September 18

Why Coaches Fail?


Are you considering becoming a professional coach or maybe you are a newly trained coach? Before you go too far, it’s important to understand why unfortunately some coaches fail.

With a solid understanding of why some coaches fail, you'll have a far better chance of avoiding these failure traps. Becoming a successful coach rarely happens overnight. While some might hit it out of the park right away, that is not common. It starts with the right training and moving forward by gaining experience and confidence.

Let's look at the main reasons why some coaches fail and some tips to help you become successful.

Top 7 Reasons Why Coaches Fail

1. You Think You Can Help Everybody

Coaches simply cannot help everybody. If you think every single person that walks through your door, calls you on the phone, or sends you an email, you can help, you will fail as it is impossible. There will be plenty of people you can help, but you simply cannot help everybody.

Too often coaches that try to help everyone, become exhausted and eventually burn out. An even bigger issue is the loss of confidence.   By taking on clients that are out of one’s domain or are not ready for coaching, coaches often start to blame themselves, as if they are the issue.  Now in all fairness, they can be partly to blame, but it is not for a lack of coaching skills.

If you graduate from a professional ICF coach training school you will already have a good understanding of what clients you can help and those you cannot.  You would then know the signs of mental illness and where coaches are ethically obligated to refer to a licensed mental health worker.   You would also know the signs of those that simply want a magic pill and are not ready to commit to the change process.

If change was easy for humans, coaching would not exist.  The path to change and achieving success requires the right strategy and implementation.   That is what coaching is all about.

2. You Wear Too Many Coaching Hats

When a coach tries to wear too many hats, they tend to not wear any of them well. It's another one of the main reasons why coaches fail. Don't try to provide every type of coaching offered in the industry. Instead, become a master of one or a few.  The danger is that you will lose potential clients by appearing scattered.  A coach offering executive coaching, teen coaching, grief coaching, recovery coaching, and weight loss coaching will often turn off potential clients.  If you want your furnace fixed do you hire a car mechanic, painter, or musician?  People want to make a connection with you and have confidence based on how you present yourself.  Through your website, and interview they can see you are a good fit for the issue they have.  More on this below in the area that discusses niches.

3. Motivation is Your One-Size-Fits-All Answer

While motivation is a tool we use as a coach, that is not your primary or only job. A professional coach’s job is to help clients discover their motivational strategies. Just telling a client your story and how you overcame a particular issue is a great way to demotivate your client!  Why?  Because now they are going to compare themselves to you and if they do not see themselves doing what you did, they might just give up (I can’t do that). So, while you have a strong need or want to share your story it is appropriate to share only snippets or metaphors.  Coaching is not the place to share your secrets or suggest clients follow what you did.  

The best coaches are also not just good at motivating. They are experts in helping their clients create a success plan that works for them.   Motivation is not the end; it is only the start.  Success is a process and without the right process, it does not matter how inspired or motivated one is. Without good process skills and helping a client move forward, your clients will eventually either think you’re not a good coach or coaching does not work.   Get professionally trained as a coach and learn these critical points.

How many people go to a Tony Robbins event, get inspired by a religious service, read a great book, and are motivated?  Many, right?  However, what does that have to do with changing careers, becoming a great real estate agent, starting a business, or writing a book?  Those things require the right process and work to achieve success.  

4. Your Clients Don't Come First

If you decide to put your ideas and motives before your client's needs, you will likely fail.  If you’re a recovery coach and believe in AA or narcotics anonymous, your clients may not.  It is critical you respect that or do not take them on as a client.  This is something many failed life and business coaches do. They think their ideas or gut feelings are correct and their client is wrong. Coaches do not have crystal balls!  

You should never put your ideas and motives before the ideas of your clients. Let go of your ego, let your client take the applause, and feel good about the direction they want to go in.   If it does not work then (which happens often) you are there to support them to try a new approach.  

5. You Provide No Challenge to Your Clients

When you take on a coaching client and you don't challenge them, they probably won't stick around long. People hire coaches to help them achieve specific goals and move forwards. If you don't challenge your clients, they will find someone else that will.

Probably this is the number one failure of novice coaches.  Coaches that listen on and on to a client’s story and never stop them to find a forward direction.  You need courage to be a coach!  Sometimes it is risky but letting clients continue to whine, complain, and tell you how bad things are is a great example of a poorly trained coach. We must find out where a client is and where they want to go.  Then help them build a bridge.  If you let them stay stuck in the past then you are now another part of their problem. Someone that becomes an enabler.

Don’t get this confused with empathy and taking time to appreciate a client’s desire to share about themselves.  However, you must at some point turn the corner and help them move forward.

6. Lack of Business Skills or Marketing

As a coach, you need to have or develop some level of business skills.  If people cannot find you, it naturally makes it very difficult for you to take on clients.

Coaches that think they can just get trained and clients will find them are fooling themselves. You are not just a coach, but also an entrepreneur. Unless you want a coaching job or are using your coaching skill internally, you need to have some basic business skills and you need to market your business.

All businesses have many parts and need support. No one achieves success alone!  You cannot be an expert in everything so you need to be good at getting help and outsourcing in those areas you are not good at.   Why do people hire coaches in the first place?   Maybe you need a coach to coach you on building a coaching business.

7. You Don't Live What You Teach

There is nothing worse than a hypocrite. Nobody wants to work with a hypocrite. If you don't practice what you say, as a coach, you're more likely to fail. The reason for this failure is actually from seeing yourself as a fraud.

Modeling is one of the best ways to teach anything. If you are not living out what you support others to do, you will likely not last long as a coach.

Top 4 Tips to Help You Become a Successful Coach

1. Be a Coach and an Entrepreneur

You cannot just become trained as a coach and become successful. Knowing how to be a good coach and work with clients is very important. However, you will also want to know how to run the business and administrative side of your practice.  Build a team as no one becomes a success by themselves.

2. Learn Marketing or Hire a Good Marketing Team

You must get the word out to grow your coaching business. The best way to do this is with marketing. Either learn how to market your coaching services properly or hire a team of professional marketers to do it for you. With good marketing, you can become a financially successful coach.

3. Use the Right Tools for Administrative Tasks

You can easily become bogged down with administrative tasks. Choosing the right tools to help you with the following tasks will help:

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Gaining reviews/testimonials from clients
  • Following up with leads
  • Keeping track of and paying business bills
  • And more!

You want to have the right tools in place to make all your administrative tasks easier. This will save you time and keep you from becoming too overwhelmed.

4. Specialize in a Specific Coaching Niche

You don't need to know how to coach in every possible area. You must specialize in one or maybe a few related areas.  By training at an accredited ICF school, you will also learn how to combine a few niches. Plus, many coaching issues cross over so you need the skill to coach in multiple areas but cannot get clients advertising as a one-stop shop for every issue known to mankind.   Trying to attract all types of clients as a generalist rarely works out.

Some of the most common niches in coaching include:

There are many other niches to choose from.  You want to start with what areas you find interesting.  That you would want to spend your days coaching on.   Yes, someone might want to specialize as a grief coach but you need to ask yourself, do you want to spend 4 – 6 hours a day in conversations with people in grief?   Does that excite you?   Can you handle that?   Specializing has proven that coaches will become more successful in a shorter period.

There are many ways to support you in having a successful coaching career. By having a clear understanding of why many coaches fail, you have a greater chance of success. Of course, with the right coach training program, you can build a foundation for success.

Please review the points above as they have many years of experience behind them.  Putting a good plan in place and making sure you treat coaching as a business will help you become a wildly successful coach.  Good luck and enjoy the fruits of our wonderful profession!


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