you? How do you know whether or not a coaching program is any good, or will do what it claims? Frankly, how do you avoid getting ripped off when you buy a coaching program?

Like all professions, there are good coaches, and there are bad coaches. Fortunately most people feel like they receive a lot of value when they purchase a coaching program; 98% of people have a good experience and are satisfied with a coaching session. However, there are some bad apples out there that spoil the bunch.

If you are considering hiring a coach, or if you’ve ever felt like you didn’t get what you paid for when you bought a coaching program, this blog post is for you. Unfortunately it happened to me, and also to a friend of mine who ended up cancelling the coaching program, only to have the disreputable coach continue charging his credit card monthly after he had cancelled. Integrity is everything in business. To deliver what was promised, and in most cases, give your clients more than they expected, is crucial to getting referrals and getting hired again.

So how do you know what to invest in, and how do you know which programs are good vs. not? Here are some things to look for:

Are they a Certified Life Coach (CLC) or some other kind of a Certified Professional Coach?

There are a lot of people nowadays who call themselves a coach. Many may have had success in business, or in a previous career, but are they a certified life coach? Many “Internet gurus” call themselves coaches, however many have never bothered to invest in their own training when they changed careers to become a coach. Unfortunately they may just be selling a program.

Certified Life Coaches have been through specific training classes to learn how to coach and how to talk to people, which is not always an inherent skill! There are specific coaching techniques and practices that true coaches must master. Some study and practice these techniques for years.

Be careful when you hire a known guru – just because they bill themselves as a speaker/author/coach – doesn’t mean that they are equally good at all of those things. Some people are better writers than they are speakers, and vice-versa. Plus their coaching may plateau after a certain period of time. A client of mine who hired a guru met with her for two sessions, and she told me that by the third session the “guru” had nothing new to say! Trained life coaches will always offer you another perspective because they are trained in coaching techniques, and there is a big difference!

Are the “coaches” you are considering actually certified coaches? Aside from Certified Life Coaches, there are several levels of coaching certifications available through the International Coaching Federation (ICF). These range from Associate Certified Coach (ACC), and Professional Certified Coach (PCC), to Master Certified Coach. Do your research. Buyer Beware!

What kind of track record does the coach have?

Who have they helped? Ask for a list of clients and/or references you can call. This is different from testimonials. While website testimonials can be helpful, in many cases they are actually written by the coaches themselves! For a true recommendation, look up the coach on Recommendations on Linked In are truly written by other people, and can’t be forged, because the person doing the recommending must post the recommendation themselves.

If they coach is new – eg. just getting started as a coach – they may not have recommendations yet, which can sometimes be tricky. If this is the case, ask about their experience. They may have a lot to offer in other areas. When Michele Scism (The Results Lady of, was just getting started, she didn’t have a lot of clients at first (nobody does when they first start out), but she had 15+ years of working in her family’s trucking business where they made millions of dollars. This is definitely firsthand experience and knowledge she could apply on behalf of her clients!

Are they committed to their clients and to the success of their clients?

Is the coach actually committed to your success, or are you just a number to them? Once you hire them, do they check in with you in-between sessions (ie. in a personal email – not just a newsletter)? Or do they ignore you, but yet continually market themselves to get new clients? Do they genuinely care about you? Or do you only hear from them during your scheduled session time?

Yes, coaches need to market themselves to earn a living, but they need to be authentic too. Do they follow-up with you? Do they care if you finish their program?

Look at the Results of the Participants vs. How well a coach is doing

Many coaches have tons of followers on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes it can be difficult to discern who is legit and who has the most media coverage/hype, or “social proof.” It’s very easy today with social media to get lots of visibility, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into that person being a good coach and/or the right person for you to work with. Look at the results their clients have actually achieved, versus how many followers they have on Twitter.

How long does the coaching program last?

I don’t care what the coach claims, a year-long program is TOO LONG! I am a coach and I know. Three to six months is about right to make a change in habits. One year is too long; by the end of the program interest wanes.

I once paid $5000 for a year-long coaching program. It did not deliver what it was supposed to (it overpromised and underdelivered), it was too long, and there were no refunds. Bottom line – it didn’t work for me and was a complete waste of time and money – a lot of money!


Does the coach you are considering hiring exhibit professional behavior? What is their reputation? How do they treat their clients? Are they responsive? Do they support you or insult you? Believe it or not I have seen coaches do both! Insulting clients or potential clients is certainly NOT professional behavior.

If you have a gut instinct about someone, a “weird” feeling, or think that someone is flakey – don’t ignore that feeling! It could be disastrous for you in the end.

