12 Reasons Why Coaching Does Not Work

Ok, get over the shock of the title you coaches and let’s get down to business – pick yourselves up and read on. 

Coaching DOES work – of that I am convinced, but there are many times that coaching fails, and there are good reasons for this – luckily, most of the points below can be avoided, generally with a clear process in the setting-up of the thre-way coaching contract, between the organisation – the coaching candidate and the coach.I am talking about here about business coaching.

My experiences are with coaching middle to top management in an organisational setting.

I will outline my thoughts, taken from my experience of coaching – learning by doing, if you like – and I welcome comments or additions to the list of 12 reasons that I have compiled.

1. No culture of support in the organisation. People who undergo coaching need to feel supported before, during and after the process in order to gain confidence that their learning is aligned with organisation strategy and with the people and processes around them. Even if the coaching is supported by top management, the efforts can fizzle out and be short-circuited when it cascades down to middle-management if the organisation is not truly dedicated to a coaching culture.

2. Viewed as a quick-fix – to train a person to do something. Although there are certain companies that call any form of one-to-one training or advice “Coaching” it is definitely not this. Some aspects of training can be likened to coaching – both ‘should’ on some levels, focus on changes of behaviour – this is what we call ‘learning’, however, coaching entails a fundamental long-term change in attitudes, behaviours, emotions, attitudes and beliefs, which are not always the outcomes of training.

3. No Management belief. Coaching is seen as a carrot and stick that can be turned on much as a tap to change or facilitate change within the organisation. However, if management, both the top and middle streams, do not believe in the coaching process, there is a very slim chance that it will succeed.

4. Believing a coach needs to be from the same business as the client. The argument goes that someone who is from a financial background are better equipped to coach an accountant. The reason this argument, although in my view, flawed, has gained credibility is through the fact that it is argued that our brains are hard-wired to a certain train of thought and it is believed that accountants, think differently to say, marketing. There may be some truth, due to the nature of the two professions, but this ignores two very important points: 1) People cannot change fundamentally 2) They were not born as an accountant so they have learnt their thinking ‘patterns’ (if such a phenomena exists) so they can surely ‘unlearn’ or more precisely, change. Another aspect is the positive aspect of a coach from a different industry sector, seeing issues in business with a fresh pair of eyes, away from the barriers that could hamper constructive and deep questioning that someone from the same sector may not consider, or even overlook as ‘it’s just like that.’

5. Coaching has started too late. If a coaching process has begun as a last minute attempt to bring someone into line – then it is definitely too late. There is little chance that the coaching candidate will benefit from the full-on support from the people around them, in terms of the middle and upper management.

6. Coaching has started too late. If a coaching process has been put into place at a time when the coaching candidate has psychologically given up on the organisation, it is again, probably too late. The candidate will not be fully dedicated to the coaching process, they may have their eye on the future for purely personal reasons, there is still a slim chance that they could adhere to the process, in the present organisation, but unlikely.

7. Not enough dedication to the program. This can happen due to a combination of the points already mentioned and also due to poor understanding of the expectations of what they expect from the coaching process. There could also be times that people render themselves ‘uncoachable’ due to these factors – you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.

8. The motivation is not coming from within the person. Motivation needs to come from within the person, if they are not ready and willing to pursue the coaching process on an equal footing with the coach, then the process will be very likely to fail. Motivation cannot be applied by proxy. Discomfort is a big motivator, but one that can have an ephemeral nature, in as much as, when discomfort is reduced, then so the motivation reduces. Therefore, it is important that the motivation is towards a goal / aim / objective and not away from discomfort.

9. The coaching candidate is viewed as a problem. If the coaching candidate is seen as a renegade or as dysfunctional. Coaching is not put in place to ‘fix’ people who are ‘broken’, this is more the job of a psychiatrist or a therapist and has no real place in coaching – even though a coach may well use some of the tools borrowed from psychology and related disciplines. In my experience, some companies view coaching as a blend of some sort of mystic witchcraft and therapy to repair people – at least at the outset.

10. Coaching is not aligned with business strategy. If the coaching process is not aligned with business strategy, it will almost certainly fail, due, in part to the fact that it is a relatively expensive and time and energy intensive process. If coaching does not reap rewards in tune with the organisation’s business strategy, it is highly likely that it will remain a one-shot, or at least have a very limited life across the business. It will also suffer from limited support from the stakeholders who hold the purse strings, which could have a negative effect on the way that coaching is viewed within the organisation, leading to failure due to lack of support.

11. People overestimate their learning. How many times have you heard people say that they have 20 or so years experience in a given profession, when it is clear that they are in no way learning nor growing. Barriers to both change, and consequently learning, are effectively formed by this mindset – which in reality often boils-down to 1 year’s experience replicated 20 times, with strong resistance to anything that coaching can offer.

12. People lose the motivation to change before they start. With all the best intentions in the world, people sometimes have difficulties following through on these intentions to action steps. Think of the many people who buy gym and exercise bicycles with the intention of getting fit but which end up gathering dust in a cellar – this is a phenomena which is also common in coaching, where best intentions can be replaced by inaction.

I would normally go into ways around some of the avoidable stalemates above, but it would be nice to get some interaction on this post – especially from coaches and learners who have experience of coaching from both sides of the table.So if you have ideas, or perhaps other blocks to coaching – then please share them through the comments below.

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change, Co-Developpement, Coaching, Culture, personal development, Self Awareness , , , , , , , , , ,

1 comment


  1. when will coaching not work http://t.co/PXxuVRhV. Have experienced many of these factors personally

    [Reply]

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