Why do most coaching strategies fail?

Whether I consult with a company, provide coaching skills training, or just help focus their purpose and ambition, I am passionate about wanting coaching initiatives to be successful.

I have seen successes and failures, but my love and enthusiasm for coaching have not waned, nor my belief that coaching is a crucial competence for leadership of the future.

In this blog, I will share with you the key elements that I have noticed and learned about coaching within organisations over the last 20 years, and the most common reasons coaching strategies don’t always get the results hoped for.

It's not just a skill 

I am often asked to help organisations create a coaching culture, and I have come to realise that very few people truly understand what this means. I will ask the question, "What do you mean by a coaching culture". Frequently, the answer I get back is, "I want my leaders to be able to coach". This is not a coaching culture, this is a skills programme that will start to provide leaders with an understanding of how to coach. But here’s the issue, a coaching culture is not just a skills programme, it is a behavioural change programme. A programme and level of effort that requires leaders (or anyone for that matter) to adopt a different way of operating. A shift in mindset, not just competence.

Don't leave people behind 

Whether it is coaching, training or anything else, people want to feel involved, to have a say, and to be listened to – they don’t want to be done to. Remember, just because you are enthused by coaching and can see the value it can bring, do not assume that others are too! Not only should you aim to educate and engage, be clear on what is in it for them and what value will they gain from spending time out of their busy schedules. Lacking a clear, structured, and collaborative communication plan, leads to a feeling of confusion, uncertainty and ultimately a lack of buy-in from your people. Resistance to change is expected and is always a challenge – alienating them from the outset will not help.

The wrong focus

Your people quite rightly will often be the first thought in terms of initiating a coaching strategy. But a focus on the ‘who’ gets coached can detract from the purpose of the coaching and enhance the feeling of “why am I doing this”, and probably lead to one of your most feared phrases – “not just another HR initiative”. Being told you have been identified to go through a coaching programme may excite some people, but with others, it can lead to fear and make them wonder, “Why me?”. This is clearly not the desired impact but is often a consequential one.

In my experience, focussing on who you want to get coached is a short-term and tactical move and won’t necessarily yield the results you want. Whilst those who get coached may have some short-term success, it may well be short-lived. Remember, you often only get one shot at making this work, so make sure you focus on the what and why not just the who.

The other half of the story

Whilst I did just say, often the focus is too heavily on the ‘who’, it is also true to say, not enough resource is invested into the coachee (the person to be coached). They are, after all, the ones we are in service of and want to help facilitate growth and performance.

However, too many times I see coaching strategies fail because the coachee does not know how to act, behave and be when they are getting coached, so they push back or at worst totally disengage.

Look at it this way, imagine you have never danced in your life, and you are suddenly paired with a professional dancer and asked to perform the Argentine Tango. At best, it will probably be awkward and clumsy – but will probably leave you tripping over your feet.

Not only may you want to stop dancing, but you also may never want to dance again.

This is the same with coaching. At the start, it can be clunky, awkward, and uncomfortable – and often this can lead to disengagement. If people don't want to be coached your strategy will not succeed. 

If you want to know how to avoid these pitfalls and make sure your coaching strategy delivers, attend our free webinar.

Ensure your Coaching strategy succeeds - free webinar


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