7 reasons why coaching is not for everyone

February 28, 2019
Coaching is not for everyone

Coaching is not for everyone!

Over the last 2 decades, I have coached several hundred individuals pro bono before getting into a full-time consulting and coaching role 7 years ago. Now people engage me as a Life Coach or a Career Coach for a fee.

Over the years, I have experienced that coaching is not for everybody. Why do I say this?

In my view, if anyone falls into any of the following 7 categories, coaching is not likely to benefit the individual:

1. I have no direction and no agenda

A coaching process begins with an agenda. A coach can also help in designing the agenda with the coachee after focused discussions. However, in case the coachee has absolutely no direction, it just cannot work.

I normally give the example of someone who has decided to take a vacation, has packed his bags but does not know where to go. Standing at the airport entrance, watching flights taking off in different directions, this individual is completely clueless. Choosing a destination is a difficult decision for this individual. As I often say, your GPS can help you only if a destination point is entered.

2. I am not keen on growth

For some individuals, status-quo is absolutely fine. They do not wish to challenge their current context. With a low achievement-orientation, their ambition is very limited. They ‘take life as it comes’. They are fine if things happen but on their own, they are not likely to drive any results in their life or career. Coaching, like Change, is expected to ruffle some feathers. However, such individuals may be too keen to keep their plume intact.

3. I have already arrived in Life

For some individuals, they feel they have already scaled Mount Everest. Now they have nowhere to go. Coaching presumes that there is some improvement desired by the individual. However, if someone feels they are already at the Point of Arrival of their life, coaching is obviously not needed.

4. My development is not my responsibility

Especially in corporate coaching, some coachees expect their HR team to take accountability for their coaching success. It is as if they have outsourced their own development to their HR Function. It shows in the way they come into coaching meetings and take accountability for actions coming out of the coaching conversations. For instance, if HR fails to fix a meeting, the coachee is not bothered. After all, it is their job. This is like saying, ‘I am not bothered if the staff at my child’s playschool has not been feeding my child. Why should I bother? It is their job. After all, I am paying them.’

In other cases, the coachee expects the coach to do all the work. After all, a coach is a service provider and the coach is being paid. Even assuming that a coach can be considered as a service provider, his services are akin to that of a physiotherapist. The physiotherapist examines the patient, advises a routine, helps the patient learn the routine and is there for support. However, although the patient pays the physiotherapist, the routine is not meant to be done by the physiotherapist. It needs to be done by the patient.

5. I am not willing to wait for the results

For individuals looking for immediate gratification, coaching is not the answer. I call it the microwave mentality where we expect things to come to fruition in a very short time. Human processes take time.

Stephen Covey refers to the ‘Law of the Farm’ as opposed to the ‘Law of the School’.

We have all gone through a situation where we prepared for a test at the last minute, burnt midnight oil, focused on questions that were most likely to appear in the test. Everything worked and we got a decent score in the test. This is the ‘Law of the School’ where we could do something at the last minute and still get away with results.

However, when it comes to farming, this approach does not work. One cannot sow seeds at the last minute, mix manure, water the field and expect the harvest overnight. Even if the best seeds are sown, the soil and climate are the best suited, the harvest will still take its own time. This is known as the ‘Law of the Farm’.

Coaching follows the ‘Law of the Farm’.

Therefore, it also implies that the sooner the coaching seeds are sown the earlier the harvest.

6. I am not open to constructive feedback

In order to learn, one needs to be vulnerable. Coaching will not work for individuals who are closed to feedback. Some coachees are very defensive when it comes to constructive feedback. I do agree that constructive feedback can create some pain. However, the pain has to be endured if something needs to change.

In such situations, a coach is like a surgeon who is on the coachee’s side. Just as a surgeon does not hesitate cutting open a wound to treat it although it might result in some pain for the patient, a coach could open up a difficult conversation with the coachee to facilitate the coachee’s progress. The consequent pain is a part of the process. However, if the patient does not want to experience any pain, some treatments are just not possible.

I have written about one of the more popular escape routes when it comes to accepting constructive feedback – Perception vs. Reality. Read about it here.

7. For me, coaching is a cost, not an investment

How does this difference play out? Well, what does one do with Cost? One avoids it or tries to reduce it. But if it considered an investment, one tries to protect it, grow it and expect returns from it.

If a coaching effort, time or fee is considered a cost, the coachee will avoid it, delay it or reduce the effort and the time allotted to it. However, if it is considered an investment, the coachee will be careful in how the effort, time or fee is utilized. There is an expectation of returns, the actual returns are compared with the planned returns and appropriate steps are taken to maximize returns.

Coachees who consider coaching to be an investment spend focused effort on the work given to them by the coach and quickly and proactively respond to the coach. Coachees who consider coaching to be a cost have to be reminded by the coach of their commitments. Such coachees fly low to avoid the coach’s radar.

If you do not fall into any of the above 7 categories, congratulations! You can benefit hugely from coaching.

By the way, I have gained immensely as a coachee in my own life. Read about it here.

Read my other post on coaching, An External Perspective Helps.

I have also written a post about how you can imagine a new future without dragging your past into it.


Consider coaching if you are keen to take your life or career to a different possibility.

Contact me at [email protected] and we can take it forward.

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