Avoid any coaches who preach “Don’t have expectations” (of other people). This is a (very convenient) ploy so they don’t have to deliver what they themselves promised to their clients.

Also make sure that the coach you are hiring will be the coach that you will be working with throughout the entire program. The connection you have with the coach you hire is critical. As stated above, coaches are not interchangeable (one coach is not as good as another). The connection you have with that coach and the trust you develop between the two of you is critical to the coaching relationship, and ultimately to the client’s progress and success. A bad coach can hold you back, and there are coaches out there who let someone else take over or deliver their programs once you have paid for them. This “bait-and-switch” or “round robin” coaching technique is not a good business practice. Make sure you ask about this up-front, before you purchase a coaching program. Most people don’t know to do this.

So ultimately, how do you know who to hire and if their program will work for you? Sometimes you do have to take a leap of faith, and sometimes it doesn’t work out. Unfortunately you’re not going to have a good connection or experience with every coach. My final word of advice is to be very very picky –excruciatingly picky – about who you spend your money with and which coaching program you buy. It can be critical to your results – whether those results equal success or failure.

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How to Get a Management Position: Leadership Development

Tweet Right before Thanksgiving I had the privilege of being included on the interview panel for a candidate who was interviewing for a managerial position. The candidate had years of industry experience, but had never been a manager before. When … Continue reading

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How do I Get A Job in the Oil and Gas Industry?

As my coaching practice has evolved, I find myself doing a lot more career coaching. Lately I have had a burst of people calling me to inquire about jobs in the Houston area. Many of these are colleagues that I already knew from my career in GIS (Geographic Information Systems). However, not all are GIS professionals – some are people who are looking to move to Houston from out-of-state.

In Texas, the economy is thriving, especially compared to the rest of the nation, and Houston in particular is booming. None of it happened by accident. In my Leadership North Houston (LNH) class, we learned that Houston has the top economic recruitment organization in the country (the Greater Houston Partnership). The GHP was formed over 20 years ago to put certain economic development policies into motion, and are now seeing the fruits of their efforts.

Apparently word has gotten out that there is a high-demand for people with experience and skill in the geospatial technologies in the Houston area due in large part to the oil/gas/energy boom. The City of Houston alone has 3500 energy related firms (and a GDP larger than Venezuela’s), and geospatial has been identified as one of the Top 20 high growth industries by the federal government.

So although these geospatial professionals are in high demand and have good skills, most of them lack actual experience in the oil and gas industry. Because of the increase in applicants, many companies are increasingly favoring qualified candidates who already have experience in oil and gas. Why is that?

One simple reason applies to many professions – so that you understand “industry jargon” – in other words, be able to speak and understand the technical language spoken by geologists and geophysicists in the energy industry. The second reason is simply to weed out candidates who don’t already have oil and gas experience. It’s much easier and costs less to hire someone that doesn’t have to be trained.

So if you don’t have any experience in the oil and gas or energy industry, how do you get in?

Here are some ideas . . .

1)      Move to Houston. Nothing will show your commitment more, and it’s much easier to find a job in a city where you want a job if you are already living there. Many people who live in other states or even other cities within Texas are attracted by the high salaries in the oil and gas industry, but when it comes right down to it, aren’t willing to actually move to Houston.

I had an HR Director tell me that his company would not usually call an out-of-town candidate who submitted a resume for that very reason. But I thought corporations would pay to move qualified candidates? Not so much anymore. So you have a much better chance of getting a job in Houston if you actually move to Houston first. (Note:  For more on what the City of Houston has to offer, check out my article on Austin vs. Houston here).


2)      Start out as a contractor (or work for a smaller company first). A lot of people who don’t have direct experience in the oil and gas industry, work their way in by starting off at service companies (companies that service the big majors). This way they gain experience, visibility, and exposure in the energy sector. Many also work for engineering or consulting firms and contract out to an oil/gas company. Once the company sees what that person can do and what they are capable of, many times a permanent full-time job offer soon follows.


3)      Invest in yourself. Applying your skills in a new industry can be equivalent to a career change to an entirely new industry. Are you willing to invest in yourself? If you don’t have work experience in the oil and gas sector, another way to gain experience is via education. The University of Houston offers a fantastic master’s degree program in GIS and geology for geospatial professionals. Would you be willing to go back to school if it meant a nearly guaranteed job upon graduation? If you aren’t willing to invest in yourself, then why should a company invest in you by offering you a job?


