Coaching Does Not Work!

Well now, that’s a hell of a thing for a coach to say. But I mean it.

I encounter people who are looking for a magic wand, and they think coaching might be the one they need. They have an expectation that somehow, talking to a coach is going to be the wish-fulfillment event of their lifetime, and everything will be fixed.  I really don’t want to take those folks’ money.

What does work, then? Something must, or I wouldn’t still be coaching, right?

Then answer is simple. Clients work. Coaching is a tool, but a tool, by itself, doesn’t work. In the case of coaching: the coach and client are working a two handled saw. Coach is working, client is working. The saw is just being a saw.

Am I putting too fine a point on it? I don’t think so. I’ve seen clients totally transform during the time they worked with me and shortly thereafter. But the COACHING didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it. The client transformed. Through work, and commitment, and taking seriously the discoveries that we make together, and being willing to take new risks. I have huge respect for my clients. They grab hold, and they work. and they make amazing changes happen.

Coaching is not magic. If that’s what you are looking for, I can save you time and money. In that regard, coaching doesn’t work.

If you want to investigate, please be in touch! I am always happy to do a free sample session.


Resolution? Or Revolution?

So, it’s that time of year again. Resolution season. For a coach, this means the calendar will be filling up. And that, of course, is a good thing– for me.

But is it good for you? Not necessarily.

Don’t get me wrong– I want to help you transform your life in wonderful ways.

But I am not a huge fan of resolutions. They tend to fade before the last of the Christmas trees hit the curb. Why, is that, do you suppose?

In my opinion, resolutions melt away like spring snow because they are often superficial, pre-recorded answers that you don’t really resonate with. Resolutions aren’t about the deep, real answer: they are about the “right” answer. The “right” answer, it turns out, often isn’t responding to the right question.

Resolutions are like a boring old relative, endlessly telling you what you “should” do–guilting you. Guilt, it turns out, is a lousy motivator.

OK, yes. sometimes, resolutions work. What’s your track record with them? If they work for you, great! But I am guessing that they maybe don’t, so much.

I much prefer revolution.

Revolution doesn’t come from a “should” message. It comes from a wild, wise place deep inside. It must be lovingly discovered, and that’s where I do my job: not by coming up with answers, but by asking questions.

Questions that make you stop cold, and really think. Questions that make you giggle, as though there’s a guilty pleasure in even considering the answer. Questions that are out of the question, questions that piss you off, questions that are stupid, questions that you wouldn’t have thought of, questions that I am surprised that I thought of, but thought of because of what you blurted out in response to a previous, (stupid) question. I like questions that you can’t believe nobody ever asked you before; questions that lead to answers that are so obvious they are a huge surprise.

The right question can change the story you’ve been telling yourself, and that can change your world. Questions lead to revolution.

Isn’t revolution dangerous?

If a coach-client relationship is properly designed, no, personal revolution isn’t dangerous. Scary? Hell yeah. Real, deep, transformational change can be scary. Our job is to  co-create a relationship that lets the scary stuff happen, safely. (By the way, the typical resolution scenario, which may feel safe, is often fraught with danger (ask an ER worker how many serious injuries they see every January as a result of resolutions!)

So, one has a choice. Scary, unknown, exploratory adventure, or–check the usual boxes. Quit that bad habit, do that exercise, yada yada yada. You know, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

What would happen if, this year, today, you choose revolution?

I am happy to offer free sample sessions on the phone, or, if you are local to Schenectady, in my office. Get in touch, and we’ll see what kind of wonderful, creative, transformational trouble we can get into.


Life coaching and the ick factor

My partner and I were recently interviewing applicants for an executive assistant. One of them impressed me greatly with his courage and honesty: during the interview, he expressed concerns about our work as coaches.  “I don’t know,” he said, “it just seems that you might be peddling snake oil; there’s a little ick factor, and to be honest, I am not sure that I want to work somewhere unless I absolutely believe in what the business is selling,”

I told him that i couldn’t agree more.

Coaching is an unregulated profession. As an industry, there are growing attempts to self regulate–for example I am a member of the International Coach Federation, and, now that I have attained CTI certification, am applying for ICF certification.  Many, probably the majority, of professional coaches approach their work with the same diligence that other professionals do–perhaps even with more diligence, precisely because we are a self regulated profession.

But–and this is where the “ick factor” comes in–people can call themselves a coach and hang out a shingle any time, with no particular schooling or supervision. You can be a coach after graduating from a one weekend online course, or with no training at all. So in coaching, as in so many things, buyer beware.

