Why Leadership Coaching Doesn’t Always Help

I’m a leadership coach.

I enjoy coming around other leaders and finding ways to help them, to challenge them, to encourage them, and to help them reach a goal or execute a plan.

The problem is that sometimes given all of my efforts, I’m not helping!

In trying to figure out why, I’ve identified a couple of things that influence the effectiveness of coaching from both the leaders perspective, and from the coaches perspective.

Here’s what I’m learning:


#1) I’m Too Busy

“I’m trying to squeeze coaching into an already packed schedule, and it’s more of a burden than a help. If I could just clean out my email first, then I’d be ready.” The reality is that you’ll never have time for coaching unless you make the time. You’ll miss the value and it’s a waste of energy if you can’t find some margin.

#2) I’m Not Very Patient

“I want the coaching, but I want a quick fix. Coaching should create immediate results… right?” The value of coaching come from building a relationships, identifying specific goals and tasks, and working towards those things. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it takes time.

#3) I’m Not Very Specific

“Each time I engage with my coach, we just sit and talk. It’s good, but nothing ever comes from it.” We need to have specific goals in mind when we bring in a coach. Identify something that you want to focus on, and stay there until you accomplish it.

#4) I Know More Than My Coach

“My coach can’t really help me because I know more than they know about the issues we’re talking through.” I would challenge you to keep your ego out of the relationship, and learn to listen. You’ll be surprised by what you can learn if you will just listen and stop talking. In some cases, a coach may not bring a lot of extra value, but I have ALWAYS found that I’m surprised by what my coach is able to teach and challenge me in.


#1) My Leader Won’t Focus

“I’m trying to drive a conversation, but the leader is distracted and not focused.” As a coach, you need to realize the pressure and the load the leader is carrying. Find out what’s going on today and what they’re state of mind is. If they’re under pressure or operating under high stress, it’s not a good time for you to coach. They need instant help and results, and they’ll be distracted by their list of things to do. Find out how they’re doing before you dive into your conversation, and be willing to adjust based on their state.

#2)  My Leader Won’t Do What I Suggest

“I give great advice and help, but they don’t do anything about it.” Coaching isn’t simply telling someone what to do… it’s walking with them through the process. Find ways that you can help and that you can be a part of the solution, instead of just giving them advice. Go deeper.

#3) My Leader Won’t Open Up and Be Honest

“I’m trying to build a relationship, but there are walls up. It’s as if they don’t trust me.” The leader you’re working with has been burned before. They’ve been promised something, they’ve been told something that hasn’t happened, and they’ve been let down. Focus on the relationship first. Take the time to get to know each other and build trust together. Take some baby steps and find some success early on. This will lay a foundation of trust and will lead to increased vulnerability. Also, as a coach, you need to be vulnerable as well.

#4) My Leader Needs More Than I Can Give

“The help my leader needs is something I know nothing about. What do I do?” Begin by admitting that, then commit to helping to either learn more, or find someone that can help them. A coach is “in it with them”. So discover together. You’ll learn something new. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know everything. They already know you don’t know everything. When you work together, you’ll build an incredible bond.

Lastly, here are some reminders that are critical to every coaching engagement:

Meet Regularly: Identify a set time and place and prepare for it.

Communicate Goals and Expectations: Make this your first conversation and then revisit it often.

Build Relationship First: Get to know each other. The coaching you want or need might come in a way you didn’t expect.

Define an End Point: Coaching shouldn’t be open-ended. Establish an end, then continue under new rules if you want to.

Follow Through: Do what you commit to doing… both of you!

A Coaching Relationship has the potential to be one of the most impactful relationships in your life and your leadership. Don’t fall into the traps or mistakes I mentioned above.

If you are ready to try a coaching plan designed to help you achieve your objectives, learn more about Julie Han Coaching.


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