Day 16: 3 Reasons Executive Coaches Fail

Not everyone who presents themselves to the world as a coach makes it successfully. And the last thing you want to do is to choose a coach who ends up breaking off your relationship in the middle. There are three factors I have observed in my peers that I believe underlie many of the failures in our industry. The good news is that you can interview your coach to help avoid these issues.

Failure happens in every industry. In law school, for instance, some make it to become a lawyer and others do not. Hopefully every failure is a learning experience all around. If we are lucky, we can learn from others’ failures. Here are three ways I see coaches struggle.

1. A Lack of Specialized Training

Being a coach can be emotionally challenging. You are of course involved with your clients in their professional lives. Yet you often end up becoming involved in their personal life as well, because that is (of course) affecting their work life.

In the confidence of a coaching session, clients sometimes share deeply personal information with you that they may not even share with their spouse or close family members. They may be experiencing deep stress and talk about those challenges, including shame, guilt and other chalenging issues.

By working with this information from a neutral place, we as coaches can help our clients understand that emotions can be managed, and then help them do exactly that. We can guide our clients to move forward and create meta-plans that can help reach their goals. This is what coaching is great at: reaching new goals.

Yet, I’ve seen that when a coach lacks training, or is unable to establish a detached yet compassionate involvement, that coach cannot create this environment of deep trust. They cannot create a healthy boundary that says you are the coach, not the friend, and you are facilitating the conversation for a purpose. And that can backfire in the relationship.

If coaches can’t establish this healthy kind of link, trust suffers. When a client trusts less, unfortunately, they don’t get the results they want to see. The client may even feel like they could have talked to a friend instead of hiring that coach. That’s not good for the client or for the viability of that coach’s practice.

2. Solopreneuring Is Another Set of Skills

Another noticeable factor in coaching is that 92% of all coaches are solopreneurs, hanging out their shingle alone. That means only 8% have decided to work together and create an organization or supportive group working environment.

Many coaches are altruistic. (Not all of them, unfortunately, but overall, yes.) They want to bring coaching to people and help them, but they are not necessarily equipped or trained to be entrepreneurs and build and run a full business. It’s a special set of skills that don’t just drop down out of the sky.

For many coaches, It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially at first in the business-building phase. I’ve seen coaches struggle to create a personal brand. I’ve seen them believe they don’t need to knock on doors and get out to meet people to build a successful business.

Unfortunately, because of this lack of understanding of what it takes to build a resilient business, few coaches build their practice up until they are able to make enough money to live on. Eventually, they need to move on and do something else.

3. Not Getting Coaching Themselves

Finally, I have noticed that coaches who fail are often not working with coaches themselves. That’s an important action to take, especially when you are in this type of advisory position, to lead by example.

It an important question of how authentic a coach is and where their intentions are aligned. Are they selling coaching services to clients when they are not themselves willing to invest to get the same type of coaching and work on the same kinds of results?

Coaches understand the value of coaching, and it should be one of the first resources they reach for. (Especially for point #2, when building a business from scratch!)

Getting coaching yourself isn’t about looking good, but about being able to work on your own challenges to reach your goals and become the best coach you can be. It’s about being in integrity.


There are so many ways coaches can overcome these three challenges and reach the next level. I chose to go through a certification process, for example, which took one year. Then I went through an additional credentialing process. Credentialing required that I continue to educate myself, grow, and experience coaching myself through a mentor coaching process. And I have continued these practices ever since.

Since I opened my coaching business, I have repeatedly invested in myself. I have had a coach every year for about 6-9 months of the year, to work on specific aspects of my business or mindset, or to work on personal development.

That coaching is what has helped me to still be here with you today. It has helped me have the resilience and persistence to be an excellent coach and to become successful, supporting many clients today as I continue to grow myself and my business.

The coaches that fail are not bad people. In your industry, you can probably think of people that were not successful yet were well-intentioned. It does mean that at some point they will have to become aware of their own shortcomings with regard to what they want to accomplish. Once they know that, they can equip themselves with the right tools, the right resources, and the right mindset and the environment to make themselves successful again. Hopefully, they will get a little coaching to make a smooth change or transition.

Have You Failed Recently?

If you feel that you have failed in some way in the past, I know the feeling. I have felt the same at many points in my life. Each of those “failures” are stepping stones or pebbles that help us get to the next level… if we accept the opportunity.

If you feel stuck, you have many options for moving forward. You can find a mentor, talk to a friend, create a brainstorming session with your team or with a family member, or hire a coach. It’s important to find the resources you need to continue to grow and make yourself successful. You’ll be glad you did.


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