When Coaching Doesn't Work

Bruce Taylor
 


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As you know from my previous articles, I'm a big fan of coaching and I think that it can help people who are facing big challenges or big changes in their lives, or who just want to turn something good into something great. I've been coaching for years now, and I've seen the dramatic results that it can have.

But I've also had some failures - clients who didn't seem to make any progress with coaching and left frustrated and disillusioned. I usually feel bad about this, and will sometimes return some of their fee if my coaching wasn't up to standard. But thinking back over my history, there are a few markers that indicate that coaching won't be a success:

  • If the client has mental health issues such as depression or obsessive behavior, coaching is virtually impossible unless the client is in a stable state and under the care of a good psychotherapist. And even then, coaching will proceed much more slowly and have many more setbacks.
  • If the client is getting coaching at someone else's insistence, they will naturally be resistant to the coaching relationship and resentful that they have to spend this time. This has happened to me in work situations, where a client is getting coaching under threat of being fired; or when a spouse badgers his/her partner into getting coaching to “fix" him/her. If the client isn't voluntarily and actively engaged, then coaching is just wasting everyone's time and money.
  • If the client is more interested in the coaching process than in achieving his/her goals, coaching gets frustrating. Some clients see coaches as a “paid best friend" with whom they can just chat for a while. This situation is often the coach's fault, because he hasn't got the client to commit to clear, measurable goals and isn't holding the client's agenda and making her responsible for progress.
So coaching is a great tool in making parts of your life better, but sometimes it doesn't work. If you're in a coaching relationship now and it's feeling frustrating or pointless, review the points above and then talk them over with your coach. It's likely that a short conversation will get you both back on track.

About the Author

Bruce Taylor is the Owner and Principle of Unison Coaching, and provides corporate and executive coaching to a wide variety of businesses including engineering, human resource, consulting, and recruiting firms. Mr Taylor has extensive background in Psychology, Human Resources, and Software Engineering. He holds a Masters degree in Computer Science from Duke University, a Masters in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, and a Certificate in Job Stress and Healthy Workplace Design from the University of Massachusetts. He can be reached at http://www.unisoncoaching.com or bruce_taylor@unisoncoaching.com

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