I’ve coached leaders from both sides now, from give and take, and still somehow, I really don’t know clouds at all…wait, lost my way for a moment.

I’ve worked with leaders as an internal and external coach for over 20 years.

I’m here to tell you that coaching doesn’t work.

Specifically, it doesn’t work when five things are happening.

  1. No problem. Part of our journey through adulthood is identifying blind spots that, by definition, are unknown to us, and acknowledging the reasons improving any behavior is worthwhile. If you don’t think you have a behavior problem that impacts your effectiveness and influence, don’t waste your time and money on coaching.
  2. No time. How in the heck can I spend time with a coach when I’m already working 60-hour weeks and getting further behind? Great question! Most of us are happily discontent to be victims of our schedules and other people’s priorities. Change feels hard, and scheduling time for personal development seems a luxury. If carving out four hours a month to potentially redesign and integrate your work and life seems too big of an investment, coaching doesn’t work for you.
  3. No change. You are delighted in your role, your boss thinks you hung the moon, there is no conflict within the team, revenue growth is off the charts, and you are the employee of the year. I’ve not met you yet, but I love the idea that you exist! The rest of us may not tick all of those boxes but we remain satisfied with our current situation. Coaching sounds uncomfortable, and vulnerability isn’t your thing. If no changes are required, coaching doesn’t work for you.  
  4. No why. Your winning strategies got you where you are today. Only wet babies like change, so why put in the effort when I have all of the money, influence, and happiness that I could hope to have? Some people need growth and contribution. Some leaders see their career as a journey of continuous improvement. Some fall short of having the right conversations, making rapid decisions, and driving sustainable results, so they ask for help. Some want to build lasting relationships. Some want to build a legacy of stronger leaders. If none of these describe your views, coaching doesn’t work for you.
  5. No vision. We spend countless hours fretting and regretting past mistakes. We don’t remember mistakes; we relive them. We stare, trance-like, in the rearview mirror and ignore a future with limitless possibility, growth, and contribution within it. We can spend time adjusting the rearview mirror or design a compelling future. If your days are spent looking back, coaching doesn’t work for you.

Coaching challenges our ego and identity, drives us to explore beyond our comfort zones, feels unsettling along the way, and has no guarantee of success. It also creates a space for us to explore alternative ideas safely, role play difficult situations, work out new behaviors, have someone tell you what you need, not want; and an accountability partner to help you expand your skills and influence.

Coaching requires the courage to start. As with everything else, once you take action the momentum takes care of the rest.