How Do You Respond When Your Coaching Sessions Don’t Meet Expectations?
A former client reached out to me a couple of weeks ago asking for advice on what to do when his coaching sessions don’t work out as well as he’d hoped. He wasn’t sure why some were more effective than others and he was even questioning if he was doing something wrong!
“How do you cope with that situation?” he asked. “Do you accept that’s just how it goes?”
There can be many reasons why a particular session would not be as effective as others, and without watching the particular session in question it would be impossible to speculate…
However there are some general guidelines to diagnose what is going wrong and how to respond in effective ways when you find yourself in these situations.
Was it a fluke?
Perhaps the stars just weren’t aligned today. Sometimes we can do everything right and still not get our desired results. Not all coaching conversations will be transformational, nor do we need all of them to be for the client to get their desired results. Release the pressure for every session to be transformational — every session does not need to be transformational, just one of them.
How is your relationship with ‘failure’/mistake making?
If you always got the results you desired/expected you would never learn or grow so be grateful for these experiences as opportunities for growth and allow yourself to get curious as to why this session didn’t get your expected results. Was it their state? Was it my technique? Was it a lack of flexibility on my part? You may or may not be able to pinpoint the exact reason, but there is value in the exploration to better prepare yourself for similar situations if/when they arise in the future.
Were you adequately prepared?
Could you have performed better if you had prepared more for this particular session? Did you block off some time before the session to review this client’s notes? Did you take a few moments to get yourself into the best state for coaching?
Have you been taking good care of yourself?
Have you been sleeping/eating/exercising well? Have you been under stress recently? Take good care of your needs to increase the likelihood of performing at the best of your abilities.
Are you overly attached to your client’s outcomes?
Your client’s results are out of your control. Are you being over-responsible for your client’s results? If yes, could that be taking responsibility away from your clients which paradoxically is decreasing the likelihood of them achieving the outcomes you so very much want them to achieve?
Are you taking it personally?
When your clients don’t get their desired results (or your expected results) have you been taking it personally? It’s not about you. At the very most it is about your lack of skillfulness at your present level of development. The good news is that you can develop your skills. Don’t let it cut you to your core, but instead take it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Is this client a good fit for you/your methods?
Is this client a good fit for you? If you sense that they won’t get results from your style it is perfectly okay to offer them a refund for any unused sessions and let them know your honest perspective. Be sure to take full responsibility on you and not them e.g. “My sense is that MY skills/techniques are not going to provide your desired results and I wanted to be authentic and upfront about that as soon as possible.” Send them on their way or ideally refer them on to someone who you think will be a better fit. Learn from this and do a better job filtering who will be a good fit and who won’t
Do you continually invest in developing your skills?
While we want to be accepting of our shortcomings, we also don’t want to resign to our present level of skillfulness. Mastery is a never ending pathway and becoming consistently transformational as a coach is a long-term outcome with a very high level skill cap. The more time and energy you invest in increasing your skills, the more skilled you will become and the more frequently your sessions will meet and exceed your expectations.
Have you received coaching supervision recently (or ever)?
In my experience the absolute fastest way to develop your skills towards mastery is through receiving high-quality feedback from someone who is further along the pathway than we are. Coach/consultant supervision sessions are a big part of my coach mentoring program and a powerful tool for accelerated learning and skill development. Just a few sessions of high quality coaching supervision can be equivalent in value to dozens of hours of training and skill development.
While we will never be 100% successful with 100% of our clients in 100% of our sessions, the more skilled we get the more probable that we will get a higher quality result, with a larger proportion of our clients, in a higher proportion of our sessions.
When you are better able to filter in and out the right and wrong clients, manage your state when sessions don’t meet your (or your client’s expectations), and develop your skills to increase the frequency of successful sessions you’ll be on your way toward building a coaching practice your client’s can’t help but spread the word about.
On a quick sidebar, these topics (including coaching supervision sessions and more) are exactly what we cover in my one year coach mentoring program to support coaches/consultants to build a steady referral based business so you can spend less time marketing and more time doing the work you love. If you think it might be a good fit DM me and we’ll have a quick chat to see if it’s right for you.