In short, are you willing to do what it takes? This applies to any career you have chosen. Are you willing to do what it takes to succeed in that career? For instance, are you willing to move? Are you willing to relocate your family? Are you willing to invest in yourself? Are you willing to “pay your dues” by starting out in a lower position or even an entry-level job? Too many people aren’t, which is what makes the better candidates stand apart. Which do you want to be?



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What does it take to win big?

By now most people know that yesterday Texas A&M (TAMU) beat #1 Alabama in a major football upset. This was TAMU’s first ever appearance in Tuscaloosa, and the second time ever to beat a #1 ranked team; the other was Oklahoma in 2002.

After 16 years in the Big 12, this year marks A&M’s inaugural season in the SEC (Southeast Conference). With an 8-2 overall record, and 5-2 in Conference play, A&M is actually doing quite well this football season.

This is also the first year in over 100 years that they have not played their archrival:  The University of Texas (along with at least 3 other Texas schools or former Southwest Conference members).

Although some people doubted that A&M could compete in the “Big Leagues” of the SEC, I for one am not surprised at A&M’s current success. Although many Aggies aren’t going to want to hear this, I believe that ending the football rivalry between A&M and UT has been a good thing overall for TAMU (perhaps some are now starting to see this too).

The A&M vs. UT (or t.u. for diehard Aggies) rivalry was a storied event with a lot of history and pageantry. Originally begun in the 1800s, many traditions were entrenched and ingrained around the annual football game – A&M’s Bonfire, UT’s “Hex Rally,” not to mention that the fight songs of both universities mention the other school.

Many of these events and traditions extended beyond football as well. But what happens when your own identity is wrapped up in somebody else’s?

For one thing, you don’t have a clear vision for yourself. If you don’t know where you want to go, it can keep you from moving forward in your life or career. For A&M, gearing up all season long to play UT was actually holding them back. And when you look at the percentages, UT won that matchup 60% of the time.

Honestly, if A&M played every football game each week (no matter who their opponent was!) with the same fire, passion and drive that they have when they played against UT, they would’ve been a mighty force to contend with in college football all of those years!

Because the entire school was basically built around a single tradition (rivalry with UT), they let that tradition hold them back. (Hopefully TAMU is not teaching this in their business college, since innovation is what it takes to get ahead!).

So what holds you back in business?

Lack of innovation, staying stuck in a current model, being unwilling to change, and burnout (burnout can lead to stagnation, and missed opportunities).

So how do you know when it’s time to let something go?

What do you need to do to shake things up or make a change?

What do you need to let go of in your life that will free you up to reach your potential and become the person you are supposed to be (in business or otherwise)? Sometimes you have to let go of the old in your life to make room for the new. Ali Brown recently quit hosting two live conferences – her “Online Success Blueprint” and “Shine” so that she could move on to other things.  It also true that certain personality types tend to hold on to things too long, especially when they are successful in that area!

How about you?

Are you having a hard time letting go of something in your life?

Don’t hang on too long!  (It took TAMU over 100 years to let go! But look what happened . . . ). Believe there is something better ahead for you too!

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The Key Element to Any (Business) Relationship

Trust is the least talked about, but most important element of any business relationship. Think about it – do you do business with people you don’t trust? Or don’t like?

Everyone knows that the “Know, Like, Trust” factor is essential for any business owner. In other words, they have to know who you are (first they must meet you, and then see you enough times to remember you); next they have to like you (are you a happy person with a positive attitude, who is easy to get along with and who genuinely cares about others?); finally they must trust you before they decide to do business with you. Do you walk your talk and will your program do what it claims it will?

Trust is the key element between a client and coach. It is also essential to a business and a business’s “brand” – because it speaks to their credibility, integrity, and reputation.

But what happens when that trust is betrayed?

Here are a few examples to consider:

Toyota is one of the most trusted brands in the world. After World War II, Japan had to rebuild their economy, and they did it (with assistance) by putting their citizens to work building products to sell to the rest of the world, including cars. These companies (Toyota, Honda, and Nissan) and their cars became synonymous with the word quality! I remember my Mom bought her first Toyota in the 1980s because a friend of hers had one and she told her “Nothing ever goes wrong on this car!” After years of spending money on American cars that were constantly in and out of the repair shop, that was enough of a selling point for her!

Then Toyota had an issue with the accelerator pedal being trapped by their floor mats, and issued a recall on floor mats. This is the first time in the history of the company that their credibility had been damaged like that!

So what is the cost to the company or brand in terms of lost customers and damaged reputation?

Another example is Enron – the employees trusted and believed in their company, and nobody believed that Enron would go bankrupt. Nobody ever thought it could happen, but we all know the end to that story! (Note:  Just because something has never happened before, doesn’t mean that it can’t ever happen!)

