Pardon me, but I have always been wary of venture capital-fueled startups laden with jargon-filled mission statements and descriptions of purpose. More so when the board appears to recruit former high-ranking government officials or media-worthy celebrities with non-traditional titles. 

So what am I to think when I see that The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, has joined the San Francisco, California-based start-up BetterUp  as their “Chief Impact Officer?” Especially when the company has reportedly attracted $125 million in Series D venture capital? Theoretically valuing the company over $173 billion – an outrageous value based on little more than investor’s equity money.

Is the company just another self-help enterprise, selling seminars, expensive coaching programs, online training apps,  books, audio-visual materials to individuals and organizations? A high-tech version of the venerable Franklin Covey company that transformed a personal planner into a multi-million-dollar enterprise that describes itself as a “provider of leadership, individual effectiveness, and business execution training and assessment services for organizations and individuals.”

Here is how the company describes itself…

With an impressive customer list of high-profile branded companies, the various press releases and case studies can be used to form a company portrait.

AB InBev – “BetterUp, the market leader and pioneer of mobile, personalized coaching for professionals, announced today that it has partnered with AB InBev to offer a new global pilot program to drive diversity, foster an inclusive work environment, and provide coaching and support in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

The first 150 participants include women in 18 countries at various careers levels who were nominated by their managers. Participants now have unlimited access to BetterUp’s coaching platform, which includes 1:1, personalized coaching, access to specialists providing support on timely topics such as effectively managing remote work, stress management, and work/life balance for working parents with children at home. Each participant’s coaching journey will be tailored according to individual preferences and learning styles, with the aim of creating a climate of trust, building positive relationships, and helping employees navigate the uncertainty and difficult circumstances associated with the current health pandemic.”

Prince Harry, the Duke of Success?


What does a Chief Impact Officer do? Beats me. From what I can intuit, the “other CIO” attracts additional investors, schmoozes existing investors, represents the company at high-level events, and generally provides “differentiating” media attention and panache to the enterprise. For certain, not a day-to-day nuts-and-bolts job, but a “big picture” one that allows the “officer” plenty of time to pursue other opportunities.

To backstop Prince Harry, the company appears to have an impressive leadership team, 28 individuals who appear to fit the Silicon Valley mold of hard-chargers.

From the company’s website…

From Alexi Robichaux, CEO of BetterUp

Everyone wants to live a meaningful life. But, there are often barriers — both external and internal — that can limit our ability to do that on our own. That’s why we started BetterUp. We wanted to make a positive impact in the world by empowering millions of people to live their lives with greater clarity, purpose, and passion.

We’re standing at a once-in-a-lifetime crossroad of opportunity as a society. We have the economic, technological, and scientific means to positively impact human potential at scale. But to achieve this, we must “reframe” how we think about human flourishing (the potential we all have), peak performance, and mental fitness. They are not separate pursuits. They are part of one interconnected journey of growth.

To meet this opportunity, it is with great pleasure and excitement that we welcome our first Chief Impact Officer: Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex. We are energized by his model of inspiration and impact through action. As a true citizen of the world, he has dedicated his life’s work to bringing attention to the diverse needs of people everywhere and advocating for mental health initiatives: from founding the Invictus Games, a platform for service personnel to use sport as part of their psychological and physical rehabilitation, to launching Sentebale, which supports the mental health and wellbeing of young people affected by HIV in Lesotho and Botswana.

As a member of the BetterUp executive team, Prince Harry will expand on the work he’s been doing for years, as he educates and inspires our community and champions the importance of focusing on preventative mental fitness and human potential worldwide. 

From Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, Chief Impact Officer of BetterUp

First of all, I am really excited to be joining the BetterUp team and community! Thanks for having me.

I firmly believe that focusing on and prioritising our mental fitness unlocks potential and opportunity that we never knew we had inside of us. As the Royal Marine Commandos say, ‘It’s a state of mind.’ We all have it in us.

Being attuned with your mind, and having a support structure around you, are critical to finding your own version of peak performance.

What I’ve learned in my own life is the power of transforming pain into purpose.

