When it's okay to fire the clientAlmost always my time coaching people is a wonderful experience where they gain insight, address challenges, experience breakthroughs, and take positive steps toward their vision. But there are times when we just don’t seem to get traction. When those kinds of situations arise, as one did for me recently, I walked into the house after my coaching call and said to my wife Janet, “Just shoot me now.” It’s frustrating when you don’t get traction.

I’ve reflected on the various times when that seems to happen. Here are some of the common blockages to effective coaching:

Not motivated to change: Nothing is worse than trying to coach somebody who doesn’t actually want to change. I see this sometimes when I’m training new coaches. They need someone to practice their coaching skills on, so they find a person willing to help them out by serving as a coaching client– but that person doesn’t sense a need to change. In those cases, the person learning to coach can’t really sharpen their coaching skills. I myself am a very good, experienced coach, but if the person doesn’t want to change I can’t make them. Better to start with a person who is motivated and wants to do something– even if they have a lot of obstacles– and you can help them move forward.

Victim mentality: Some people feel trapped without hope of a way out. Their personal pain is so high that they’re not in a position where they have the emotional or spiritual strength to move forward. Even if you ask them good questions and try to help them brainstorm options, they just can’t see their way out. In many of these cases, the best approach is a referral to counseling. They need to do that work before coaching can be effective.

Unwillingness to follow through: In some cases, even when people desire change, they are not willing to pay the price necessary to get it. The desire for change is not strong enough to overcome their fear or resistance. It’s like T-ball. The wiffle ball is just sitting there positioned on the T, but the player still needs to go up and swing the bat if they want to hit it. If someone consistently refuses to swing the bat, they’re not going to get results. In cases like that, it’s okay to fire the client. They’re not yet ready to follow through on what they need to do in order to get the change they’re looking for.