The Uncoachables

Much has been said about coaching.  For many it has become the ultimate learning experience; for others a complete and utter disaster.  While I believe coaching has many positive attributes, I also believe it has its time and place.  There are situations when coaching will not work even with the very best of coaches.  Let’s take a look at the top 9 reasons why coaching fails:


Fear will make some run and others fight.  Fear can cause paralysis.  Rarely does fear motivate and if it does motivate someone it is usually not sustainable.  Organizations that have fear based cultures, or harbor a great deal of fear will have a difficult time making coaching work.  However, fear is not just an organizational challenge.  Some individuals have a difficult, I might even use the word frightening, time looking at themselves honestly. 


There are times when people are just not interested in changing.  These individuals do not think there is a reason why they should change.  Most of these individuals have been successful doing what they do for years.  They will go through the motions, but will usually sit it out until the tide changes.  Sometimes individuals not interested in change will actually shift role or change jobs. 


Comfort is a big factor.  People like comfort. In fact, they strive for comfort.  I have met individuals that would much rather be unhappy in the place they know then take the risk of being happy elsewhere.  After all, at least they know what their current world looks like and feels like—and that knowledge is comfortable. 

Lack of self awareness

One of the main competencies in EQ has to do with self awareness.  Unfortunately most of us are less self aware than we think we are.  And more unfortunately some of us are out in left field.  There are individuals who are completely unaware of the need to change and the impact they have on others.  Sadly, in many cases, organizations are to blame for this phenomenon due to a lack of dealing with performance issues and candid feedback.

Lack of consequences 

People do not change when the consequences to changing are not strong enough.  When it becomes too painful to keep doing what we are doing and/or the rewards for changing are prevailing, we make changes.  There are times people look inward and identify the consequences themselves and there are times when they cannot.  In the times when they cannot, and there is an organizational imperative, the organization should provide consequences for change. 

Lack of attention span

Today we have dual incomes, Web 2.0, long work hours, role conflicts and more.  With the pace of our lives and the interruptions we face it is difficult to stay focused on anything for very long.  If an adult has an attention deficit that causes him to shift priorities constantly, he will have a difficult time being coached.  There are ways to deal with this challenge including the way we contract with our clients; however, it is a challenge none the less.

Too many benefits 

Why change when all of the incentives scream keep doing what you are doing.  I am amazed at the organizations that want their people to change, but incent them to stay the same.  Coaching can’t fight compensation, promotions and the larger culture. 

Lack of trust

Lack of trust is usually interrelated with fear, but it is different.  You be capable of not trusting someone without fearing them.  If the environment lacks trust the coaching relationship will be affected.  Again this can be overcome, but how the assignment is generated and contracted will make a difference.  

Pride and Ego

Pride and ego are coaching killers.  Coachees that have large egos tend to be resistant to change.  They struggle with the idea that they can learn from others.  The irony is that most coaching models are about facilitating learning through questions, not by being the expert.  But that will not matter to a person who thinks that highly of themselves.  These types of individuals believe they should be coaching everyone else.  They forget that the very best like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan have coaches.  It helps to get a different perspective. 

 What coaching challenges have you seen?


One thought on “The Uncoachables

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