Working as a life coach for several years I have learned from personal experience and observed the many mistakes that are made within my industry. These mistakes often destroy the coaching dynamics between the life coach and client and they can literally push people away from coaching all together.
Many of these mistakes are rather obvious and can be avoided quite easily, while others are very subtle in nature, however their impact on the process of life coaching cannot be underestimated.
Today’s discussion will focus on breaking down each of these life coaching mistakes and outlines the impact they have on the client and the coaching session. Moreover, I will attempt to outline solutions that can hopefully guide life coaches through their coaching sessions far more effectively. In addition to this, this IQ Matrix can also be used as an effective reference tool to help us improve the quality of our communication with other people.
Within this section I will outline the mistakes that life coaches tend to make pertaining to their personal perceptions of the client’s circumstances.
Diagnosing Psychological Conditions
This should be left to Psychologists and Psychiatrists who have been thoroughly trained in this area.
Making Quick Assumptions
Making assumptions about the circumstances of a client’s life without fully understanding the big picture is a critical coaching mistake. Additionally, making assumptions about a client’s beliefs, feelings, perspectives, values, strengths and weaknesses, and their thought process can affect the progress of a coaching session. A life coach needs to have a comprehensive understanding of a client’s behavior before any concrete conclusions about a client’s psychological tendencies can be reached.
By not taking into consideration wider circumstances and causes that are affecting a client’s current reality may significantly lead the client astray.
Misunderstanding a Client
This includes misunderstanding a client’s needs, wants and abilities as a result of assumptions that have been made.
Within this section I will outline the mistakes that life coaches make pertaining to their communication style and preferences.
Not Listening Intently
Not listening intently to the client’s words and to the underlying feelings and intentions behind the words they speak can lead to miscommunication and ultimately lead the client down the wrong path.
Not leading by Example
Whether they like it or not, a life coach effectively becomes a role model for their clients. Their personal actions must therefore be congruent and consistent with their advice, otherwise conflicts may arise.
Not sharing Thoughts, Inklings and Personal Experiences
The best way for a client to learn is to gather information from an alternate perspective — from someone else’s experiences and mistakes. A life coach must therefore be willing to share their thoughts and inklings at all times in order to help steer their client in the right direction.
Not Paraphrasing Personal Understanding
If a life coach isn’t paraphrasing their client’s words back to the client, than they probably haven’t fully grasped a clear understanding of their client’s perspectives.
Paraphrasing enables the client to correct misunderstandings or any assumptions that the life coach may be making.
Not Asking Effective Questions
If a life coach isn’t asking insightful, open-ended and reflective questions, than their questions are simply not going to assist their client with making the changes they desire to realize in their life. The more insightful the question, the more thought is required, and the more likely the client will be able to find a suitable answer.
Not Modeling the Client
In order to create deep levels of rapport a life coach must always be modeling a client’s body movement, language, facial expressions, vocal tendencies, words and communication style. This must of course be done in a very subtle and non-obtrusive manner.
Judging or Criticizing Client
A life coach must at all times remain neutral on all issues, and should use the power of asking effective questions to glide over sensitive topics. If they are unable to do this with a particular client, then they should stop coaching that client immediately.
Avoiding Touchy Subjects
Usually clients will want to avoid sensitive subjects because they may be embarrassed or ashamed of their behavior or actions. However, a life coach must tackle these issues, fully understanding that the answers to deep rooted psychological tendencies lie within these sensitive areas of a client’s life.
Correcting a Client’s Language
A life coach isn’t an English teacher, and should therefore not correct a client’s language. Instead they should focus on helping their client overcome obstacles that are preventing them from living the life they desire to live.
Assuming Your Truths Equal Client’s Truths
A life coach should never make the mistake of assuming that their client’s view of the world is similar to theirs. Each individual’s truths are made up of their own interpretations of their reality and should therefore be viewed from the client’s own unique perspectives.
Telling Client They Are Wrong
Everything is only a perspective, and perspectives change as a result of new insights and understandings. Instead of telling a client that they are wrong, a life coach must ask effective questions to help their client see their circumstances from a new perspective that they may never have considered before.
