Coaching ‘reluctant’ people

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You can't coach me if I don't let you!

Why would anyone be reluctant to work in a coaching relationship when, as we know, it’s all about helping them to access their ability and achieve success.

Once people get to know you as a manager who coaches you can expect a steady stream of motivated, intelligent, ambitious individuals to beat a path to your door. I think it fair to warn you that they’ll not just be from your own reporting line or department either. These people are likely to be performing well already, but will want to do even better.

So far so good, but what about the people you want to coach who aren’t clammering for your attention? What about the people you’re going to have to coach and help improve before more serious procedures are brought to bear? This requires more thought.

Some will be reluctant to be coached simply because they are nervous about what to expect or are simply misinformed. Coaching has been misrepresented in certain circles and some unhelpful myths have emerged. Some see coaching as purely remedial and undertaking coaching therefore as some kind of admission of weakness. Others have seen the popular media latch on to the worst of the life coaching movement and may fear that you’ll have them pretending to be a tree in search of spiritual enlightenment. None of this could be further from the truth. The antidote to such misinformation is good quality information and I would recommend that before any coaching conversations commence that you take time to explore what the person concerns understands about coaching to ally any fears and clear up any misunderstandings.

Others will be reluctant because coaching really is remedial in their situation and has perhaps been arranged as part of an overall attempt at managing the recovery of a genuine poor performer. It may even be the precursor to invoking the organisation’s disciplinary procedure. This is far from the ideal backdrop to successful coaching and if you’re being asked to be a third-party coach (i.e. coach to someone other than a member of your own team) then you need to be careful that the line manager concerned is not just abdicating responsibility because they cannot tackle poor performance. Trust will be the single most important element in the coaching relationship that you forge and I recommend a largely informal first meeting where you and the coachee can each establish a few ground rules. I also think such a meeting should look at identifying a few strengths as people in these situations can often feel a bit weather beaten and as if everyone is against them. This is not a soft approach; it is absolutely necessary to restore some self belief if there’s to be any chance of recovery. Next you can establish some arrangements to include things like time schedule and confidentiality and I always find it useful to set some coaching objectives; to define, if you like what success will look like. It should then be possible to get into detailed coaching in later sessions with many of the barriers removed.


Matt Somers

Matt Somers

Matt Somers is the UK’s leading trainer of managers as coaches. His coaching skills training programmes, books, articles and seminars have helped thousands of managers achieve outstanding results through their people.

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