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The Leadership Forum

Coaching someone who doesn't want help

Coaching someone who doesn't want to be coached can be very difficult indeed. In fact as a coach it's one of the hardest things to overcome.

I've come across a great article that tackles this subject and provides some great ideas for approaching these situations

Coaching an Employee who doesn't want help

There are some other useful links in this article that you may find useful as well.

Have you ever been in this situation?

How did you approach it?

Were you successful?

What advice can you provide to others who my be facing a similar situation?

I'd be very interested in your thoughts and experiences 


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  • Hi Mike, very interesting article, with very useful tips!  This is a situation that occurs quite frequently in organizations I believe, particularly when the coach is the coachee's manager.

    Will share with my people managers.


  • Hi Mike,

    In my former role, I delivered Coaching and Mentoring to senior Military management - selling a concept that held little value in some instances to some people.  This question cropped up on numerous occasions and it always generated effective discussions around a strategy of dealing with it. 

    There was an ethos of "why waste time" on coaching someone who is reticent to engage however it leaves the situation unattended to and no one develops.  There are also contrasting arguments that you should continue to coach until the coachee's "awareness" has been raised sufficiently to alleviate, remove or realign the distortion from the communication channels.  Conversely, identification of coaching needs and close alignment of the organisational needs was a method suggested, however the subjective nature of the topic could lead to a more personalised approach.  There was also a more authoritarian approach that “could” be taken to ensure development took place, through the delivery of a consequence of failing to rectify shortcomings, there was no evidence to support this approach or indeed its effectiveness.

    In essence, coaching is the identification of barriers and their subsequent removal.  Effective communication and programming of responses may alleviate an individual’s “wants” in being coached.  It is most certainly a tricky situation and coaching experts throughout the UK have suggested that wasting time on coaching a disengaged individual eats into time of people who want and need to be coached.

    Happy to discuss further.



    • Good points, Stu, I guess the question that arises is, "where do we draw the line, when investing in a coaching relationship?" Disengaged employees can be (and I have seen it happen) re-engaged and supported to live to their true (and great, indeed) potential, through effective coaching. What do you think are the clear indicators that the coaching efforts should stop?


      • Mari,

        Thank you for the comment.  I agree that disengaged employees can be re-engaged and supported as long as the culture and beliefs are right.  As for when to stop the coaching efforts, that's a tricky one.  Each case is purely subjective and unique and would lead to conjecture on my behalf.  I observe and listen for certain cues that the coaching efforts could be fruitless.  Non verbal communication, monosyllabic responses and the tone used are three main indicators for me.  I have also seen (not from coaching myself, but observing other coaches) that the coachee will fully engage in the process and do very little to put into action the areas the raised.

        Its a tough one to gauge but generally (in my experience)  it becomes pretty obvious when to call it a day.



        • Thank you, Stu - useful hints and agree it's a very case-by-case situation.Very important point about the culture and beliefs, as well - the baseline I think to make things work, especially in the question under discussion.

          I guess many factors are at play and maturity, experience (both on the coach and coachee's side) + maybe just asking the coachee upfront if they're willing to make the efforts could help to bring clarity in such situations.

          Thanks again for your thoughts,


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