Giving Unqualified Advice
Unless a life coach is also qualified in other professional fields, they should avoid at all costs giving their clients financial or legal advice.
Jargon belongs on the playground and not in a professional environment where someone else is paying for your time. Jargon can also be easily misunderstood, which can lead to unfortunate consequences.
Using Email for Touchy Subjects
Sensitive issues must be discussed and not handled over an email client. This reduces the risk of misunderstandings.
A life coach that is too noisy, blunt, friendly, quiet, passive or professional is not thinking about their client’s needs, but rather their own. Uniquely adapting your approach to each client is a foundational skill of competent life coaches.
Being Overly Linear, Optimistic and Directive
A life coach guides their client down the right path in a realistic and creative way. Anything that moves away from this strategy is not considered life coaching.
Within this section I will outline the mistakes that life coaches make pertaining to their general coaching approach.
Talking About Self
A client is paying you for your time and guidance. They don’t want to hear your life story unless it directly relates to their circumstances. And even then a life coach must be brief and to the point.
It’s easy to get sidetracked during a typical conversation. However, when it comes to life coaching this is inexcusable. Focus on the task at hand, because your client’s livelihood is at stake.
Anything that is discussed between a life coach and their client is confidential. A life coach must therefore not discuss the client’s circumstances with anybody else — this includes their partner.
Investing Emotions into Client
In order for a life coach to remain neutral, they must never invest their emotions into a client’s life or circumstances. These emotions will create a fog that will distract them from the real issues at hand.
Working from Personal Belief Systems
Each client has a unique set of beliefs about their life and circumstances. These beliefs are likely very different to your own, and therefore a life coach must not assume that what they believe is what their client also believes.
Coaching Uncoachable Clients
Some clients are simply not yet ready for coaching often due to their current state-of-mind. A life coach must spot these types of clients and refrain from coaching them. If they ignore this advice they may suffer a backlash from a client who is unhappy with the progress they are making.
Coaching All Client’s the Same Way
It’s perfectly acceptable for a life coach to have a set of guidelines and a process that they undertake while coaching clients. However, this process must be flexible to accommodate for each client’s unique perspectives and needs.
Taking Responsibility for Client’s Successes and Failures
Life coaching is all about empowering people, and helping them to take full responsibility for their lives and circumstances. It is therefore irresponsible for a life coach to accept praise for a client’s successes or to point the finger at themselves for their client’s failures. A client must become accountable and take full responsibility for everything, otherwise they will simply fail to gain from their coaching experience.
Taking on Another Role
During conversation it is easy to take on other roles in order to meet the needs of the interaction. However, a life coach must be careful not to take on another role such as that of a parent, friend or therapist. Each of these roles may seem suitable in that moment, however the long-term effects of these roles on the client’s continued growth and development could be riddled with unwelcome consequences.
Not Being Receptive or Patient
A life coach must understand that each client has their own psychological speedometer. Some will move quickly, while others will take time to adapt to the changing circumstances of their life while moving through the life coaching process. As a result the life coach must be patient and receptive to their client’s needs at all times.
Not Laying Ground Rules
If there are no ground rules, then a life coach will struggle to maintain control, and the client will suffer the consequences of not having a working-compass to steer them in the right direction. Ground rules also help prevent time being wasted on unnecessary activities.
Not Initiating Topics for Discussion
The purpose of life coaching is to direct the conversation and to guide the client down the right path. This involves initiating topics for discussion, and not waiting for the client to take the reigns.
Like a sports coach, a life coach observes from afar and brings to attention their understanding of what is going on out in the field of play.
Appearing Affected By Client’s Criticisms
Everyone is human, and things may not always go as planned, and as a result the client may not always be happy with their progress or with the direction of their coaching. A life coach must understand this, and must stay calm and collected when a client is critical of their approach. Only in this way can an effective solution be found.
