10 Signs Coaching Is No Longer Working (PART 1)

Most trained coaches are able to discern whether a potential client is ready for coaching or not. We talk about this as someone being coachable or uncoachable . . . 

But what if you have worked with your client for a while and then realize the relationship is no longer thriving. How do you identify these cases and what do you do about it?

How do you know if a coaching relationship is no longer working?

Here are some signs:

1. You can no longer rely on your client to be truthful about their circumstances, feelings or environment. This may because the client is unaware of these things and their impact or it may be that the client wants to sugar coat what they tell you. But if you feel certain that you can’t get to the truth of a matter, you can’t work with it. Once this becomes obvious, both you and your client are wasting time and resources.

2. It becomes clear after working together, that there is a powerful influencer (person or thing) holding your client back, which your client is either unable or unwilling to separate him/herself from.

3. You begin to suspect substance abuse on the part of your client. You may notice the client rambling or wandering off track during the conversation. They may have trouble making eye contact if you are meeting in person. It could be that they fail to take actions that any reasonable person would take. Perhaps they agree to take certain actions but don’t and have no logical reason for not keeping their commitment. To you the coach, things stop making sense.

4. Your client may be very interested in achieving results but is not committed to doing what it takes to get them. Why might they not be committed? It could be they feel the tradeoff is not worth the trouble. It may be that the steps needed are so innately against their grain; they won’t make themselves press through to get results. Or simply, the pain of pressing through the discomfort is greater than the pain of failure.

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested
in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results."  ~ Kenneth Blanchard

5. When you begin wishing your client would (a) find another coach or counselor, (b) miss their session or (c) just go away … out of seemingly nowhere. There are times it’s difficult to put your finger on the issue, but if you have or develop a strong resistance to working with someone, there is something wrong with the relationship and you need to seriously look at terminating it.

This may not at all be about your client, rather about your own transformation over time. It is possible you have grown to a place personally, where you are no longer able to support a client on their quest as you once did, from your faith or moral perspective.

6. The client does not recognize your professional boundaries, keeps adding new milestones outside of the original scope of work contracted, or begins to dominate your time or brain space. In any of these cases, it may be time to say “whoa…” to this arrangement.

10 Signs Coaching Isn't Working

7. The client who makes you question or second guess yourself. This client is often in disagreement with you over something, anything. It almost seems like they are intentionally looking to be at odds with you. White can be black and black can be white, depending on the day. You may be dealing with oppositional personality disorder. You can’t win this one.

8. The client who either is not able or doesn’t desire to pay you what your efforts deserve. Make sure that you establish clear expectations initially. Begin by outlining what you will do. Then outline the client’s responsibilities. Finally, state your fee clearly, for the work requested. If a client constantly wants to renegotiate your fees or review the value of your work, it may be time to part ways.  Both of you need to feel the relationship is a win-win.

9. The passive-aggressive client is one who agrees to take actions but doesn’t. When they don’t achieve the results they want, they secretly blame you and begin to surround themselves with new “coaches” in addition to you, who take your client on external tangents to prove that you are not capable of serving them. Overnight it seems goals change and steps get confused and muddled.  It's better to let go than be miserable.

10. You discover over time that the client may be in need of counseling in order to be ready for coaching. Some counseling needs are not immediately apparent and may only be discovered in time as the coaching goes deeper or to a new topic.

As the coach, if you discover any of the above issues, don’t blame yourself or feel bad. Your job is to acknowledge it and as the professional, make sure it doesn’t continue on the same track. Making a change will be healthier for both you and your client.

In Part 2, I will address what to do when your coaching relationship is no longer working.

Now it's YOUR turn.  What sorts of issues have you seen that tell you the coaching isn't working?  Let's talk about this... Please post your comment below.​

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