Three situations when coaching is a waste of time

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Have you ever looked at someone you’re coaching – either a team member or a client – and  felt you just weren’t getting anywhere?

What is it that gives us that uncomfortable feeling?  Looking back over my experiences, there seem to be three main factors at play when coaching just isn’t going to work:

1.  They really don’t want to be coached

Even when a client has committed cash to being coached, there is sometimes a resistance to accepting there are things that can change and they have the power to change them.  For employees who have had coaching ‘thrust upon them’ this resisitance is even stronger.

2.  They actually hate what they’re doing

Many managers will try to coach/coax better performance out of staff when it’s clear that no matter what you do there’s one thing only the staff member can change:  How they feel about their job.  If it’s not a good fit, no amount of coaching will improve the situation.

3.  They expect you to tell them what to do

Much as we would like to be, coaches are not knights in shining armour arriving just in time on our white charger!  The ‘Prince Charming’ expectation applies equally with men and women.  Anyone who is waiting to be rescued from their situation by a coach is probably not going to make much progress with coaching.

For all these reasons, getting to know the person you will be coaching before any intervention is essential.

Even with good preparation and planning, the manager/coach can find themselves with the sinking feeling you get when you know you’re wasting your time.  You’re not going to get anywhere so why keep trying?

You have more productive things to do with your time.  The sooner you give up on your lost coaching cause, the sooner you’ll get to do them!

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2 thoughts on “Three situations when coaching is a waste of time

  1. John Drury

    Hi Susan
    I totally agree with your article.
    Coaching those three scenarios would be a frustrating waste of time for everyone.
    The one exception to No. 3 might be a mentoring situation for a client where giving some clear direction is more appropriate.
    That is why it is so important to set up the coaching relationship well; to ensure strong commitment from participants to the process and some clear outcomes before coaching commences.
    Then it is up to the coach to build rapport and work their ‘magic’ to serve their client to assist them to achieve outstanding outcomes.
    I love the breakthrough moments that come through the coaching process which enable people to achieve accelerated personal growth. This always benefits the company they serve as well.

    1. susan Post author

      Hi John
      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Of course, in a mentoring (rather than coaching) situation some more leadership is appropriate. But as coaches we also need to be careful of the ‘rescue need’ – both in ourselves and as an expectation from our clients.


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