For years, I actually made fun of the concept of life coaching. It struck me as a bunch of new-age nonsense. Someone who is no more enlightened than I was, I thought, sat in a room with incense and bells and such, and gave people nebulous advice designed to sound profound and keep the marks (clients) coming back. Coaches were not too far removed, thought I, from a boardwalk psychic or three-card-monte scam artist.

Then I learned about what good coaching actually is. I learned about designing a unique alliance with each client, working with them to explore their desires, find their life purpose, and find the ways that they could make the courageous choices that transform their lives from a place of being stuck into a place of growth. I learned that good coaching is so powerful, and so common-sense based, that I was converted.

So, if you are looking for a coach, I urge you, shop around. Talk to more than one coach. Ask if they can give you recommendations. Check out their site, if they have one, and do a sample session. (I never charge for a sample session, neither do many of my colleagues.) During that sample session, ask yourself if you are really being heard, or are you being sold a cookie-cutter program? Ask yourself what you intuitively feel about this person–do you feel safe? challenged? intrigued? Or perhaps patronized or less-than? Then decide.  Once you hire a coach, if your gut tells you you made a mistake–If a coach strikes you as a little flaky, or coercive, or shallow–you’re the boss. You get to hire, you get to fire. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve come to know that there are a lot of good, in fact great, coaches working in the field. But the ones that give the profession a bad rep, while perhaps dwindling in number, are still out there. So…proceed with caution.

But proceed. You’re worth it.

Dog, bone, foot, saboteur

A cousin of mine recently shared a video on Facebook that has been going around for years. In the video a dog is apparently convinced that its own foot is trying to steal its bone. The dog alternates between gnawing at the bone, growling a warning towards its leg, and snapping at its own foot.

The video is either funny or appalling, depending on what one brings to it. As the years have gone on since its appearance on the web, many threads have sprung up discussing whether it is funny or cruel, whether the dog is just dumb or being manipulated or neurologically impaired or needs immediate treatment or…Many opinions, passionately stated on multiple threads. The internet is a place of many passions.

This post does not attempt to solve the controversy. Rather, I’m most interested in the excellent metaphor for an inner saboteur that the video presents. I imagine myself as the dog. Here I am, curled up with a nice big bone to gnaw on, and something…is…in my peripheral vision…threatening my safety, enjoyment, and relaxation. Obviously it is an enemy! I growl: the enemy doesn’t retreat. I snap: ouch! Now I have proof that the enemy has bad intent! My foot hurts! The enemy has bitten me!

A bone is only enjoyable if I feel really safe to gnaw at it in peace. If I essentially do not feel safe, my enjoyment of the bone is impossible. Even my own foot becomes a threat. In case you are wondering what the term saboteur means in coaching, this is classic saboteur!

As a coach, I have been taught that coaching the saboteur is impossible. Saboteurs are seductive. They want to draw both coach and client into dialogue and debate, because that’s their strongest place. They rewrite the rules of reality so effectively (that’s not my foot! It’s an enemy!) it is not possoble to reason with them. It is only possible to name and recognize the saboteur, and choose to ignore, rather than argue, with it. By doing this, we strip the saboteur of its power.

It’s important to recognize the actual saboteur. It may seem obvious, but needs to be noted: in this case, the saboteur isn’t the foot. A kiss is just a kiss, and a foot is just a foot. The dog is safe, warm, comfortable, and has a treat. Absolutely nothing is wrong except the perception that something is wrong. But that saboteur-created perception completely destroys the enjoyment of the moment. No, not the foot, but a voice in the head.

One of many things a good coach can do is to help sort out saboteur voices from feet, so to speak, and help the client learn to turn down the volume on the saboteur.When this happens, clients get to enjoy the gifts of life, really do the things they want to do, really soar, without wasting all sorts of energy attacking their own feet.

Interested in coaching? I still offer free sample sessions, and I still charge on a sliding scale. send me a message or set up an appointment using the green form on this page, and I’ll get back to you right away!

5 Incredible Secrets That Will Make Your Doctor Feel Ashamed

5 Incredible Secrets That Will Make Your Doctor Feel Ashamed


ashamed doc

You must be bored. Because you’re reading this. Or maybe you’re tired, and random web twaddle is lulling you to sleep. (Works for me, sometimes.) Or you’re just killing time.

So you might also click on:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s 6 Mind-Blowing Whitewater Rafting Secrets


15 Troubling Secrets Your Attorney Will Never Admit

I do it, you do it, birds do it, bees…(Cue the Cole Porter tune)

And there ain’t nothing wrong with it. “it” being browsing, surfing, wandering from one catchy, not-really important headline to another… It may even be exactly what you need to be doing right now. Down time. Absolutely a reasonable and good way to spend your time right now. Or maybe…

Maybe what?