Frustrated with Client’s Progress and Attitude
A life coach must never appear to be frustrated with a client’s progress or attitude. They must instead look for solutions that may resolve these roadblocks. Whether these solutions are found within themselves or within their client’s perspectives, it does not matter. All that matters is that frustration does not direct the focus on the coaching sessions. However, if it does get to that stage, then the life coach must make a decision of whether or not to continue coaching this client.
Assigning Client Tasks
Within this section I will outline the mistakes that life coaches make pertaining to the tasks that are assigned to their clients during a typical coaching session.
Over Complicating Tasks
Keep things simple stupid!
All tasks should be simple, yet substantially challenging in order to motivate a client to complete them successfully.
Protecting the Client
It’s understandable to want to protect your client from failure, rejection, disappointment, and from making mistakes, however it is also counterproductive to coaching.
We only really learn when we fail, when we make mistakes, when we are rejected over and over again. And we only succeed when we have failed time and time again.
Help your client understand that failure, rejection, disappointment and mistakes are built upon perspectives and not facts. As such we learn from these experiences and better ourselves for the future.
Nothing is ever certain due to the unpredictable nature of human beings and circumstances. As such, a life coach must never promise results. Instead they can provide their client with possible outcomes, none of which is certain to eventuate. Moreover they must explain to their client that every outcome is dependent upon them and their commitment to make the changes they want to realize in their lives.
Pushing a Client too Hard or too Quickly
Every client needs someone to push them beyond their comfort zone. However, too far beyond their comfort zone and psychological paralysis strikes and nothing is achieved. A life coach must therefore come to familiarize themselves with each and every one of their client’s speed-of-change and ability to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances. They must then use this information and adapt their approach accordingly.
Not Learning from Client
Every client has something to teach their life coach about their coaching approach. A good life coach understands this and learns from every coaching experience.
Not Instructing Thoroughly and Clearly
Clear and thorough instructions are absolutely critical to effective life coaching. If a client is even slightly confused, then this automatically raises a red flag and could lead to unpredictable consequences that may push a client away from coaching or lead them down an undesirable path.
Forcing a Client to Change
Change happens naturally when all psychological, behavioral, physical, social and environmental forces have been accounted for and successfully managed through the process of life coaching.
A life coach must realize this and clearly understand that if a client is struggling to change and adapt that there must be hidden underlying issues that have not as yet been accounted for. Identify and manage them successfully, and change will begin to happen naturally.
Accepting Client’s Unrealistic Dreams and Goals
As impossible as this may seem, many clients do not think realistically about their dreams and goals.
The purpose of life coaching in such instances is to ground this person in reality, while expanding their horizons and breaking down their objectives into minuscule manageable chunks. The purpose here is not to dishearten the client, but to focus their attention on smaller fragments of their goals one step at a time.
Avoiding Client Money Problems
Whether we accept this or not, money is usually at the core of most problems that clients face. Successfully dealing with these issues often opens the doors to a world of new possibilities. However, it’s not always about money, but rather about a client’s perspective about money that hurts them most. Change this perspective, help them manage their psychology more effectively, and miraculously their money problems seem to disappear.
Expecting too Little or too Much from a Client
It’s difficult, however a life coach must subdue their expectations. When they expect too little from a client, the client usually accommodates them. When they expect too much from a client, then the client can easily become overwhelmed. Instead a life coach must focus on the client’s needs and effectively guide them down the path of least resistance and greatest fulfillment.
As with every profession, life coaching brings with it a delicate balance of techniques, strategies and tools that when used correctly can bring about positive change within people. However, when misused or rather abused, these tools can impact a client’s livelihood in very unpredictable ways.
As life coaches we have a responsibility to protect our client’s best interests at all times. And as a result we must be very vigilant of our every word, behavior and action in order to ensure that it is consistent with the intent of meeting our client’s needs now and in the future.
A great resource for those wanting to get started with life coaching is the Coachville website. It is very much a central hub for information about life coaching. They also have a intriguing range of handy tools and information for people starting out within the coaching industry.
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any further queries or questions, or would like to share your experiences about this topic, than please do so in the comments section below.