Why Coaching Doesn’t Always Work

123RF Stock Photo

It’s no news flash that executive coaching is one of the wisest investments an organization can make.

Countless studies show that employees who seek coaching – essentially to accomplish important goals with less stress and greater effectiveness — tend to get promoted more often and earn greater salary increases than employees who don’t.

But despite powerful evidence that it can boost performance, productivity, and profits at organizations of all sizes and types, coaching doesn’t always pay off.

Here are four (4) common reasons why coaching sometimes fails to deliver – and what you can do to ensure that coaching does get results at your organization:

1. It doesn’t work when the coach isn’t sufficiently trained

Coaches have been around for a long while. JFK was one of the first public figures to credit a coach for keeping him focused and on track – but the field is only beginning to formalize.

Because there is not yet an official governing board, nor standard requirements that must be met to practice the profession, coaching training can range from attendance at a fly-by-night weekend seminar to certification by a rigorous and comprehensive program.

No amount of letters after a person’s name can guarantee competency, but solid experience in people professions like social work, HR, or the ministry – including enough knowledge of normal adult behavior to know when referral to a mental health professional may be necessary – generally makes for a capable coach.

2. It doesn’t work when a coach is hired for the wrong reason

Coaching is all about reducing distractions and channeling inner resources into getting to the next level, a challenge requiring advanced personal responsibility, motivation, and ambition.

It’s unreasonable to think that coaching will turn around company deadbeats lacking endurance or enthusiasm — and coaching loses appeal for everyone when it gets associated with remediation.

You’re better off sending problem employees through a cost-efficient mandatory EAP process, and reserving coaching as a coveted reward for employees who show true promise.

Article Continues Below

3. Coaching doesn’t work with a cookie cutter approach

Some organizations contract with coaching companies using a one-size-fits-all method that comes off as superficial and rudimentary — and they wonder why employees lose interest.

Given the wide-ranging areas – communication, leadership, negotiation, work/life balance, decision-making, the list goes on – addressed by coaching, employees benefit most when coaching is customized to their particular agendas.

You demonstrate respect for staff when you thoughtfully interview a variety of coaches, compile a directory covering the aspirations and tastes of every kind of star employee, and then let them choose.

4. Coaching doesn’t work when expectations are unrealistic

Some coaches (most of them of the fly-by-night weekend seminar variety) get business by promising to permanently blast away self-doubt, make work completely blissful, transform paltry salaries into six figures, and all sorts of other too-good-to-be-true outcomes – all in a brief number of sessions.

The best coaches know that change – whether a client is trying to become more orderly, be a better manager, or learn how to listen – takes ongoing reinforcement.

Coaching is most potent when employees are given freedom to progress at a pace that feels comfortable, modifying objectives as priorities shift. And just like these suggestions, coaching is most apt to sink in when practiced over time.

Amy Wood, Psy.D. is the author of Life Your Way: Refresh Your Approach to Success and Breathe Easier in a Fast-paced World, an award-winning personal improvement book with a sustainable program for adapting to our perpetually hectic age. She is also a co-founder of sPeak performance, an organization offering presentations, coaching, and consulting for professional development. Contact her at amywood@amywoodpsyd.com.

Topics