What pops up when you think about what you might be doing, where you might be, HOW you might be, if you weren’t clicking on random web headlines? Did you just should yourself? “I really should be getting the garage cleaned…”

Or did that simple question make you  suddenly feel full of possibility, and in fact, you already shut your laptop and you’re out starting that new chapter in your life? My bet is, no, that didn’t happen. What did? Right now, how do you feel?

5 Horrible Secrets Grandmothers Chant To Themselves

if you really want to make something incredible happen, to transform your life, but you can’t seem to get started, or continue, if there is an awesome future you that is just a little stuck right now,  you might want to consider coaching. There are a lot of good coaches out there; I happen to be one of them. I’d be happy to set up a free sample session with you. There really is no obligation, and I predict you will receive real benefit from one free session. There’s a contact form on the page. We can work in person or on the phone.

15 Shocking Pastry Making Tips From Lady Gaga

Here’s a bonus: Contact me, and I’ll give you the website where I randomly generated all the headlines in this article, and then we can get to work realizing your dreams.

Meanwhile,here’s Alanis Morisette covering that Cole Porter number:


Presentation Coaching

photo copy 10Sometimes, life should include a dress rehearsal!

The right tweaks can make a huge difference in the success of your presentation! 

If you want feedback and the chance to run through and hone a critical presentation, we can work with you to bring out the best in your message. My spouse and partner, Kat Koppett and I, offer presentation coaching at your place or ours–our studio/office, home of The Mop & Bucket Co improv troupe, includes a private room designed specifically for rehearsal.  You can work out your presentation, see it on video,, and get honest, helpful feedback before your big day.

Brainstorming and Idea Generation

chairs copyStuck for an idea? Is your group caught in a rut? Talk to us about

  • Facilitated brainstorms
  • Creativity development
  • Team building
  • Sales training
  • Presentation coaching
  • Executive coaching
  • Organizational development and training

Whether your organization is large, small, national or local, Michael and his colleagues at Koppett& Co. can provide the facilitation that will work for you.

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Becoming certified as a Co-Active™Coach was an intense and wonderful year and a half process. During this certification process, I learned a huge amount about myself and the power of curiosity. I believe that my clients, while unique, share something in common: They are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole, and with a curious partner, can explore themselves in a way that can and does yield positive transformation.

While in certification, I charged very low fees; clients were helping me and taking a risk on an untried coach.  I believe in my services being attainable, so I still charge on a sliding scale based on client income.

You can book a sample session here: sample sessions are free of charge. (You’ll be sending an email to Bridget, our Chaos Control Specialist!)

Why coaching? 

A coaching relationship is an ongoing conversation between equals. The coach has the primary function of listening, providing feedback, and asking honest questions of the client in service of the client’s goals.

Coaching–Isn’t that just another way of saying therapy? 

Nope. A foundational premise of this kind of coaching is that the client is creative, resourceful, and whole. Coaching isn’t based in problem solving or the treatment of illness—the idea is to maximize success.

How do you choose the right coach? 

The relationship between client and coach is where the real power lies. I strongly urge potential clients to try out more than one coach (many coaches offer free sample sessions) and go with the person about whom they feel the best.

If you can answer yes to the following questions, you might want to get in touch.

  • Is it time  to transform your business?
  • Would your life be better if you were more present in the moment, more ready to take the offers that life gives you?
  • Do you have a dream, but you keep putting off turning it into reality?

My goal is to help you unleash all of your creative power, to make the most of your life.


Michael Burns can offer you services, yes he can, services that can make your life better.

Michael Burns does Co-Active Life Coaching, and Coaches on other areas too.

Presentation Coaching

Sometimes, life should include a dress rehearsal! If you want feedback and the chance to run through and hone a critical presentation, we can work with you to bring out the best in your message.

Brainstorming and Idea Generation

Stuck for an idea? Is your group caught in a rut? You can schedule a one time facilitated brainstorm session to get the ball rolling again!

Corporate Services

Koppett & Company bring the skills and spirit of improvisation to corporate clients, including many Fortune 500 companies.


Mop & Bucket Theatre Company is upstate New York’s premiere improvisational comedy troupe and are proud to be the Improv group in residence at Proctor’s Schenectady.  Mopco offers classes on Improv techniques to everyone from school children to professionals to performers, many of whom have gone on to performance careers.