Professional coaching is pretty fantastic. It shouldn’t be very controversial that I have that opinion; I am, after all, a professional coach myself. Years of doing this kind of work have taught me (just a little) humility, though. So I recognize that no product or service is universal, and there might be all sorts of reasons why coaching might not have a positive impact on a particular person.
I’ve compiled a list of some of those reasons, and today I’m sharing them with you. Take a look and decide for yourself. If these things seem to describe your reality, then coaching probably won’t work for you, and you’d be wasting your time – and mine. Hopefully, this saves us both a headache!
Reason 1: You Want Instant Results
Professional coaching can help you improve almost any aspect of your life. For example, I’m a career coach, so I help people improve their careers. There are health coaches, dating coaches, learning coaches, leadership coaches – if it can improve your life, chances are good that a trained coach exists for it.
Coaching absolutely will not work for you if you believe changing any of these things is easy and quick. I sell professional coaching services, not snake oil. I don’t have any magic tonics that will grant you the career you want overnight. Potential clients sometimes lay out their truly awesome ambitions about their careers to me in our initial meeting and then completely destroy my enthusiasm when they tell me their timeline for the change is 2-4 weeks.
Don’t get me wrong – that doesn’t mean you won’t see any improvement at all until you’ve been part of a coaching program for years. But it does mean that coaching won’t work for you at all if you expect to be “done” in a few weeks. Which brings me to …
Reason 2: You Have a Fixed Mindset, Not a Growth Mindset
Coaching absolutely will not work for you if you think of yourself as a project to complete rather than as a human on a journey. There’s no specific end point to your growth. No one who is serious about physical training ever reaches a particular amount they can deadlift and then cheers that they never have to train again.
If you’re serious about improving some sphere of your life, then that requires you to stay serious about it. These things require effort; if they came naturally, you’d already have them. That doesn’t mean that you’ll need a professional coach by your side for your entire journey (don’t worry, our membership isn’t a lifetime commitment), but it does mean that you won’t get anything out of coaching if you approach it thinking that you’re just trying to solve one or two discrete problems and then you’re finished. “Becoming a more effective leader” is a very different goal than “get my unruly team under control.” A coach can help you with the former, so you’re better at the latter (and goals like it).
Reason 3: You Want Someone Else to Do the Heavy Lifting
Of course, some people don’t actually want that, which is another reason coaching won’t work for you. Coaching definitely won’t work for you if you’re the kind of person that expects someone else to do all the heavy lifting of your self-improvement.
If you’ve been paying attention to the first two reasons, this won’t be shocking. Coaching is about helping you improve in an area of your life so that you can better tackle the challenges within that sphere. It’s about helping you get stronger, not lifting the weights for you.
When you’re first seeking out a professional coach, ask yourself: “am I looking for someone to help me grow, or am I looking for someone to solve this problem for me?” If it’s the latter, coaching definitely won’t work for you. I can dramatically improve your career, but I can’t go with you on your interviews or submit job applications for you.
Reason 4: You Want an Unbreakable Guarantee
In the same way that you might want someone else to do all the work, you also might want someone else to shoulder all the responsibility. That’s another reason coaching won’t work for you – you’re the kind of person that needs an iron-clad guarantee, provided by someone else, that their work will get you exactly the results you want. A guarantee that means if you don’t get everything you dreamed about from coaching, that it’s someone else’s fault.
Coaching definitely will not work for you if you think that. This extends logically from every other reason. I can’t guarantee success because “success” isn’t a discrete point in time. I can’t guarantee success because I’m not the one doing the work. I can’t guarantee you’ll even still have the same goals over time because people aren’t carved from stone like that. What I can guarantee, what every good coach feels comfortable promising, is this: If you put in the work, I will help you grow. Skepticism is fine; many of my clients were skeptical of processes they’d never tried before. But all of the ones who were happy with their results shared something in common: they did the work, even despite their skepticism.
Reason 5: You Want Validation
Of course, not everyone wants to work at all. That’s the last (and maybe biggest) reason coaching won’t work for you: you just want someone to tell you it’s not your fault. You want a sympathetic ear to tell you that success was never possible, that the world conspired against you, and that there’s literally nothing you could change now to improve. Coaching will absolutely not work for you if what you truly want in life is “justified laziness.”
I don’t validate. I listen, absolutely. I hear. I sympathize, and I empathize. But then together, we grow. And growth is uncomfortable! It’s challenging and requires effort. It takes accountability and humility. Some people don’t have those things, or at least they don’t want to use them. Some people have already made up their minds about why a particular sphere of their life isn’t what they wish it was, and they’ve placed all agency outside of themselves. If that’s you, then coaching is pointless; how can I coach someone who has no power to change their current situation in any way?
Coaching Isn’t For Everyone
I truly believe in the power of personal growth. I believe that from the self comes the power to improve the world we live in and leave it better than we found it for future generations. And I believe that caring about how we grow has overflow effects for everyone around us, so I believe that we owe it to the world to be the best version of ourselves, always growing and always bettering.
Of course, you may not agree. So coaching won’t work for you.