A client of mine worked for a company in Dallas that moved his entire division to Denver. Some of the employees accepted the transfer and moved with the company, others did not want to leave Dallas. It turns out that 6 months later, everyone who moved to Denver was laid off. Can you imagine a worse situation? New town, no network (to speak of), and no job! Fortunately, my client was one of the ones who chose to stay behind and build a new consulting business in Dallas. He is glad he did, and is much better off for having done so, even though at the time it was a tough decision!

I have experienced this “Corporate About Face” firsthand, albeit sometimes it is an appropriate business decision for the company. For years, I was a Certified Technical Trainer for two software companies:  ESRI and Trimble. In 2007, after 10+ years in their program as an Independent Instructor, Trimble decided to change the nature of their Certified Training Program and make it a “Dealer Only” program. Because I was not a dealer, I was out (and no, there was no opportunity to become a dealer either)! In the same way, ESRI’s Certified (Authorized) Training Program no longer exists, simply because the demand for in-person instructor led training has decreased dramatically.

From what I understand, MLM companies also go through reorganizations and shakeups on a fairly regular basis. Consider the recent case of ProvisionRX, an MLM that issues free discount pharmacy cards. Independent Business Owners (IBOs) pay a monthly fee for the “privilege” of passing out the cards in order to receive residual income when the cards are used. Recently the owners got into legal trouble with one of their partners and they created a completely new company. As a result, the previous discount pharmacy cards passed out by all IBOs suddenly ceased to pay commissions. Poof! All of that hard work gone! So now the brand’s credibility has been damaged because if it could happen once, it could happen again.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is be very careful who you do business with, because the rug can be pulled out from under you at any time!

So now I ask you – do you have any examples of companies you have done business with who have either gone out of business (why?), or have you been burned by a company before?

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Risking: Staying where You Are vs. Moving Forward


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What I have learned so far from Michele’s Scism’s “Take Action Get Profits” Event in New Orleans


For those of you who were/are unable to attend Michele Scism’s “Take Action Get Profits” event this week in New Orleans, here is a quick recap of the steps that led her to where she is now. Any business owner can apply these same strategies to get ahead, move forward, and make progress in their business:

1)      Invest in yourself. (Note from Karen:  Yes, you may already possess knowledge, but the person you are today will not get you where you want to go!). You must always be learning and acquire new skills, knowledge, techniques. Invest in your own leadership development and personal growth. Find someone else who has already done it and hire them as a coach or a mentor!

2)      Learn how to Make Decisions – If you don’t make a decision you won’t be able to move anywhere! Circumstances and reality changes as you move forward.

3)      Michele created a community!  In her case, her community was built around social media, and she is/was the leader.  For those who don’t know Michele’s story, she had sold a family business and retired (comfortably) but she was still unhappy until she started Decisive Minds. It just goes to show that you can still be unhappy when you’ve got what it is you think you want!

4)      Add value to someone’s life.

5)      Be Flexible!

6)      Pay attention to your processes and systems.

7)      Be willing to get out of your comfort zone!

8)      Take consistent and persistent action!


That’s why Michele Scism is the Results Lady!


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Top 3 Warning Signs of Bad Companies

When you are interviewing for a job, sometimes it’s tough to tell from the outside looking in whether or not you are leaping into a good situation or a bad one. You certainly don’t want to unknowingly leap into a bad situation!

Consider this example:

Someone I know recently accepted a new job offer. We live in Houston and the oil and gas (o/g) industry is booming right now. The new o/g company is a start-up, and they interviewed this man for a certain position. He did not want that position because it would’ve been a lateral career move, so he asked for a different position. The company made him a job offer, and then reneged on its offer and ended up putting him in the position he didn’t want!

So Indicator #1 is “How does a company treat its employees?”

Another thing to look for is high staff turnover. Is there any longevity among employees? If not, this can indicate several things – 1) poor leadership at the helm,  2) lack of internal advancement, and 3) low or no raises. Lack of employee retention can also be a combination of all these factors. Good leaders inspire and encourage their employees to do well. They also set daily examples for employees to follow. If good leadership is lacking, then employees will go elsewhere.

Indicator #2 is “How does a company treat its customers?”

One indicator of good leadership within a company is a certain level of loyalty and commitment from a company’s customers (or voters, in the case of a politician). This is more than “being friendly” with customers. It’s providing a superior product and excellent customer service to go along with it. If a CEO goes the extra mile, then it sets an example for the rest of the employees and they will want to go the extra mile as well.

