5 reasons why the coaching you're getting isn't effective

In my latest article I look at some of the reasons why coaching can be ineffective

Whether you’re looking for success in your career or in life generally, coaching can be a really powerful tool in removing some of the roadblocks we all face on our path to achievement. So why is it that coaching sometimes doesn’t work?

Here are my top reasons for why your coaching experience isn’t working out for you.

1. You’ve chosen the wrong coach

Yes, it might just be that simple.

Choosing the right coach is the first essential step in achieving the success you’ll identify together, so let’s look briefly at what you need to consider when you’re making that choice. I’ll deal with this in more detail in my next article.

First off, it’s important to understand that although the relationship you build with a coach is a predominantly contractual one – payment in return for expertise – it is also a pretty personal one that, to be successful, will require you to share your hopes, dreams and fears with someone you don’t necessarily know very well to begin with.

That can be quite daunting, anyway – especially as human nature is often inclined to keep one’s innermost thoughts hidden from the outside world, and particularly from strangers.

So, you’ll need to recognise that your coach is not your average service provider. It’s not like engaging an architect or an accountant, for example, where the relationship can still be successful even if it’s emotionally ambivalent.

Successful coaching relationships are challenging ones where your coach is part friend and part taskmaster. So when you choose a coach, you need to be looking for someone who you can relate to and in whom you can place 100 percent of your trust.

You’re also going to want to choose a coach who has an understanding of the environment you’re living and/or working in. Note, your coach doesn’t have to have a shared experience of that environment – but they do have to be able to relate to it.

But, like all relationships, it might just be that you’ve picked someone to work with and you simply don’t connect with each other.

That’s not necessarily a criticism of them or of you – human nature is as human nature does – but it probably means you need to start your search again.

2. You can’t take the action that you and your coach have agreed

This is particularly relevant when it comes to executive coaching, but it also goes for those trying to make wider changes in their lives generally.

So, whilst what follows talks about the professional constraints you might face, they are interchangeable with any domestic limitations you might encounter.

Here’s the thing: coaching requires you to think and act differently in order to change your own narrative and future path.

If your environment is risk averse or indifferent to new ways of thinking about or doing things, then it’s going to be much more difficult for you to implement the actions you and your coach identify as being necessary to achieve your goals.

Coaching is almost always about developing a growth mindset – but the fact is that many organisations have an inherent scarcity mindset that naturally retreats from anything that might be considered innovative or courageous.

Crudely, organisational leadership largely falls within a range of these two approaches that reflect this. On the one hand you have leadership that is engaged and actively looking to guide talent; on the other is a leadership style that exists to judge performance and discourage any behaviour that can be defined as ‘not invented here’.

It is harder for your coaching to be effective in the latter.

3. There are no goals, or there is no accountability

Remember I said your relationship with your coach is partly transactional? Well, like any transactional relationship, effective coaching needs agreed actions (on both sides) and measurable outcomes – also on both sides.

If you hire someone to lay a new patio, you’re going to agree some actions with them (the area to be paved, the materials to be used, the time it takes to complete the job) which will then inform measurable outcomes (were the right materials used, does it cover the agreed area, did it cost what was agreed and was it completed on time).

The same is true in coaching. Between you, you should be agreeing actions. For you, this will likely take the form of planning, thinking and implementation tasks. For your coach these may be outlining a business plan or forecasting growth based on your actions.

But if your coaching sessions simply become a talking shop that focus on theoreticals and hypotheses – what I might call ‘dream work’ – and don’t generate any agreed actions then your coaching experience is going to feel pretty hollow and it’s highly unlikely you’ll see any meaningful change as a result.

Accountability is also important here. Your coach should be holding your feet to the fire on your actions (remember when I said a coach is part taskmaster?) so that there is visible and measurable progress made.

4. You’re getting advice, not coaching

Coaching is often an exercise in biting one’s tongue. As coaches we have the inarguable advantage of being able to see our clients’ situations with the freshest of eyes, and often some of the solutions that may be necessary are obvious to us.

ust give advice. But that isn’t our role. Being an effective coach treads a thin line between giving you the space to discover solutions for yourself whilst also gently steering you in the right direction.

Self-discovery is such an important element in coaching that it’s difficult to overstate its significance.

The lightbulb moments are rewarding for us, professionally, but they’re absolutely critical to the person being coached because that satisfaction of having worked out the solution for themselves is what fuels self-confidence, hope and motivation, all of which help to develop that growth mindset that’s so necessary for success.

5. Coaching is being used to ‘retrain’ you

Often people who work with a coach are sponsored by their company or organisation.

Occasionally a coach will find their client has come to them because their organisation’s leadership has identified that there’s a skills or knowledge gap in the individual concerned.

In this context, the individual is being put forward for coaching because they’re perceived to be doing something ‘wrong’ and the coaching sessions are intended to ‘correct’ that behaviour.

This misses the point of coaching, entirely.

Coaching is – or should be – about the employer (or the individual, if they’re self-funding their coaching) identifying growth potential and identifying ways to fulfil that potential in order to develop and achieve in line with identified or identifiable goals.

If you haven't chosen the coach you're working with and it feels like the process is designed to 'retrain' the way you currently work then it’s unlikely the experience will be rewarding – and in fact, there are much better and more effective ways for your business to help you to change the approach you take to your job.

If you’re working with a coach and it’s not having the results you expected, why not get in touch with me for an informal chat?

I blend neuroscience and behavioural science to help put the people I work with in control of how they manage their resilience, responses and triggers, all within the framework of a clear and measurable plan that has your success at its heart, so if you’re ready to set and achieve your life and career goals, let’s talk!