I’m starting a new category of posts featuring coaching-related questions people ask me and the answers I’ve given.  Feel free to email me a question.  I will answer you via email and if it’s one that would be good for the blog, I’ll ask your permission before I post it.  Per your choice I can be posted with your name or anonymously.

Here is a question that was recently asked by a mentor coaching client of mine who is currently in coach training and planning to establish a coaching ministry.  She asked via email:

Since the last coaching session, I’ve been reflecting on coaching more. From the people I’ve coached so far, I almost feel like there’s a certain “type” of person that coaching works for and others that it doesn’t work for. For example, the type that seems to respond well to coaching are people who see they really want to change a particular situation rather than people who want to try coaching just to have a coach. I’ve noticed a lot less motivation with the latter. Also, some who have mentors or others that they process with don’t seem to open up to coaching as much. Is this true based on your experience?

And my answer: 

Yes, this is true. When I first started in coaching, I saw experienced coaches’ webpages saying things like: “if you are ready for a change and you know you can benefit by the support of an experienced coach who is dedicated to seeing you thru to success…contact me to arrange coaching…” Often experienced coaches would emphasize the need for a potential to be ready and to intend to invest time/resources into change. I didn’t fully get it early on, but now based on experience I know that it reflects what you are asking about. 

In theory, coaching can be useful to any healthy person who has goals and aspirations… as long as that person wants to change or wants to reach out for something new. However, when people are not in touch with their desire to change or do something new and when they don’t intend to take action, they are not ready to be coached. So it’s not really that the coaching doesn’t work or even that the coach is being ineffective (although of course that’s a possibility), but more that the person isn’t in a season of life where they are interested and willing to do what it takes to engage in change. 

As a coach, you can act to inspire change but of course the client has to choose to change.

As a new coach, your enthusiasm might drive you to take on clients who are not coachable.  Hopefully in your coach training you learned the difference between a coaching client and a counseling client and you avoid engaging the latter.  But sometimes even basically healthy people are not ready for change and they will not take the time or do the work required to make the change.  And they are not interested in being inspired to change. 

As a new coach, perhaps you have offered your services to a friend or a friend-of-a-friend and at some level they feel they are doing you a favor by helping you “learn” coaching.  Maybe someone who wants to support your business start-up is paying for your client to be coached – and the client is enjoying your “free” services but hasn’t owned their commitment to change.  Or perhaps your client is an employee of yours or on your ministry team and since you are their leader they felt they should say “yes” when you recruited them for coaching – and that’s their sole motivation for engaging in coaching with you.  If you suspect you are coaching in scenarios like this and you are not seeing change in your client, take the situation to your mentor coach and determine how to graciously proceed. 

If your client is not intending to invest in change they are not ready for your coaching services.