During my decade in the military, I learned that we don’t just need to build physical resilience, but also mental resilience. And in the years since, my understanding of what resilience means — and how we can build it — has been shaped by the thousands of people and experts I’ve been fortunate to meet and learn from. 

As BetterUp’s first Chief Impact Officer, my goal is to lift up critical dialogues around mental health, build supportive and compassionate communities, and foster an environment for honest and vulnerable conversations. And my hope is to help people develop their inner strength, resilience, and confidence.

In this new role, I’ll be focused on four key areas:

  • Driving advocacy and awareness for mental fitness. We can and will elevate the global conversation around our mental health. What we’re doing is about equipping people to thrive. Whether you’re performing at the highest level, or want to get to the next level, or just want to get started, it’s all about having the specialised resources, preparation, and human connection to back you up — whatever the challenge. 
  • Guiding BetterUp’s social mission and impact to bring the science of peak performance and human potential into the hands of people worldwide.
  • Influencing the vision of BetterUp’s platform, community, and member experience. I’m excited to help shape their already extensive library with content and resources on mental fitness and to share new stories and voices. To start, I’ve invited BetterUp to work with 'Peak State: Mental Fitness’, a platform I helped establish which provides practical online tools to enhance our mental fitness.
  • Expanding BetterUp’s global community of thought leadership, coaches, customers, and members through outreach and strategic planning.

Self-optimisation is not about fixing something that’s broken. It’s about becoming the best version of ourselves, with whatever life throws at us — someone who is ready for the next challenge and can meet setbacks with courage, confidence, and self-awareness.

This is what BetterUp is making possible, and I look forward to being on this journey with you.

Join the community to get access to insights, advice, and tools on reaching your true potential, and be the first to learn about new content and programmes on mental fitness and resilience that I’ll be developing. <To read the full statement in context - Source>

Do coaching programs generally work?

Like everything else in life, different individuals may experience different results. Here are few ideas to start your self-coaching program.

(1)  Everything is dependent on your mindset and expectations. Expect grief and pressure, get grief and pressure. Learn how to reframe negative events as learning opportunities.

(2)  Use productive habits and systems consistently for long-term success as goals will shift over time.

(3)  Scheduling, to-do lists, and productivity aids are worthless if you do not understand the difference between effectiveness and efficiency. Efficiency is being the best rower on the river, able to go farther with less energy expenditure. Effectiveness is rowing on the right river to your destination.

(4)  The most powerful tool in your toolbox is the ability to say “No” with grace and sincerity that leaves no bad feelings. When faced with competing demands from a supervisor, ask them to prioritize the tasks, provide more time, or provide more assistance. Whatever the outcome, they have set the tone and the path. For self-starters who do not want to ask higher-level management, select the project with the highest return on your investment in time, energy, cost, and resources. The key to this approach is to document your reasoning, progress, and inform your superior (if any) of your choices.

(5)  Learn to delegate. For those who fear screw-ups or believe that they can do it better and faster, you are the bottleneck and amplifying your own stress levels.

(6)  Learn to manage meetings with agendas, time limits, delegation, responsibility, and progress reporting intervals.

(7)  If you want to use professional-level coaching, let someone else pay for the program and demand specific performance to keep it from being just another time-waster.

However, the best stress reducer that organizational coaches rarely talk about is self-management. Developing peace of mind by having an updated in-demand marketable skillset, multiple independent streams of income, a solid emergency fund, spending less than you earn, minimizing useless clutter or status fads, having the mobility to move toward better opportunities, and the reciprocal love of someone to share it all with. All giving you the staying power to say “no” or walk away without undue stress. In short: FU money and being able to live as you wish.

Bottom line…

I am ambivalent about the latest management fads and corporate coaching programs. Especially those used by large organizations as a relatively easy and inexpensive way to enhance feelings of  “we care” for stressed employees operating in a high-stress environment. Also, an antidote to HR claims involving work performance, bad behavior, and diversity training requirements.

I think my favorite management model cartoon by New Zealand analytical, environmental chemist, and cartoonist Dr. Nicholas D. Kim says it all… nz171

Corporate loyalty is dead. Good people who have done nothing wrong are routinely fired for nothing other than executives wanting to “make their numbers.” Feather your own nest.

Be well and be safe.

-- steve

“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS