5 Critical Mistakes Coaches Make (and how to correct them)

Coaching is one of the most effective ways to facilitate change. If done correctly, it can have a radical impact on a person’s results and drastically improve their life. On the flip side, if it is not done well, the person being coached may not experience the full benefits of what coaching brings and may have a negative experience of coaching. So what are these mistakes and how can they be corrected?

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The five critical mistakes described below, are often related to a one-on-one coaching relationship.

  1. Telling the client what they need to do. It is very easy for a coach to try and impress their client by sharing what they know and telling the client what they think the client should do. While there is a place for that in a coaching relationship, the real skill of a coach comes from their ability to use powerful coaching techniques to guide the client to come up with answers themselves.

    How to correct this? Develop the skills and confidence of a coach. Learn how to ask powerful questions, be able to listen to what is being said and what is not being said, and engage your curiosity. If advice is to be given, ask the client’s permission first.

  2. Interrupting the client with a question or comment. This comes down to a coach not trusting their own abilities to remember what they would like to ask the client next, so they jump in with a comment or question. When a coach interrupts a client, they are not present with them, which is a huge disservice to the client.

    How to correct this? Be prepared for the sessions. Review notes from previous sessions and have a set of questions prepared so you don’t have to worry about remembering what to ask next. Also, learning to trust your intuition or inklings during sessions. Having a coaching methodology is extremely beneficial. I share a simple but powerful methodology in my book, Transition from Manager to Coach.

  3. Becoming impatient or passing judgement. At times, it may be quite obvious for a coach to identify what the core issues are for the client. However, it may not be so obvious for the client so they may try to avoid getting to the core issue or make up excuses to deflect from what is really going on. In such situations, a mistake coaches make is to become judgemental or impatient with a client, which ultimately doesn’t serve the client.

    How to correct this? Stay with the issue as long as required until the client is able to address the issue head-on. This takes a respectable amount of confidence from a coach. Knowing what to ask, how to ask it and when to ask is a skill any competent coach must have.

  4. Not challenging the client enough. It is easy for a coach to buy into a client’s patterns or behaviours especially if the client is unwilling to step out of their comfort zone. In such cases, not challenging the client will be a disservice to them because coaching is about breakthroughs and going beyond the comfort zone. If a coach fails to challenge the client, they are basically accepting the client’s reality as what is possible for the client.

    How to correct this? The way to address this is at the very start of the coaching relationship. Typically, having an intake session with the client before the actual coaching sessions begin is extremely beneficial. During the intake session, the client can complete a questionnaire and also start to build rapport with the coach. The coach can ask questions like, “If you don’t complete a task or action that you’ve agreed to, how can I support you through that so you can follow through on your commitments?”

  5. Not asking for feedback from the client. This is a really serious mistake because ultimately, the coaching sessions are for the client’s benefit. Not knowing whether the client is getting value from the sessions or whether the sessions are meeting their expectations can be detrimental to the coaching relationship. Asking for feedback from the client at the end of each session is vital in order to meet the objectives of the coaching relationship.

    How to correct this? Have a feedback form with prepared questions to ask the client. Ask questions like, “What did you find most valuable from our session today?” or “How are the coaching sessions meeting your expectations?”

These are some of the critical mistakes coaches make. I share a lot more mistakes coaches make at each stage of the coaching session and how to correct them in my book, Transition from Manager to Coach.

Question: What other mistakes do you think coaches make?

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  • Jane Ransom

    Brilliant! I have made every one of these mistakes at least once, and you are right about every one. The balance between not telling the client what to do, but also not enabling them to stay stuck… well, that’s a delicate balance and it does take confidence. Personally, I have found it more helpful to get feedback once a month rather than after every session. Sometimes it takes the client time to process new information, or to experience the benefits of taking action, before they can fully assess the value. And likewise, if something is bothering them, it may take awhile before they realize that, too. Just a thought.

    • Neel Raman

      Thank you Jane! You share an interesting perspective around getting feedback monthly instead of after every session. That certainly will work. The key thing is to ask for regular feedback and ensure the client’s needs are being met. Thanks for share your views.

  • Sean Smith

    Love it, Neel. Coaching is definitely a science and a very important relationship. These points are critical to the success of this relationship, especially #4 for me. If we don’t advocate for our clients’ dreams, we are failing them as a coach.

    • Neel Raman

      I totally agree with you Sean. A coaching relationship is such an important relationship. Coaches need to be able to take clients beyond what they believe is possible for them and challenging the client is key. Thanks for your perspective.