Why is Your Client Uncoachable?

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Why is Your Client Uncoachable?

Salting vegetables

Where do you draw a line in the sand…

…when it comes to whether or not your client is coachable?

If a client paid you for coaching

…they are, by definition, coachable.

At least that’s what I believe.

Some clients are a blast to coach…

…and almost effortless to make a difference for.

But what about the clients who miss their calls…

…show up late…

…don’t take action…

…complain and argue with you?

These clients are so tough, that when you end the session…

…you are DONE with them.

Or say “Boy would I love to fire them.”

Are THOSE CLIENTS coachable?


So why do they seem so UNcoachable?

Because there was a missing ingredient.

Have you ever tried your breakfast, made a funny face, and said “Needs salt”?

Salting vegetables

And then you added that salt, and totally enjoyed your meal?

That’s the difference a missing ingredient can make.

And it’s the same for your coaching sessions with those ‘uncoachable clients’.

If you would’ve used that ‘missing ingredient’ in your session with them, they would’ve transformed before your eyes…

…becoming the ‘coachable’ client you hoped for.

What ingredients do you need to coach these uncoachable clients?

There are 3:

Create Rapport

This is the most crucial ingredient of the coaching relationship.

It creates trust, a sense of comfort and safety, and honest conversation.

The fastest way to create rapport is to use the 3 Step Compliment:

STEP ONE: Look for something that you really admire in your client, and compliment them on it.

STEP TWO: Back up your compliment by saying, “I say that because…” (and share your sincere reasons for your compliment)

STEP THREE: Ask a question to learn more (especially about the focus of your compliment). For example, “How did you develop that skill?” or “What about you made it possible to create that result?”

The key to this compliment actually generating deep rapport?

Recognizing something about your client that you sincerely admire or appreciate, proving your sincerity, then transferring ownership of that compliment to your client.

Recognizing something about your client that you sincerely admire or appreciate, proving your sincerity, then transferring ownership of that compliment to your client.”

This compliment is an act of generosity on your part, and it’s 100% free.

There are plenty of other helpful tools for building better rapport with your clients, to make them feel safe and supported by you in the coaching process, and to create a sense of equal partnership between you and them.

I cover several more of them HERE.

Seldom do I run a coaching session where the client and I don’t have rapport…

…but when I find a gap between the coaching I need to give them and what they are willing to hear

lack of rapport is the source of that gap.

If my client doesn’t feel…

  • Safe enough
  • Understood or supported enough
  • Like enough of a partner in the process…

…then I can’t break through that wall…

…the ‘shield’ naturally erected by a conversational adversary.

THE POINT: Your client turns into an adversary any time there’s a lack of sufficient rapport.

Establish a Clean Space

This is one of the most valuable aspects of coaching.

You create a clean space in any coaching session where you listen to your client, without inserting your own agenda.

You create a clean space in any coaching session where you listen to your client, without inserting your own agenda.”

That clean space creates a unique opening for transformation.

Most clients don’t ever experience this type of listening outside of coaching.

How do you create this “clean space” in a coaching session?

1. Be Non-Judgemental:

Accept your client where they are, not where you think they should be.

2. Don’t Jump Into “The Pool” With Your Client:

Maintain a neutral posture regarding your client’s circumstances; without agreeing or disagreeing with them.

If your client is having issues with their mother, spouse, or sibling; keep your own issues and beliefs out of the conversation.

3. Create a Drama-Free Zone:

It’s hard for your client to sort out their issues with drama in the air.

Whenever I’m…

  • Judging my client
  • Distracted by my biases
  • Caught up in drama…

…I miss the opportunities for transforming my client. Those ideas, questions, or approaches pass me by, until I give up the drama, biases, or judgement.

Coaching Skills

Coaching is so much more than giving advice. There are many tools, models, and modalities that you can use during a session.

As a coaching professional, continuing to improve your skills keeps you fresh, not to mention makes you a great role model for your clients. Continue to take courses to improve your skills.

The ICF (International Coach Federation) creates standards and guidelines that can help you create a path toward mastery of your own coaching skills.  

