Why Coaching With Friends or Family May Not Work

I am willing to bet you got into coaching (or counseling) because you love helping others. In fact there may have been times you had to restrain yourself from getting in someone else’s business because you wanted so badly to help. I get that because I am made that way myself.

There will be opportunities for you to ask perhaps a really powerful question that when answered, provides incredible insight … but it is my opinion that coaching friends and family is not a great idea, whether you are the coach or the person being coached.

There may be rare exceptions, so the reasons are not carved in stone but you need to be aware of them.

Reasons not to coach your friends and family

1. Because of your preexisting familiarity, you may believe you already know certain details or have preconceived notions about others that limit what questions you ask in your discovery process.

2. If you ask those “duh” questions, your coachee may laugh them off as though you should already know and not give you a serious, deep answer.

3. Those close to you may suspect they are being manipulated or played if you begin asking them questions, listening deeply. This problem likely has nothing to do with you, but rather with the coachee and their past experiences with “helpful” family members resurfacing.

4. It could be that your friend or family member is not coachable or at least not coachable by you. In order for someone to be coachable, they must meet three criteria.

a. There must be something that the coachee admits, needs to change or improve.

b. The coachee must be willing and able to make the needed changes.

c. The coachee must be willing to include you (the coach) in the process.

Because we love those close to us, we may not want to admit that maybe we are not the right person to coach them. But if you sense resistence to answering questions or to taking action and remaining accountable. there may have a coachability issue.

5. It is very hard to remain neutral with friends and family. What if they choose the wrong actions?  Often we don’t trust family members to make those choices that coincide with what we think is best for them.  It’s just plain hard to let go of our own agenda for their lives, particularly if they are our children.

Reasons not to request coaching from friends or family

When coaches exit our Premier Christian Life Coach Certification (CCLC) program, they are asked at their certification interview, who do they have to keep them accountable to continuing the work begun in training, to develop their coaching practice/business, etc.

The typical answers over the years have been, “my husband”, “my sister”, “my best friend”… all people who are close to them. There is statistical evidence that those who rely on friends and family to mentor, support and hold them accountable have an 85% chance of failure.

Why is this?

1. Those close to you, regardless of how well-meaning, have their own agenda with regard to the choices you make.

2. Your success holds up a mirror to them to reevaluate their own life choices and that can become very uncomfortable.

3. Your success means the relationship will need to change and maybe they are not ready for the relationship to change.

4. Emotions like jealousy, insecurity, fear get in the way of progress.

5. Your friends and family likely feel it is more important that you like them so they are reluctant to hold you accountable and risk being seen as a bully even when you really need some tough love.

The best advice I can give a new coach is to hire a mentor coach. If you can’t afford to meet weekly, meet at least by-weekly or monthly. Make sure this is someone who has gone before you and succeeded already. If you are a Premier 1-to-1 CCLC student at PCCCA, consider asking if your trainer will continue to work with you after the training ends. You already have a great foundation because rapport and trust have been established.

The reasons I gave you here are certainly not exhaustive and you may have more of your own. I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below so that I and our other readers can have a dialogue about this topic.

© 2015 Leelo Bush PhD​


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Leelo Bush PhD, Founder and Director of Training at the Professional Christian Coaching & Counseling Academy PCCCA

“Leelo Bush, PhD is recognized globally as a Christian Coach training curriculum creator, speaker, host of the Reach Higher Show (http://reachhighershow.com) and innovator as well as a marketplace ministry and training expert. Discover your hidden potential with her FREE 5-Minute Success Predictor Quiz at https://pccca.org"

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