I’m an executive coach. That means people pay me an incredible amount of money just to talk with them. So much so that I once explained to a stranger that my business model was actually most similar to a phone sex operator.
Why do they do this?
Well I could give you a long list of the changes I’ve helped my clients create, the single conversations that changed relationships, saved business ventures, and led to more joy and satisfaction. This is probably what should be on my website.
I could say people pay me to tell them the truth in a way they can actually hear. Or more simply I could say people pay me because coaching works. Not just coaching with me but coaching in general.
If you work with a skilled coach you will improve, enjoy, and thrive more than you thought possible.
But sometimes coaching doesn’t work, and when that happens it totally sucks, but the reasons are actually pretty predictable. This is true whether your coach is someone you’ve hired or just someone who’s trying to offer you feedback in the moment.
This is why coaching doesn’t work and how you can fix it –
1. You’re not listening –
We have an incredible ability to ignore other people’s feedback even when it’s obvious. When you get new information that challenges the way you see yourself it’s easier to ignore the feedback then face reality. The feeling of being exposed, even to yourself is painful and humbling. So you avoid seeing these things or you explain them away.
Coaches are very good at pointing out what you don’t want to see. We practice looking for the blindspots that other people miss. Your coach is likely telling you again and again what’s missing, but you’re not listening to them. Instead, you are justifying why what you’re doing is right, understandable, or situational. Which is fine, if you want to stay the same.
However, if you want to change, try to listen to your coach and take on what they have to offer. If it doesn’t work you can put it aside but start by listening.
2. You don’t actually think change is possible –
If I came along and told you to jump over a ten-foot fence, you’d look at me like I was an alien. When people ask us to do the impossible we respond with confusion and incredulity. Regularly I see something my clients can do that they don’t think is possible. Sometimes they doubt their abilities because of limiting beliefs, sometimes they simply don’t understand that pathway from here to there. They don’t listen because they have doubts. There’s nothing wrong with setting realistic goals and working to achieve them, but often their realism is just pessimism in disguise.
A good coach will see more options than you do, they’ll see things you aren’t aware of, they’ll believe in a version of you that you’re becoming rather than who you are right now. But if you don’t think change is possible, you’ll end up stuck where you are. The way to change this is to notice where you shut down and start to argue for your own limitations. When this happens try coming from the point of view that it IS possible and then asking yourself IF it was possible, how would you get there? This is also a great place to get your coach to help you.
3. You’ve already quit –
My clients want to quit all the time. This may seem like an odd thing to say, but to me, wanting to quit is a sign of growth.
Think about a really tough workout you’ve done. At some point, you likely wanted to quit. I remember when I ran marathons and triathlons there was often a place during the race where I just wanted to stop. My legs were tired, my feet hurt, and I didn’t care about getting a stupid t-shirt. But each time I managed to push through and find more energy on the other side. When you’re developing yourself as a leader or working to change your life, you’re going to run into places where you want to quit. When this happens you have three options – quit, keep going, or pretend like you’re going to keep going while you’re actually quitting.
For coaching clients, quitting looks like going through the motions, showing up to coaching calls without anything to work on, not applying any of the insights you gain, getting stuck in the same cycle of complaints, or focusing on what isn’t working about your life or coaching. This is a way to quit without actually admitting that you’re quitting.
Coaching almost never works when this happens because if you’re not engaged and committed to change, you won’t change.
The good news is you can bring this to your coach. You can simply tell them that you are losing faith, not really giving this your all, or just going through the motions. A good coach will know how to with with people when they falter on the path to a new life so they should be able to help you get back on the right track.
Look, you don’t have to listen to your coach. Whether it is someone you hired to help you change or someone in your life that’s just trying to help you out or mentor you. But the cost of not listening can be high.
You have the chance to listen or to ignore. Most people ignore, they hide, and they avoid. But life isn’t meant to be survived — it literally ends with death — it’s meant to be lived. You’re meant to grow and develop as long as you’re alive.
And this simple act of listening and being open to the coaching around you can have an incredible impact on who you are. If you’re open to it.