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5 Signs Coaching Isn't For You

written byErickson Coaching Internationalon 06/06/2015

“You’re doing it wrong… again.” We’ve all heard this phrase at some point in our lives, spoken with utter derision – often by someone who thinks they’re actually doing us a service. They roll their eyes and walk off to provide their version of quality assurance to some other victim.  

Life coaching is an engaging, fun career where you get to help people set goals and reach their full potential – and get paid while doing it. That’s what attracts so many people to get coaching training – but let’s face it: while that’s a good fit for many, this career path isn’t for everyone. Those that agree with some of these value statements and assumptions about coaching below might want to rethink becoming a coach – or at least, reconsider their assumptions before they start training.  

  1. “I want to be a coach because I’m really good at telling people what to do. They’re not hiring me to ask questions – they want answers. Lucky for them, I’ve got ‘em.”

Coaching isn’t about telling; it’s about active listening. Before you can start exploring solutions, you need to understand the problem. Sometimes, the person you’re coaching may not be completely clear themselves about what is holding up their progress, whether it’s in their business, finances, love, or how to live their life. It’s up to the coach to listen carefully to help draw out the truth around goals, metrics for success and the required steps. You’re not there to give a pre-packaged one-size-fits-all solution, but to find the solution together.  

  1. “I don’t need a track record of success. My own experience isn’t relevant. A good coach can coach on any topic.”

It’s true that certain coaching techniques will come in handy whether you’re coaching a divorcee to find lost love, or a software engineering team to achieve better productivity – but that’s only true up to a point. Experience is a result of expertise, and vice-versa. An entrepreneur looking to expand their business 10 times over the coming year, for instance, is more likely to hire a coach with business experience. The first question a potential client will ask is, “Have you ever worked with XYZ before?”  

Being a general-purpose, undifferentiated coach is simply not viable if you’re hoping to brand yourself, land coaching jobs, or provide a useful service when you do. You need to brand yourself in a niche where you actually do have insight – so that even if you don’t have the answers on hand, you'll know to ask the right questions.  

  1. “Coaching seems like a great racket. You listen to clients, tell them what they want to hear and eventually, they’ll get what they need on their own. Easy!”

Absolutely not. Coaching isn’t therapy. You’re not sitting there taking notes as your client pontificates from a couch until they have a ‘breakthrough’. You’re also not there to be a cheerleader. Coaching is an active and continuous process of listening, analysis, strategizing, setting metrics and goals, executing and reviewing – and your coaching clients won’t get results if you just smile and nod your head at your sessions.

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  1. “I like to live in the moment. Meetings are boring. Planning is useless, because even the best-laid plans can fail. I like to take action. Let’s just get going, make a decision and get results.”

Good coaching takes time. It takes analysis. There’s nothing wrong with aiming for quick wins and milestones along the path to success, but people don’t hire coaches to help fix problems that could be solved in a day. Planning properly avoids spur-of-the-moment decisions that just waste your client’s time and energy running down any number of rabbit-holes.  

  1. “I’m very particular about the kind of people I work with. I just don’t get along with people who don’t share my values. Who needs the stress?”

As you find your niche, you may find that your coaching clients do share certain characteristics. However, you’re most likely still going to be dealing with a very broad swathe of humanity in terms of walks of life, personality types, cultural backgrounds and other variables. Being a ‘people person’ who can get along with others is just part of the job. If a client is coachable (i.e. willing to do what’s needed to get results), that’s pretty much all you need to verify before you get started.  

Do you agree that these are signs someone won’t make a good coach? Why, or why not? Would you add any signs to these? Leave a comment!