Indicator #3 Does a company keep its promises?

This can be on several levels. It can be promises or claims the company makes about its products and/or in its advertising. It can be promises made to employees. I know several companies who promised a pension plan to its employees and did not deliver. Another company cut employee salaries during tough times by 10% and promised to pay the money back when economic conditions improved. They did! So in this case promises were kept – now that’s a company most people would want to work for!

So what about you?

Have you had experience with bad leadership at a company where you have worked?

What are some other signs to look for?

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Corporate Leadership

What defines good leadership at a company?

What is bad leadership?

What is the difference between a manager and a leader?

These are some of the topics we will be covering in the next few blog posts.

Some companies are highly successful while others struggle. Why is this?

It can be several factors combined – market share, products, and who is at the helm of the company.

Good leadership is about many things. More than being a “manager” – good leaders inspire and encourage other people. Successful leaders are all about the success of others!

Leaders plan strategically for the future. They set goals and take the necessary steps to attain those goals. Good leaders are visionaries – they can see the direction of a market, product, or company, and where it is going, instead of just responding to market trends (proactive vs. reactionary).

What is critical to the long term success of a company? Here are six factors that every good leader should have:

1)      Excellent Communication Skills.

2)      A Long-Term Vision

3)      A Good Team

4)      Consistent & Strategic Planning

5)      Motivation/Conviction/Passion/Restraint

6)      Innovation


Successful leaders have excellent communication skills and a long-term vision as to where the company or organization is going. They are able to successfully communicate this vision to the employees, and inspire their employees to embrace that vision as their own and make it happen! In turn, in order for the employees to embrace and enact the vision, they must be a good team of employees.  Good leaders must be motivated, have high energy, and enthusiasm. Finally, they must innovate in order to keep on top of the market. They can’t let existing products or services go stale – there must always be something new (new products, new delivery methods, new trends) available on the horizon or the market will pass them by.

So how can you tell if a company has good or bad leadership? Here are some signs to look for:

How does a company treat its customers?       

One indicator of good leadership is a certain level of loyalty and commitment from a company’s customers (or voters, in the case of a politician). This is more than “being friendly” with customers. It’s providing a superior product and excellent customer service to go along with it.

How does a company treat its employees? One thing to look for is a high staff turnover. Is there any longevity among employees? If not, there is probably no advancement and/or low or no raises. Good leaders inspire and encourage their employees to do well. They also set daily examples for employees to follow.

So what about you?

Have you had experience with bad leadership at a company where you have worked?

       What are some other things to look for?

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Client Attraction: Is it True?

I confess I am not an expert on the Law of Attraction.

What I do know is that “like attracts like.”

What I also know is that twice in the past few months I have had a new client come to me directly as a result of something in my background.

How so?

The first time it happened was earlier this year. I was giving one of my signature talks “The Balancing Act:  How to Walk the Line Between Family and Career” (on work-life balance) at an event in Houston. During the talk, I touch on the topic of infertility as a consequence of women waiting too long to have children if they have a successful career. Once I mention this, I am amazed at the number of women who tell me afterwards that they have had or are undergoing fertility treatment. Some hire me simply for that fact! The reason being is that if you have not experienced infertility treatment firsthand, then you only have a superficial understanding of it.

Another time it happened was when I was giving a presentation on the “The Pros and Cons of Entrepreneurship.” Now, I graduated from Texas A&M (yes I am an “Aggie”) and I always wear my ring. For those of you who don’t know, Aggies identify each other by their class rings, which have been the same design for at least 100 years. One of the audience members happened also to be an Aggie, but at the time he was sitting towards the back of the room, so I couldn’t see his ring. However, afterwards he came up and introduced himself. He is now a new client coming in. Because I went to Texas A&M, that was an instant bond.

So you just never know what (or why) people will be drawn to in you.

Your experiences and background make you the person you are today, and will play a large part in who you attract as clients. Being an Aggie is a part of who I am. Again, I don’t “advertise” it, but I don’t try to hide it either (I wear my ring), and it unexpectedly became a selling point for me that night. I have also attracted clients because I am a Certified Technical Trainer (and thus I have other trainers and instructors as clients), and also because of my background in technology. I even had one client hire me because I had written and published a book, and she wanted to know how to do it. It all goes to show that the people you are supposed to be working with will come to you!

Is that the Law of Attraction at work?

How do you relate to people?

What are people attracted to about you (from your background and/or experiences)?

What, specifically, has someone hired your for, once they found out that you had done it in your past? I would love to know!

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