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How to Sabotage Your Coaching

This post is meant to speak to two groups:
1. Coaches
2. People working with a coach (or contemplating working with a coach)

The coaching process can be very powerful in helping shorten the learning curve of attaining a goal and improving one’s potential to achieve greater things. Yet, many who hire a coach fail to experience the immense benefit that great coaching can provide. Why?

Because of a breakdown in the basic foundations and structure of the coaching process.

If you are spending time and money to work with a coach, make sure to read this post to help prevent yourself from sabotaging your results. If you are a coach, this post can help you be on the lookout for any early signs of dysfunction on either of your parts that can lead to a frustrating experience with your client, so you can turn it around.

Event the best coach in the world doesn’t have a “100% success rate” with helping their clients achieve the clients’ stated goals. That’s because coaching is meant to be a collaborative process. Both have a role to play and responsibilities to meet in that process. If one person is doing their part but the other isn’t, it becomes an exercise in futility.

Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” gives a good list of common elements that sabotage the coaching process:

1. Absence of Trust.

If trust has not been established and continued to be maintained throughout the relationship, the client will be holding back information that can be crucial to the ability to help them change how they’re thinking or what they’re doing.

For coaches, this can be as simple as keeping your word on all you promise (like following up how/when you said you would and being on time for appointments) to maintaining a sense of safety, security, professionalism and confidentiality.

For clients, it is important that you allow yourself to be open to sharing honestly what’s going on with you so your coach can guide you through the scary or challenging stuff instead of trying to “look good” or protect yourself from being seen as you are.

I stress with all my clients at the very first session (and it’s worded in our Commitments & Agreements contract) that our relationship and sessions are a “no-judgment zone.” Nothing they do is right or wrong/good or bad. It’s simply information. And it’s looked at from the viewpoint of “is this bringing you toward your goals and contributing to your happiness and well-being, or away from your goals and causing you unnecessary pain?”

2. Fear of Conflict.

This can be related a bit to lack of trust, in that one of the partners doesn’t trust the other to be open to hearing the “truth” of what the other is experiencing or sensing without judgment.

A coach has to be willing and able to receive feedback from a client on anything they feel is not working for them in their coaching, from an objective viewpoint that allows them to effectively assess the feedback and adjust things in a way that is in the client’s best interest and maintains the integrity of the relationship. They must also be willing to push the client outside of their comfort zone and stand firm in their reasons for doing so, even explaining this to the client in a way that opens them to agreeing to be pushed.

Clients must be willing to give feedback to their coach to help facilitate the ability to receive what they need from the experience, and to be wiling to be pushed outside of their comfort zone if they can sense that doing so will be in alignment with growing in the way they need to so they can achieve more.

“To do get what you’ve not yet gotten, you must do what you’ve not yet done.”

3. Lack of Commitment.

For the coach, you must be fully committed to taking on each client and being there for them fully during their sessions (and any other promised interaction such as email or at their live events). You must be willing to take a stand for them and hold the space for them; even when you sense them resisting, avoiding or pushing back, and even if they may not “like you” for a moment.

For the client, you must give your best effort (and sometimes more than your best) to stick to your agreements with your coach, dedicate the time to your sessions and do the work (during and between sessions), and remove the obstacles that show up along the way to sidetrack you from your commitment to achieve what you are hiring the coach to help you achieve. You must NOT GIVE UP, even when it gets hard or scary.

In my Commitments and Agreements contract (and my first-session conversation), I explicitly state, “Complete all your sessions. I do not give up on you, and I do not allow you to give up on yourself or fall into your old excuses of why you can’t change what you need to or achieve what you want to.”

4. Avoidance of Accountability.

Coaches must build systematic accountability into their sessions that are reviewed with the client from the stance of “as we set steps for you to take each week, you agree to put in the effort to complete them and you agree to have me hold you accountable for achieving them and help you work through what kept you from doing so.” Then ask them at each session how they did with each one they agreed to, coaching them in the way you know how to address the blocks to completion and provide resources to better achieve them the next time.

Clients must be willing to set steps of action each week (what I refer to Action Commitments) based on the goals discussed, and have their coach hold them accountable for reviewing their completion as well as being guided through the limitations that held you back from achieving any. You must take a “no excuses approach.”

Action leads to progress or learning. Excuses lead to stagnation.

5. Inattention to Results.

There must be measurable, agreed-upon results set at the beginning of the coaching journey and assessed along the way. Are you on track, or off track, with the stated outcome(s)? 

Coaching is not meant to be therapy, socialization or a “feel good” time. It’s meant to create progress and results that are verifiable. 

Both the coach and the client need to be mindful of these throughout the process and circling back to them to assess the progress. Adjustments need to be made along the way to the plan, the processes, the resources, and even the effectiveness of the coaching in relation to what the client needs to know, believe, have or do in order to reach his/her stated outcome in the fastest time possible.

All the other 4 elements must be present in order for this to happen. Without all 5, dysfunction and breakdown occurs, leading to disappointment and disillusionment of the coaching experience for both the coach and the client.

And with all 5 present, magic can happen!


1. Coaches–Assess your past or current clients. For those doing well, how can you identify these 5 elements are in functional mode? For those not doing well, how are any of these 5 dysfunctions in play? Are they on your end or your clients’? What can you do to correct the dysfunction?

2. Clients–Assess your current coaching experience. Can you identify which of these 5 elements are in functional mode? Can you identify any of these 5 dysfunctions in play? Are they on your end or your coach’s? What are you willing to do to correct the dysfunction?

Are you looking for a coach to help you shorten the learning curve of attaining a goal and /or improving your potential to achieve greater things? I might be able to help. Schedule a complimentary MMM Business Strategy Session or Personal Performance Consultation with me 
to identify and change what practical or psychological challenges are holding you back from being and doing better in life and/or business, and if I could be the right coach for you.

Did you like this post? Did you get something helpful from it? Did you take some action that lead to a good result for you? Do you disagree or have something to add? Please leave a comment below to share with others.

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