Coaching The Uncoachable chart

If you have mastered the above ‘ingredients’…

There are only 2 reasons why you are still having challenges:

REASON ONE: Your client isn’t clear about what they want.

Your client needs to be crystal clear about what they want to achieve and why.

They must get clear about the good that will happen if they achieve their goals…

…and the pain they will experience if they don’t.

REASON TWO: Your client isn’t getting enough coaching.

Once you have those other ingredients in place…

…all you need is time to coach your client…

…the time during your coaching sessions spread throughout a period of weeks or months…

…that allows your clients to grow.

Obviously, if you don’t have enough time to offer the coaching your client needs…

…your coaching won’t work.

Coaching is so much more than giving advice. There are many tools, models, and modalities that you can use during a session.”

Most ‘uncoachable clients’ are ‘uncoachable’ because…

  1. The coach didn’t bring the missing ingredients to the coaching, or
  2. The client has lack of clarity on their outcome, or
  3. Lack of enough time in coaching sessions.

That’s why I hold to my belief:

If a client paid you for coaching…

…they are, by definition, coachable.

“But, Colette, I bring all those ingredients to the table, but I STILL have uncoachable clients… even though they’re clear on their outcome and spend TONS of time in coaching sessions with me!”

Yup –

That could happen.

Admittedly, there are a few clients that aren’t willing to take coaching

Even if they spend the time with you…

Even if they are clear on their goals and the consequences…

Just because you have all the right coaching ingredients…

…it doesn’t guarantee your client will have an amazing coaching experience.


Because that client isn’t open to coaching.

Eventually your client will need to become open to coaching for the coaching to work.

And a miniscule few clients will NEVER be open to coaching.

So, what do you do about them?


Help the clients that are asking for help.

Coach the clients that become open to coaching over time.

Leave the rest alone.

Honor and respect their choice.

There are plenty of clients to transform in the world.

But don’t judge that your client is this ‘closed door’ so soon.

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That new ‘uncoachable’ client might not open up in the first few sessions…

…so don’t give up on them.

Don’t give up the first week.

Don’t give up the first month.

Don’t even give up the first year.

Believe in your client…

…even when they don’t believe in coaching.

…even when they don’t believe in themselves.

…even when they don’t believe in their ability to achieve their goals.

Because 99% of the time…

…the problem isn’t that your client is uncoachable.

What’s diminishing the value of coaching for them…

…is that you are missing a coaching ingredient.

…or that your client isn’t clear on their goals.

…or that they haven’t had enough time in the saddle with you.

As long as your client is paying for coaching…

…focus on doing your job: Shining a light on their barriers.

“What about ‘sponsored clients’… clients that aren’t even paying for their own coaching?”

A client who is sponsored by their employer or someone else…

…may not be properly enrolled in coaching.

It’s possible they don’t have skin in the game.

They may not even want coaching!

It’s your job as the coach to enroll that client…

…paying or not…

…into buying their goals and dreams.

Then coaching could be valuable to them.

“How do I know a client is committed to coaching?”

This is a big challenge.

Some clients SAY they’re committed to coaching, but they’re really committed to something other than what coaching is.

Perhaps they think coaching is just talking to someone.

Or maybe they think you’re going to wave a magic wand and make their problems go away.

These pitfalls can happen, even when you explain and demonstrate coaching fully, prior to their enrolling.

So, yes, I admit that my belief that “everyone is coachable” has a few holes…

…but the exceptions to this rule amount to 1 in 100 clients.

And while you may still say…

“My client just isn’t coachable.”

That 1 in 100 exception actually PROVES my point.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

And you can choose to believe that clients are uncoachable…

…but that thought weakens the impact coaches have on the world.

Judging your client before it’s time will have you giving up or making excuses.

My challenge for you…

…is to make sure you’ve taken care of your end of the coaching agreement FIRST…

…long before you start evaluating your client’s “coachability”.

Take responsibility for yourself.

Forget about labelling clients as “uncoachable”.

Be a coach that commits to growth for all your clients…

even the toughest clients…

…so no client is left behind.

Colette “All Are Coachable” Coiner

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